Wine Country Walkie-Talkies and Tips

Working hard for several days in a conference room—even one with windows and loosely structured formats—can make groups ready to get up and go. Several wine country destinations have a solution: charming, walkable downtown areas lined with tasting rooms from a variety of producers.

Some well-known destinations come immediately to mind: Downtown Napa, and the Sonoma and Healdsburg plazas in Sonoma County. Three others should be included in this prestigious list: Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, Woodinville’s Warehouse District and McMinnville’s Third Street. They’re completely opposite from each other in vibe, but offer the same advantages—opportunities to experience wine country in a different way (on foot) and to chat up fellow attendees in a casual situation.

Santa Barbara Funk Zone, California

One of two downtown neighborhoods on the Urban Wine Trail, this eclectic, artsy area borders the beach and is home to most of the trail’s tasting rooms. Meet up at The Lark for a family-style dinner.

Third Street McMinnville, Oregon

Part of the city’s Wine Walk, historic Third Street, with a cluster of tasting rooms, was named Best Main Street in the West in 2017 by Sunset magazine. Rendezvous and dine at Thistle Restaurant & Bar, a stylish farm-to-fork gem.

Woodinville Warehouse District, Washington

With a gritty/chic vibe, Woodinville Warehouse District has more boutique wineries per square foot than any other wine region in the world. The PicNic Table is a private dining space with a Mediterranean/Northwest menu.

Here are a few helpful walkie-talkie tips for planners interested in arranging wine destination visits.

Walkie Tips

Start with a plan—maps are available through CVBs and regional winery associations

Limit the number of tasting rooms to three.

Arrange for tastings and tips ahead of time, both for the convenience of the tasting room and to cover the costs.

Talkie Tips

Break large groups into clusters of four, to allow the best interactions.

Set the groups off in different directions.

Encourage participants to talk not only among themselves, but also to the tasting room staff, who are often the winemakers.

Read more about wine country gatherings in Carolyn Koenig’s story, “Beyond the Bottle: Wine Country Destinations Offer Exciting Opportunities for Groups to Experience Something New and Different,” which can be accessed in the March issue of Smart Meetings and here.

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