Experiential tourism is defined as “a form of tourism in which people focus on experiencing a country, city, or particular place by connecting to its history, people, and culture.” If that’s not a hand-in-glove description of walking through a brewery or distillery’s production facility, learning about the history of the land while walking through an orchard or vineyard, or of watching harvested fruit come in from the fields, then what is?
There are ways to increase this connection even further. Playing off the growing popularity of escape rooms (in which a team of people must find clues and solve puzzles to complete a given mission), Chateau St. Jean Winery in Kenwood, Calif., recently debuted a visitor experience called Unlock the Chateau.The Chateau is a former home, so many existing rooms lent themselves to the activity. “It was a great way to use existing resources and spaces without major investments,” says Ingrid Cheng, DTC senior marketing manager for Treasury Wine Estates, which owns the winery. Working with a consultant, it took about six months to bring together a memorable experience.
“You begin with a glass of sparkling wine, then solve riddles to move from room to room,” Cheng explains. “The riddles are logical and mildly challenging, but a host monitors and offers some insights and gentle help along the way.”When you exit the first room, you’re rewarded with a glass of wine. Unlock the second room and escape to a flight of wine on the beautiful Chateau patio overlooking the vineyards.
In the months since it debuted, Unlock the Chateau has become popular as both a recreational and professional team-building destination. “We have some bookings right now that reach into 2019, but generally most bookings happen within the month,” says Cheng. “We expect this will continue to be popular as a team-building experience for companies and, as the word spreads of the opportunity, we expect to see a steady stream of future bookings.”