The "New" Trattoria - June 19, 2017
Recently, we changed the style of food service we offer at Grape Creek through our partnership with Stout's kitchens. The new Trattoria is enclosed, remodeled, and upgraded. While our lunch menu still offers the Stout's pizzas many members and guests love, we now offer an expanded menu that includes new appetizers, salads and entree options like tenderloin filet, salmon and chicken. Additionally, our new "dine by the vines" dinner experience is available on Friday and Saturday evenings, plus a wonderful Sunday brunch menu served all day.
Of course, Grape Creek offers wine options for your meal including a prior-vintage library wine list (available during dinner for club members) and sparkling wine and mimosas on Sundays. Also, enjoy specialty coffees after your meal.
The restaurant includes both indoor and outdoor seating (on the adjacent patios) so guests can enjoy whichever option they like best.
When we started the Trattoria two years ago, many people welcomed the food options to enjoy with their wine, and some people were disappointed we didn't offer a sit-down, table service restaurant. We also imagined that might in fact be the natural evolution of our future dining experience.
So, we are excited about the launch of the "new" Trattoria with chef-inspired delights and weekend evening dining.
Like anything, not all changes are welcomed by all people. One change that is negative for some is not being able to get a pizza and take it to the wine club patio to enjoy. While we completely understand that sentiment and concern, we also had issues with all seating areas doubling as dining areas, as not all guests enjoyed the mixed experience. So, we created dining areas and non-dining areas on the patios, although we still offer a wonderful cheese and charcuterie tray that can be enjoyed with wine on any of the non-dining patios. As mentioned previously, there are both designated indoor and outdoor dining areas so members can still enjoy a pizza on the patio.
On busy days we may have a wait for seating like any other restaurant. However, when we were busy before we often had a 20-30 minute wait in line to order plus the wait for food preparation (at times 30-45 minutes). Part of our goal was to change the wait experience so now the wait can be enjoyed by doing a tasting or having a glass of wine while waiting for a text letting you know your table is ready. Of course, there is still food prep time once ordered.
While we appreciate the changes might create some concern and disappointment for some guests we believe the good far outweighs the bad and most people are thoroughly enjoying the new, upgraded offerings. We also appreciate direct feedback (through our website or via email) regarding improvements; whether the feedback is about an issue with our growing pains from new ventures or ideas that may enhance the overall member and customer experience.
We personally love the new Trattoria and the great culinary options, and we hope you enjoy it too!
Grape Creek Vineyards
Saturdays are Different - October 12, 2016
Grape Creek recently made some changes to our approach on Saturdays and busy Holiday Weekends (learn more about Saturdays). Our owner, Brian Heath, provides some background in this article.
We love Grape Creek and the wine business! Of course, it’s hard work by so many of our great staff, but it is also very rewarding to enjoy the connection so many people have with wine and with Grape Creek.
So why did we change how we handle Saturdays? Two reasons:
First, we have enjoyed increasing visitation, which is a good thing, and we are happy lots of people enjoy what we offer. When we purchased Grape Creek ten years ago, we had one small tasting room and six feet of tasting bar. We now have three tasting rooms (not counting Main Street or Georgetown) plus two outdoor tasting areas and a wine by the glass bar. We also offer expansive patios and seating areas plus the trattoria opened last year. However, on busy days it can be overwhelming, even with expanded facilities. As a result, some of our wine club members began to avoid Saturdays.
Second, although not popular to say, we are not the right place for all customers. As a simple metaphor, we are like a country club for wine lovers. We have a large and loyal wine club that purchase 9 out of every 10 bottles of wine we produce. We are a wine club winery. And, by choice, we only offer our wines directly to customers (club, on-site and on-line) and to a handful of local restaurants. So we are not designed, nor do we want to try, to meet the gamut of all the possible visitor expected experiences. We believe in choosing what we want to be and delivering on that goal to the best of our ability.
What we strive to provide are a set of unique and enjoyable tasting experiences so guests can choose the best way for them to discover our wines. They can then decide if Grape Creek wine should be in their cellar and possibly join our club. Some potential customers are hoping we are a wine bar or a state park (like the ones that pounded in horseshoe stakes and set up a family picnic behind the tasting room). We are neither. We discourage loud party groups, and while we have kids too, a winery is an adult experience by definition. Some people are also put-off that we offer special benefits (exclusive seating areas, member wines, etc.) to our club members. There is a deeper and longer-term connection with our club members and they are the reason we can afford to invest in the facilities and experiences that even our new guests can enjoy. Plus, anyone is welcome to join.
So what has changed? Here is the detail on our Saturdays at Grape Creek to see specific information.
A couple of years ago we stopped taking buses on Saturday and, shortly thereafter, limos unless one of our preferred partners and with a reserved slot. While professional transportation can be a good alternative we found the limo groups were generally there to party and drink too much, which of course diminished the experience for other guests. In fact, we also have found larger groups, regardless of transportation, tend to have that effect.
So, for new guests (not current club members or their guests) we limit groups to six and guests must purchase one of our tasting options to enter facility. As previously mentioned, we are a winery not a bar. Tastings are how people can get to know our wines. Because all guests are doing a tasting we don’t allow any children under 21 in their party nor pets, as both require supervision.
The feedback we have had from our members and most guests has been very positive. Obviously, there are some that might not agree with the changes. While we acknowledge their right to be disappointed we also acknowledge our opportunity to make choices about how best to serve our members, guests and staff.
We hope to welcome you soon!
Owner's Club Update - June 23, 2016
Jennifer and I are excited about your first shipment of the Heath Vineyards Owner's Club and it's getting closer!
As previously described, the first shipment/pick-up will be in November of this year and will include (2) Absolution (Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend), (1) Syrah, (1) Pinot Noir and (1) Captivating (Sauvignon Blanc) for a total of five bottles. All are 2014 Vintage. Your $300 deposit has pre-paid this shipment (including shipping). Plus, you will remain a member for future shipments unless you inform us otherwise. For future shipments you will be charged at the time of shipment like your current Grape Creek Wine Club shipments.
Due to the limited harvest, the 2015 vintage will only ship once as well, in November of 2017, and will contain the same selection and count of wines as listed above. We have not determined the pricing yet but will communicate well in advance. We do not anticipate it being significantly different than the first shipment.
The Good Stuff
Some of you have experienced the bottled 2014 Captivating (Sauvignon Blanc) and purchased enthusiastically when it was offered at a wine club event. It continues to age well in the bottle with white peach evolving to ripe pear when given a bit of air. We have found it shows best when served between 55 and 60 degrees and not chilled below 50 degrees prior to serving.
The reds are all still in barrels approaching 18 months. Jason and I have been monitoring their progress (sometimes more than necessary!) and he is very pleased with the result. The Pinot Noir is richer in color and tannin than a more traditional Oregon version and is benefiting from a portion of the vintage aging in larger 70 gallon French barrels that reduce the oak surface area contact a bit. The Syrah was presented from the barrel at the tank tasting event last month to excellent reviews. Thick, inky, and rich it is a show-stopper. The Cabernet and Merlot are aging separately prior to final blending. Both are very representative of their varietals and the Cabernet has shown big shifts in richness and depth in the last few months.
We dodged a possible freeze in late March with the help of our vineyard manager, Neil Roberts, and the micro-emitter frost protection system we have in the Pinot Noir/Sauvignon Blanc valley block. The vines look strong and healthy and we are hoping to avoid the dry spring winds that hurt us last year. We are also planting another acre of Syrah in the "amphitheater" this year and two acres of Petit Verdot just below the Syrah on the south-facing slope. If you are ever in the Paso Robles area just input Heath Vineyards into google maps to take a look.
We have received a number of requests to purchase additional wine beyond the shipment. Aside from some wine we will retain for our library, we will offer any remaining wine to our Heath Vineyards Owner's Club Members. We do not anticipate a lot of availability but there will be some. Also, we are allowing members to sign-up now for a second shipment. If you are interested in that option send an email to [email protected] We will have a pick-up day/evening for this inaugural allocation with details to follow.
We are seeing accelerating sign-ups as we approach the first shipment date. We anticipate being fully subscribed in the next few months and will shift to a waiting list at that point. That will remain true until the 2018 shipment, assuming we have a more normal harvest volume level this year, and may extend beyond. We plan to move to two 6-bottle shipments for the 2016 vintage (November 2018 and May 2019) with a good harvest.
That's it for now. Thank you for your confidence in this terroir. We think you will be very happy!
We are fast approaching the inaugural Heath Vineyards Owner’s Club shipment in November!
The Sauvignon Blanc, Captivating, is now in the bottle and is already quite amazing with initial aromas of white peach that develop into perfectly ripened pear with floral notes. This is much more like a white Bordeaux than a typical Sauvignon Blanc.
The reds are aging nicely in the barrel and we are watching closely as they mature. We are pleased to see the depth of color and flavors present that so aptly reflect the terroir. Our upcoming Tank-Tasting event will feature tastings of the Syrah from the barrel, as well as, the aforementioned Captivating. We plan to bottle the Syrah, Pinot Noir and Absolution (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) in early Summer which will allow 18 months in oak and 5-6 months of bottle rest before shipping or pick-up to you!
What initially attracted us to this property were the unique growing conditions. The only way to consistently have access to grapes of this quality is to own the land underneath the vines. Most of the wineries around us, that feature estate fruit in this sub-region of the the Paso Robles Willow Creek District appellation, are already on waiting lists. We were excited to gain access for our club members.
As you might imagine, the pace of new members is accelerating as we get closer to the first shipment and we are on track to be sold out before then! As reported previously, the 2015 harvest was excellent quality but very low quantity. Originally, we had hoped we would have room for the addition of a few more members after the first shipment. However, given the limited harvest, we will move to a waiting list once we hit the initial membership availability.
So, if you have been thinking about signing up, now is a good time!