Also: Tasting rooms for Crushpad, Bacigalupi family and Somerston; new website for downtown NapaThe Sonoma County Tourism Bureau is increasingly benefitting from two sources -- trade shows and weddings.

Mark Crabb, director of sales for the bureau, said the last fiscal year ending June 30 saw a significant boon in group meetings and wedding inquiries, both of which have generated sizable economic impact.

The bureau has had 142 leads that have been sent to hotel and venue partners, resulting so far in 11 booked weddings for an estimated impact of $290,000. That would work out to be just over $26,000 per wedding. Possible bookings extend into 2014.

The bureau has pursued trade shows, which have generated 199 leads resulting so far in 72 bookings with an estimated economic impact of $3.5 million. Possible bookings extend into 2013.

Weddings have proven particularly surprising.

“At the beginning of the year, I never thought weddings would have been a big concentration for us, but it has grown with little effort,” Mr. Crabb said. “We’ve only done one bridal show. We really haven’t pursued it.”

A possible reason for the increased interest in weddings is the tourism bureau’s active presence on social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, Mr. Crabb said.

“When it comes to our meetings and group markets, we are most effective with face-to-face appointments, whereas our wedding market can be developed through our social media outlets or website outreach,” Mr. Crabb said.

This year, the tourism bureau has gotten approximately 350 leads. Those leads break down as such:

Website -- 108 leads, the majority of which are wedding inquiries.

Industry referrals, partners and repeat clients -- 94 leads.

Tradeshows, third party and client services -- 57 leads.

Social media and call-ins -- 63 leads, the majority of which are wedding inquiries.

Sales calls and cash incentive -- 28 leads.--Dan Verel***

Several winery tasting rooms are opening in Sonoma and Napa counties in coming months.

Construction bids were closing at the beginning of July for custom winery Crushpad's contemporary "delicate intervention" in two rooms of the Old World-style Sebastiani Vineyards in Sonoma, according to Danny Strening. His Santa Rosa-based architecture firm Strening Architects is working with Marin County-based industrial design consultant Hal Brandes to create an interactive yet intimate experience for visitors.

Exposed steel and extensive use of glass along with bar and ceiling paneling from reclaimed wine tank staves are intended to blend the warehouse winery feel of Crushpad's origin in San Francisco before moving to Napa Valley last year. A $3 million round of funding, led by Sebastiani owner Bill Foley, early this year helped Crushpad expand to Sonoma. The new venue will have interactive kiosks for visitors to learn about and sample blends and a glass-walled room for a separate tasting experience, according to Mr. Strening, who worked with original Sebastiani tasting room designer Ozborndooli Architecture.

The tasting room project is expected to take eight months to complete once given the go-ahead from the city and county of Sonoma.

The Bacigalupi family has been growing winegrapes in Russian River Valley for 55 years and now is opening a public tasting room for the family's 9-year-old pinot noir and zinfandel brand called John Tyler. The brand is named after vineyard manager John Bacigalupi and his nephew Tyler Heck, grandson of Korbel Champagne Cellars co-founder Paul Heck.

The Bacigalupis' grapes have gone into some A-list wines, from chardonnay for Chateau Montelena's winning entry in famed 1973 Paris Tasting to more recent sales to Williams Selyem, Rudd, Flowers and Freestone Winery.

The tasting room, located on the estate property at 4353 Westside Road, will be open 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

[caption id="attachment_35994" align="alignleft" width="360" caption="Somerston tasting room"][/caption]

On June 25, Somerston Wine Co. opened a second tasting room, located on the 1,682-acre estate above Lake Hennessy in Napa County. A high-tech winery was built in a 12,000-square-foot renovated barn last year, crushing grapes from 200 acres of vines on the property.

The new tasting room is part of a multipronged agribusiness strategy that includes a tasting venue opened in downtown Yountville a year ago, 1,500 head of Dorper sheep and several acres of fruit trees, vegetables and herbs, according to Somerston. A small grocery will open near the Yountville tasting room later this year. --Jeff Quackenbush


The Napa Tourism Improvement District and the Napa Downtown Association have launched a new website as part of an effort to promote the downtown region.

The website, www.DoNapa.com, will target both residents and tourists.

“We hope this site will engage visitors and residents, and serves as a fantastic resource for them as they plan their trips or check out what to do downtown and around the city,” said Sara Brooks, chair of the Tourism Improvement District.

The site features an interactive map, where users can map out a unique itinerary and customize maps, among other amenities.

“Not only are we excited for visitors to check out the Do Napa website, but we also think it be great for locals,” said Craig Smith, executive director the 300-member Downtown Association. --Dan Verel


The Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa has hired Michael Collins as its new executive chef. Mr. Collins began at the end of May and is in charge of all hotel food operations, including the signature Siena restaurant and banquets. As The Meritage Resort and Spa’s expansion readies for its spring 2012 grand opening, he will also develop menus and themes for its new Crush Ultra-Lounge and Cafe. He is currently working to add some new flavors to the Tuscan-inspired Siena restaurant.

At age 18, the Sacramento native became a professional chef and completed a culinary apprenticeship at the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia.

In his nearly 25-year career, he has taken various chef positions at four and five star resorts in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Arizona, Louisiana, Maui, Utah and throughout California.

Just a few days after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Chef Mike began consulting with and later accepted the challenge of being the executive chef at the historic Windsor Court Hotel. He was tasked with reopening all culinary operations at the hotel, while revamping the menu at its fabled restaurant, The New Orleans Grill. --Dan Verel


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