A new conversation is bubbling up at Kelowna wineries—how do they handle the influx of bachelorette parties celebrating pending nuptials by touring tasting rooms?
A few bad brides have threatened to spoil the bunch and wineries are now tightening up the rules for those about to tie the knot.
More wineries are requesting that the parties remove any bridal paraphernalia before they enter. These include veils, phallic objects and costumes.
“It is something that wineries have to deal with properly. There are so many different wineries with different spaces, some are small and can’t handle the larger groups, and some can,” Andy Gebert, owner of St. Hubertus and Oak Bay Estate Winery said.
“This is where we live and work, I like sitting in the vineyard and having peace and quiet, we have 80 acres and I am living in paradise, inviting people to enjoy it.”
St. Hubertus and Oak Bay Estate Winery still accommodate bachelorette parties if the group is fewer than eight people, as their space cannot handle a large group of people. Gebert is in the wine business because he loves it, not to turn his piece of paradise into a big business.
Smaller wineries have found that hosting large groups and bachelorette parties takes over their tasting rooms and impedes other guests experience at the winery.
“Bachelorettes are always a bit of a challenge,” Tina Slama, wine shop manager of Little Straw Winery said. “We have very strict rules about behaviour and over-serving. We have to abide by our Serving It Right. It’s hard to tell the difference between groups being silly and loud or being drunk. If guests act that way we take it as them being over-served and refuse to pour wine for them.”
Wineries are relying on tour companies to relay their rules to groups as they enter the winery. Wineries send their rules and expectations each year to the tour companies and their guides to ensure a smooth season ahead.
“We work pretty closely with wineries and it sucks that bachelorette parties get grouped together. Some are lovely, some get out of hand and just want to get drunk,” Kevin Forsythe owner of Apré Tours said.
“I have a way of telling everyone in my groups, “you can have as much fun as you want in the bus, and do whatever. But when we are at the wineries, listen to the people giving you the tasting, be respectful and have fun that way.” They definitely don’t have to leave the bus if they don’t want to adhere to that.”
According to Forsythe wine tour companies can price themselves out of any trouble and can choose the demographic they shuttle from winery to winery.
A few wine tour companies have created specific wine tours that cater to bridal parties that are looking to experience Okanagan wine country. The tours have scheduled stops with wineries that welcome bachelorette parties with open arms, as long as they behave appropriately.
“To work around everyone’s preferences we created an entirely new tour for bachelorette parties,” Katherine Gountas, Office Manager for Uncorked Okanagan Wine Tours said.
“They book with us and we cater to both the businesses and the guests so that everyone has a good experience.”
A younger demographic has been strolling into wineries, and larger groups according to Craig McCulloch, inventory and logistics manager at Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery.
“It’s a tough balance (in the tasting room) to serve stagettes and couples that come at the same time. Depending on the group they can be loud and partying. It can get very loud in our tasting room,” McCulloch said.
“We are building a 15,000 square foot building and that will make the experience for everyone better. We prefer groups to book ahead, and we schedule them each hour.”
Reservations have become increasingly important to wineries to accommodate the influx of the wineaux coming through their doors to ensure all guests leave the winery with wine they enjoy and happy memories.
“The bachelorette parties can be distracting to guests since we are a smaller winery,” Mark Spurgeon, proprietor of Urban Distilleries said.
“We don’t mind that they are here to have fun and be loud, I just wish they would come in during the week instead of the weekend when we are packed. I also wish we were their first stop on the wine tour instead of their last.”
Frequency Wines offers more than wine and pride themselves on the experience that they can offer guests. For visitors to experience the winery at its full capacity in the small tasting room, large parties are asked to make a reservation.
“We are all about celebration, it puts energy into our building,” Jacob Pasterfield, manager at Frequency Wines said.
“The only concern I have with bridal parties is that they can come in past the point of serving and it’s really tense when we have to cut people off. We don’t want to embarrass anyone, or make them feel like they cannot participate in the fun. Legally we are only allowed to serve people to a certain point. We want to have fun, when we legally can’t provide them with a fun experience, it’s not ideal.”
Pasterfield has seen brides and bridal parties of all kinds during his time at the winery— brides that are falling down, and parties that come in already inebriated from previous stops, with “cans of sparkling wine in the van.”
Legally managing the parties that come into wineries have proven to be a challenge that one of the smallest wineries, House of Rose and cannot do it anymore. The winery no longer accommodates bachelorette parties after bad experiences and the size of their tasting room.
“Our wine shop is only 500 square feet, including storage. If we have 14 people in here it’s packed. Until we have the capital to build something bigger, which is what I would love to have (to offer) large groups private tastings. But, we don’t have room right now,” Aura Rose, owner of House of Rose Winery said.
“Bachelorette parties are great fun, but they are quite boisterous, they should be having a good time but if they are boisterous they can easily take over our small room and we cannot accommodate them.”
Proprietors are still discussing how to move forward with the trend of wine tasting themed bachelorette parties fueled by fun, celebration and wine in the sun. Working towards finding the right way to accommodate and set etiquette boundaries for the parties to uphold their atmosphere.
“We have been a part of round tables where wineries have said that (banning them) was their position, it’s more catering to their demographic or the types of people and atmosphere they have and catering to that,” Rio Kitsch, co-owner of Kitsch winery said.
“It’s a huge market first of all, and they are young customers that have the potential to be really loyal. We are a younger team so by nature we are more into the younger demographic. A bachelorette party is a celebration, every word has its own connotation but it’s how you choose to see it.”
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