Acceleration of Wine Wars: Sonoma vintners pair experiences with wine

Central coast wineries have consolidated tasting rooms in town, here in Sonoma County they try to out compete with each other….

Sonoma vintners pair experiences with wine

Once upon a time, wine tasting was simple: belly up to the bar, get chatted up by a staffer, taste a rainbow of wines in a flight.

But times change, and trends change, too. The wine drinking public is dismantling the traditional wine tasting model, especially millennials in pursuit of Instagram-able content. People still want to taste wine, certainly, but now they want to do it on horseback. Or while straddling an ATV and motoring through vineyards. Or surrounded by plush comfort in private back rooms. Or while feeding llamas, chickens and goats. They do not necessarily want to taste wine while jockeying for space in rooms crowded with strangers wearing perfume – and the industry is beginning to take notice.

Tasting rooms everywhere are pivoting to accommodate the changing tastes of their clientele.

At Benziger and Landmark wineries, for instance, visitors can chase their pinot with pranayama breathing. These wineries are now sometimes pairing their pours with yoga, “lighthearted vinyasa style” classes that are available for a fee.

Bohemian Highway Travel Company, which curates “bespoke wine country experiences” for its clientele, focuses on “off-beat places and the people behind them.” The company’s creative director, Allyson Weekes, explained the rationale for their business model. “Today’s customers want to feel special. They want to meet the winemakers, the owners, they want to see the production facilities. Wineries that offer things like barrel tastings and ATV rides through the vineyard make customers feel valued and like they’re not getting a cookie-cutter wine touring experience.”

Repris Wines at the top of Moon Mountain Road has long understood that, and has been rolling out the red carpet for guests for 125 years. Included in the $60 tasting are wine samples, certainly, but guests also tour the property, including 18,000 square feet of natural rock caves. Visitors get a crash course on organic farming protocols, then head up to the turrets for more wine paired with food.

“Chef Matt Tucker pairs all the wines, mostly with light hors d’oeuvres. People are looking for these experiential types of tastings, and we give them a nice, exclusive experience,” said Jason Bullock, marketing manager.