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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Scenic and Sweet: Meetings at Wineries

Corporate parties, company dinners and work receptions often feature wine or, at least, serve it. But planners can take their attendees out of the hotel or convention center to the actual wineries, where they can experience the winemaking process from vine to bottle.

Groups can lunch on a grassy lawn surrounded by grapevines at Georgia’s Château Élan Winery or ride a tram to the highest point of Sonoma Valley’s Benziger Family Winery, where guests may even meet a sheep or two as they meander through the vineyards.

Benziger Family Winery

Glen Ellen, California

At Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen, California, biodynamic farming means everything about the vineyard’s ecosystem is intertwined. Birdhouses and bat houses and insectaries make sure populations of “good” bugs keep “bad” bugs in check, while a herd of sheep helps fertilize the soil.

That interconnectedness extends to how Benziger treats its groups. They start with a guided tour on a 30-person tram to learn about biodynamic agriculture, the most advanced method of organic farming, and end with a tasting, meal or blending class.

Rather than just visiting a tasting room, “they’ve had a really memorable experience here,” said account executive Edie Phillips.

The long, narrow wine cave is best for meals or small receptions. The barn can accommodate up to 120 people depending on the setup, and its large barn doors open to the outside. An adjoining terrace can seat up to 220 guests, who find shade beneath century-old oak and eucalyptus trees.

The tasting room can be used for private events after 5 p.m., and a private room is available during business hours for up to 35 people. “The wine tastings we offer as part of your experience are pretty advanced,” Phillips said, but groups of 20 can also do estate-wine tastings in the ranch house. A blending class is also “a great team-building activity,” Phillips said. Teams work together to come up with their own wine blend, name and label and then present their marketing plan to the group.

Heron Hill Winery

Hammondsport, New York

Heron Hill has three locations in New York’s Finger Lakes region, but the original 1977 vineyard and winery overlooking Keuka Lake in Hammondsport, New York, remains its mainstay.

The Keuka Lake tasting hall can hold up to 50 people and is available after hours for meetings, private dinners and cocktail receptions. The building’s wooden, barrel-vaulted ceiling mimics the inside of a wine barrel, and floor-to-ceiling windows deliver views of the lake and the vineyards, so “you really feel the natural landscapes,” said Erin Rafalowski, marketing and public relations manager.

With its mix of private and semiprivate spaces, “there’s a lot of flexibility for meetings,” she said.

Groups of 12 can book the conference room, which opens to the south terrace. On the north end of the building, the Blue Heron Café is open from mid-May through October and has another terrace overlooking the lake. The cafe can be used for group dining and provides all on-site catering for events. A 170-person tent works well for larger corporate parties or company picnics.

Heron Hill’s Seneca Lake tasting room isn’t available for events, but the Bristol location on the Canandaigua Wine Trail is. A renovated century-old barn houses the tasting room, which can be used for events for up to 50 people. Although Heron Hill doesn’t offer tours, groups can arrange tastings or pairings with lunch or dinner.