Wineries add attractions for one-stop sipping
GEYSERVILLE, Calif. — Think a winery visit means bellying up to a bar with a couple of glasses and a spit bucket? You haven't been to wine country lately.
These days you're likely to find all kinds of added attractions, from restaurants to farmers markets to cocktail bars.
And then there's Francis Ford Coppola's latest venture which, once construction is complete, will include a swimming pool.
The idea is to help wineries stand out at a time when competition for shrinking tourist dollars is fierce and create something more than just another stop on the trail.
"The experience we're trying to create is a destination experience," says Chris Hall, proprietor and vice president of sales at Long Meadow Ranch Winery & Farmstead in the Napa Valley, which has, among other things, a working farm producing grass-fed beef and olive oil; a restaurant, Farmstead; a seasonal produce farmstand and a seedling nursery.
"You can come and eat the heirloom tomato salad at the restaurant, you can take the tomatoes home for yourself from the farmers market. You can get the seeds to grow your own at the nursery," Hall says. "It's a full circle."
In the mood to sip and dip?
You'll be able to soon at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville.
Much of the director's movie memorabilia and awards that had been on display at his other winery, Rubicon Estate in the Napa Valley, have been moved to the new winery. Other features: a restaurant, Rustic; a full bar; a wine-tasting bar and an under-construction swimming pool that will come complete with a pool-side cafe.
Guests who want to swim will be issued towels and also can rent cabines, little huts, for changing and showering. A built-in stage will host children's puppet shows, readings and musical performances. And if you're still looking for something to do there are bocce courts.
"The idea is that when people come here, they are going to be coming for the day," says Corey Beck, general manager and director of winemaking. "One of the things Francis has always thought was kind of a little bit weird was that when people decide to come to Sonoma County or Napa or wherever and they take a vacation — what do they do with the kids? This is creating an experience for the family. Children can go swimming; they can see a puppet show. Mom and Dad can roll a game of bocce, have a little bit to eat, we're also going to have a children's menu, and then, also, by the way, taste wine as well."
Another winery offering a taste of something extra is Somerston, which is featuring food pairings and an art gallery at its Yountville tasting room, along with a gourmet grocery store — expected to open this fall — next door.
The grocery will be using organic produce, honey, olive oil and lamb produced from the Somerston Ranch in the eastern mountains of the Napa Valley. And you can eat on the rooftop patio of the grocery.
The idea was to provide visitors with a window to Somerston's 1,628-acre ranch, says Craig Becker, a partner in Somerston as well as general manager and winemaker. Visitors might not have time to make it out to the ranch, but they can taste Somerston wines along with a lamb slider made from Somerston's grass-fed herd when the grocery opens.
What if you find yourself in wine country but fancy something a little bit different?
That's no problem at the Medlock Ames Winery in Sonoma County, where owners have a full cocktail bar next to their Jimtown tasting room, both housed in a restored bar and grocery.
The bar opens when the tasting room closes, at 5 p.m., and nibbles, such as charcuterie and sometimes pizza, are available to go with the drinks.
Medlock Ames general manager Kenneth Rochford says opening the tasting room in Jimtown was partly a matter of location — the tasting room is in a well-traveled location whereas the Medlock Ames ranch is some miles away and off the beaten path. Installing a bar was partly inspired by the history of the building as well as the desire to put a twist on tradition.
"We wanted to create something we would use ourselves," he says. Both tasting room and bar have a fresh, local food component — order a mojito and the bartender nips out to the nearby garden to pick the mint.
Rochford sees the move toward wineries aiming for destination status, and incorporating more food and other agricultural factors into their presentation, as a positive one.
"It should be about food and wine. It should be about this rich diverse agriculture we have and showing it off," he says. "The idea is just to show some good hospitality."