By: Becky Garrison
Wineries looking to provide their guests with elevated wine-tasting experiences might want to explore the option of offering accommodations at their winery or vineyard. Kristen Baxter, operations manager for Abbey Road Farm in Carlton, Oregon, said, “Our lodging is integral to our business model, as it allows winery guests and event guests to stay overnight while they are here enjoying wine or celebrating with us.”
Carrie Bonney, general manager for Youngberg Hill (McMinnville, Oregon), concurs, adding, “Lodging contributes to our reputation for exceptional hospitality and helping to sustain and grow our overall operation.” In addition, their lodging serves as a revenue stream that supports their broader mission and allows them to invest in the enhancement and maintenance of their property.
In Bonney’s estimations, this is just one piece of the experience they aim to provide our guests, and it complements their primary focus, wine. “By offering a range of comfortable and thoughtfully designed accommodations, we aim to create a welcoming environment where guests can relax, unwind and fully immerse themselves in a unique experience. This, in turn, enhances their overall visit and encourages return visits and positive word-of-mouth referrals,” Bonney adds.
Lodging Options Available at Wineries
As noted by the following examples, the types of accommodations available at a given winery vary from a rustic cabin cozy for two to a luxury country-style mansion replete with five-star amenities.
Lumos Wines’ (Philomath, Oregon) vineyard is situated on what was the H Bar H Dude Ranch back in the 1940s and 1950s. The one-bedroom cabin with indoor plumbing was one of the original guest cabins built in 1938 and can accommodate up to two people. They maintain this little cabin to keep the historical feel of the place. In another historical touch, their tasting room is in the old dude ranch’s dance hall barn.
Colter’s Creek Winery & Vineyards (Moscow, Idaho) began offering lodging at their tasting room because they had an open space that needed remodeling, and they saw a hole in the Moscow lodging market to fulfill. They have four boutique rooms above their tasting room in Moscow available via self-check-in, with bookings that can be made through their website. Different packages are offered, each room comes with a complimentary wine tasting and with enough planning, guests can visit the vineyard and production facility 45 minutes away in Juliaetta.
Abbey Road Farm’s (Carlton, Oregon) Silo Suites B&B is housed in three-grain silos. Two of the silos were built in 2003 when the property was a grass seed farm. The third was added to complete the project the winery opened in 2019. The silos boast a grand entry and sitting area with a wet bar. Their five suites feature foam-topped beds, Jacuzzi tubs, luxurious bedding and ambient floor heating. Stays include a bounteous Oregon breakfast prepared by on-site chef/innkeeper Will Preisch.
Youngberg Hill had already been functioning as an inn since 1989, when they planted their oldest blocks, the Natasha and Jordan blocks. They chose to maintain this inn as a nine-room bed and breakfast offering comfortable rooms and suites, an open-air deck, spectacular views for sunsets and stargazing, and a fireplace beside which to relax with a glass of wine. A two-course breakfast keeps guests fueled up for a day sightseeing around the Willamette Valley.
In a similar vein, Hummingbird Estate (Central Point, Oregon) converted a historic private home and former orchard into a vineyard and tasting room, event space and inn. Renovating the home’s bedrooms into suites made the most sense for the space. Here, guests can enjoy a glass of chardonnay, syrah or pinot noir while taking in the view of grapevines from their windows. In addition, they have a vineyard cottage available for rent.
Also, when Grosgrain Vineyards (Walla Walla, Washington) acquired their winery/vineyard property via a bankruptcy auction in 2017, the only structure on the property at the time was a house where the previous owner had made his wine in the garage. They needed a significantly larger winery space, so they built their current winery and tasting room in an adjacent area. They considered moving into the house themselves but decided that it was better suited to use as a short-term rental, which would be a great way for them to provide a more immersive experience. The house has four bedrooms and four baths, all of which are en-suite, with the house rented as a single unit on a nightly basis.
So far, the house has been a great way to host new customers who experience their winery for the first time, as well as their wine club members who can book further in advance and at a discounted rate. Also, this house provides a great way for them to host their national distributors and further educate them about their winery. While the revenue it generates has been significant, more importantly, staying at this home helps guests build a deeper connection with the winery.
The Joy on the Anahata (which translates to the heart chakra in Sanskrit) Vineyard (Salem, Oregon) is a luxury wine country retreat and 6,500-square-foot home with seven bedrooms (four suites, two queen rooms and one twin room in the basement for a nanny or younger children.) This house sits on top of the vineyard at 550 feet with views in every direction, and the gated 30-acre property is fenced in for deer. Other amenities include a chef’s kitchen, living room, dining/family room and outdoor heated swimming pool and hot tub, as well as a basement with a wine cellar and ping pong and pool tables. This property is rented as a “hospitality home” designed for family retreats, work retreats, YPO retreats and, in some cases, smaller than 100-person weddings. As they don’t have a tasting room built yet with their wines poured at Carlton Winemakers Studio, this house provides an opportunity for guests to taste their products as they collect their information.
Bianchi Vineyards (East Wenatchee, Washington) chose to rent the two-bedroom house on their property as a short-term Airbnb experience. In addition, they have two RV spots with power and water. Some guests visit the tasting room for their complimentary tasting. Others enjoy hiking, skiing and concerts at the Gorge Amphitheater.
Recommendations for Designing Lodging at a Winery
Bonney stresses that offering lodging is not for the faint of heart. “This can be a significant undertaking, but it is also an excellent enhancement to your guest experience and can put your winery on the map as a unique destination. While it can eventually enhance your overall revenue streams, a great deal of investment is involved.”
Meghann Walk, general manager for Hummingbird Estate, reminds those looking to invest in lodging that while lodging is an extension of their long-standing tradition of hospitality, it is not passive income. She reflects, “The inn is our most stable but also, in many ways, the most constantly demanding aspect of our business. There is no such thing as only answering phone calls during open hours. Make sure you are prepared for this.”
Before launching a lodging program, Bonney recommends conducting market research for your area, determining lodging demands and assessing the type of accommodations guests will want. Along those lines, familiarize yourself with zoning and permitting regulations for your area before you start any work.
Also, Baxter notes that conducting market research into other lodging options in your area can enable you to curate a unique experience from competitors to help you stand out. “Consider putting together packages unique to your property and potential discounts for loyal wine club members for additional benefits,” she says.
In designing the lodging, Bonney recommends ensuring that the overall design provides a comfortable and memorable experience for your guests. Think about room options and various views, private patios and accommodating children or pets, as well as sustainable practices, such as energy-efficient appliances, water conservation, composting and eco-friendly amenities. In addition, consider if you want to offer wine tasting and breakfast as part of the lodging experience or if those will be separate options for purchase.
Don’t neglect security and safety. Consider outdoor lighting, security cameras and post-emergency exit procedures for guests to see.
Also, Bonney stresses that wineries need to ensure they have the appropriate trained staff. In addition to scheduling and maintaining guest reservations, they must know local restaurants, tour operators, spa services and other area happenings. “Anyone from the front desk staff to the housekeepers who will be interacting with guests must excel in customer relations,” she said. Baxter offers this cautionary reminder, “Your housekeeper will be your most valuable and least replaceable employee.”
A CRM (customer relationship management) staff member will be needed to help maintain contact with guests, book rooms and provide an online booking option. Along those lines, online travel agencies like Expedia and Tripadvisor can help expand exposure.
Finally, Bonney recommends that those seeking to add lodging as a service, embrace it fully. She proclaims, “You and your staff can create a holistic and integrated experience, develop new ambassadors for your brand and most importantly, sell more wine!”