While most Napa Valley tasting rooms stick to pouring vino and putting together the occasional cheese plate, some local establishments have honed in on selling other types of merchandise as well.
Picayune Cellars in Calistoga carries eclectic jewelry and accessories, while the Prime Solum in the Napa Valley Tasting Barn acts as a gallery space for artist-and-winegrower, Elana Hill. Priest Ranch even has a “Bacon Experience.”
But regardless of whether these tasting rooms are mandated by the city to do so — ahem, Yountville — or they choose to incorporate retail on their own terms, many try to tell a story of wine country that is less about the booze, and more about the culture through their offerings.
“Yountville does require that 25 percent of our square footage be related to non-wine retail, and that was put into place by the town early on so there were opportunities for locals who live here to still find unique items to purchase,” said Alli Negron of Hill Family Estate, which has a downtown Yountville tasting room that sells a variety of home goods and artwork.
“We wanted to have items that are interesting and unique for guests who are visiting out of town, but also that might be appealing to our locals here in Yountville,” she said.
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The tasting room’s best selling items are the iconic wine bottle candles made by Rogue Candle Company, but stock also includes locally made artwork using grapevines, copies of Lowell Herrero’s farmworker paintings, and ceramics from Calistoga Pottery that are covered in a glaze made of vineyard ash.
“When we invite guests here, our goal is always to be memorable and to make everyone feel like family,” said Negron.
“Napa Valley as a whole has shifted a lot in the last couple of years to be very experience-driven. Back in the day, people would visit like six tasting rooms in a day, you would come up and belly up to the bar and try three to five wines over the course of 25 to 30 minutes, and then they would be on their way to the next one … We would rather you visit less places and take more time at each and really get to know us.”
In addition to retail items, Hill Family Estate also offers a cheese pairing, hosts a seasonal grapevine wreath-making class, and takes guests on a culinary garden tour when it is a bit warmer outside.
Just down the street from the Hill Family tasting room is Silver Trident Winery, which doubles as a showroom for Ralph Lauren Home products. As soon as you walk in, pretty much everything you see — think lamps, vases, books, couches — can be bought and shipped to a visitor’s home.
“When we started building a team here, there were a lot of wine industry people who didn’t get the other stuff,” said Silver Trident’s General Manager, Shane Soldinger. “But after sitting down in these comfortable chairs and you’re having a great time, you start looking around and thinking ‘That is really cool,’ or ‘So-and-so would love that!’”
One room in the Silver Trident tasting room is entirely dedicated to “Heavyweights and Heartthrobs,” and is full of photographs of influential men throughout history. Who wouldn’t want to stare at Clint Eastwood while tasting their way through the wine library?
Other rooms have their own respective ambiances and Ralph Lauren goodies to make it feel homey.
“For us, the Ralph Lauren aspect of our business is more of a lifestyle fit,” said Soldinger. “We really want to create a look, vibe, and feel of a home so people can relax and sit back.”
Silver Trident also offers a potato chip pairing, welcoming folks to crunch on cajun chips while drinking Rose in their showroom-quality chairs. While an unlikely pair, Soldinger says the model has been working out for them pretty well.
“Some businesses already do it,” he said. “Some hotels will sell sheets and robes and towels, and this concept should transfer over to restaurants with dishware ... I could totally see that translating to all sorts of businesses.”
“But mostly, people this year have just really been happy to be out and celebratory.”
You can reach Sam Jones at 707-256-2221 and email@example.com.
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