At the end of 2012, Jessie States, editor at Meeting Professionals International, made this prediction about the future of meeting planning: “We’ll see fewer isolated and cookie-cutter institutions and more venues that embrace their place, from design of space to decor. They’ll ‘go local’ by featuring local materials, local foods, local artists, local icons and local talent.”
A year has come and gone since States’ prediction, and the trend to find unique meeting venues is still on the rise. One sure way to break away from “cookie-cutter” this year and stay on trend when planning your small market meeting is to have it at a vineyard.
Many wineries are available for small business meetings, and not just in California. In recent years, the South has become home to some of the fastest-growing wineries in the country. The same weather and work ethic that’s helped produce delicious eats like peanuts and peaches for years is now helping vintners craft locally influenced, award-winning wines, creating fantastic venues for you in the process.
Check out any of these inspired Southern vineyards for your next event, and the product will be some inspiration of your own.
Just outside the historic town of Charlottesville, Virginia, which Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and Edgar Allen Poe have all called home, you’ll find Blenheim Vineyards. The winery was developed by another famous local figure, musician Dave Matthews, in the year 2000.
Plan your next meeting there, and you can put a few notches in your company’s eco-friendly belt. The buildings were designed by Matthews and master craftsman William Johnson to have a minimal effect on the environment. Reclaimed timber, solar lighting and heat, and natural building materials were all factors in achieving the ethics and aesthetics of the vineyard.
The amenities at Blenheim are concentrated in a single main winery building. Designed with natural light in mind, the structure makes a fabulous workspace and presentation arena.
During downtime, meeting participants can explore the vineyard’s many historic homes that have been preserved on the acreage. It’s rumored that on their wedding night, Thomas and Martha Jefferson roomed at one of the Blenheim homes to wait out a snowstorm before continuing on to nearby Monticello, which makes an interesting postmeeting diversion in itself.
If your meeting is set to last more than a day, you might select Chateau Elan. North of Atlanta, this vineyard is part winery and part resort. Attendees can wine, dine and be accommodated overnight on-site, reducing back-and-forth travel costs and maximizing productivity time.
The staff says that “European elegance meets Southern charm” at Chateau Elan and is prepared to accommodate whatever needs your event may have, from electronic rentals to tablecloths. The site is also a good option if your small market event will be for a slightly larger group, as the property is home to two ballrooms, 19 conference rooms, two boardrooms and a tiered auditorium with stage and fixed seating that can accommodate hundreds.
At Chateau Elan, you can get business done inside and out. The winery is home to a nine-hole, par-3 golf course that is within walking distance from the main inn. Two more 18-hole championship golf courses are located on the property, to which shuttle service is complimentary.
Not looking to brush up on your golf game? Check into the Chateau Elan spa for a massage, a facial or a seasonal relaxation package. Your attendees just might wonder whether they’re at a meeting or on a luxury vacation.
Three Sisters Vineyards
Head north of Chateau Elan toward the Tennessee border, and you’ll stumble upon Three Sisters Vineyards. Still reasonably close to the Atlanta area, this family-run vineyard is a great option for a boutique meeting experience. Started in 1996, the vineyard is now 184 acres large and home to more than 13,000 grape vines.
You’ll likely feel right at home at Three Sisters from the moment you pull up the long, mountain drive. Don’t be surprised if founders Sharon and Doug Paul greet you themselves. Later, you’ll likely meet their daughter, Mittie, in the tasting room, which is a choice space for a groups of up to 50 people.
The tasting room was designed by Georgia architect Garland Reynolds and boasts a beautiful cherry wood counter at which to indulge in one of the vineyard’s wines — over a dozen — which are all produced on-site. Also home to some fantastic specimens of American folk art and pottery, this space will be the perfect laboratory for having productive conversations and creating new ideas.
There are plenty of overnight options close to Three Sisters if you’re planning a multiday event. The vineyard recommends you check out the Dahlonega Inn and Spa, which is only about a mile down the road.
Dobson, North Carolina
Imagine a conference schedule that reads as follows: “team building: 10 a.m.; budget review: 11 a.m.; wine 101: 12 p.m.” Your group may think you are pulling a joke on them. But at Shelton Vineyards, they’re serious about educating their guests on what they do best. The vineyard’s Wine 101 class is the perfect meeting break and can be incorporated into any sort of group function.
No need to do a tasting on an empty stomach, either. Let your group dine in at Shelton’s on-site restaurant, the Harvest Grill. A AAA Three-Diamond restaurant serving “upscale comfort foods,” the restaurant offers a bistro-style experience.
Walking trails wind their way through the vineyard, where you can take in the scenery of the Yadkin Valley. Later in the day, take a tour through the fermentation room, which uses a gravity-activated process to move wine through the production stages. End your tour with a stop by the barrel room, which is complete with an indoor waterfall to keep the wooden barrels humidified.
The crew at Shelton Vineyards is happy to host groups ranging in size from two to 100, and its special events coordinator can custom create a package that is right for your group’s needs. A Hampton Inn and Suites that sits on the property means that accommodations will be easy to arrange. The hardest decision you may have to make at Shelton will be “red or white?”
Equus Run Vineyards
In the land known for bourbon, there’s a new libation rising. Equus Run Vineyards is part of a new crop of vineyards gaining acclaim in Kentucky in the past 20 years. Cynthia Bohn, the vineyard’s founder, was a 30-year veteran of IBM when she decided to become a vintner. She knows her way around a business meeting as well as a grapevine, and the team at Equus is committed to helping plan the perfect event for your group.
Talking business will be just as pleasant indoors over a glass of wine at Equus as outside on the Equus Run putting green. Gently sloping lawns, patios and grounds with stone walls also make it ideal for a game of bocce or croquet.
Groups ranging in size from 20 to 1,200 are welcome to plan their time at Equus. Most groups will choose to take advantage of the beautiful event barn, complete with polished stone floor and open rafter-style construction.
Get a full taste of Kentucky by visiting nearby Keeneland horse racetrack. Historic downtown Midway is also a Southern treasure, full of old houses and good eats. Just minutes from Bluegrass International Airport and within driving distance of the Indianapolis; Cincinnati; Nashville, Tennessee; and Louisville, Kentucky, metropolitan areas, this gem will be a meeting site you will be glad you discovered.
Crab Orchard, West Virginia
In the middle of the Mountain State lies a slice of wine country so beautiful you may wonder if you’ve been airlifted to the European countryside once you set foot on it. Daniel Vineyards seems to have the corner market in this small wine region of West Virginia.
The winery has multiple structures on-site from which your team can choose to custom create your event. Be sure to include the main winery building, which displays artwork by Barbara Daniel, one of the vineyard’s owners, and offers beautiful views of the vineyard. A full kitchen inside can meet your catering needs throughout the day.
Need a fun spot for a breakout session or a team-building activity? The gazebo is will suit your needs. Able to comfortably hold 16 to 20 people, the structure is surrounded by acres of grapevines, blueberry fields, trees and a nearby pond. It’s a comfortable spot to sit and uncap your imagination — or to uncork a great bottle of local wine.
Any other services that your team may need to bring are welcome to the vineyard.
“We simply believe that guests have the absolute right to find exactly what they want for their event needs,” said Chad Fox of Daniel Vineyards.
Flexibility is the name of the game at Daniel, where the team will bend over backward to ensure you have an excellent business experience in a memorable setting.