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Geyserville Inn, situated among vineyards in downtown Geyserville, is in the process of ongoing renovations that owners say will ultimately transform the property from a quaint farmhouse inn to a high-end hotel.

The first phase of the more than $1.5 million project is finished, which included painting the hotel’s exterior and completely renovating 38 of the hotel’s 41 guest rooms (three suites are slated for fall), according to Dan Christensen Sr., founder, president and CEO of Geyserville Inn.

When it’s all said and done, Geyserville Inn will have a remodeled lobby, upgraded hallways and corridors, an elevator, a tasting room, a business conference center and a spa. The hotel gets a lot of wedding business and that is expected to continue.

Christensen’s goal is to fully market Geyserville Inn as an upscale tourist destination for high-income travelers, weddings and business retreats even with trendy Healdsburg nearby.

“We want to be the alternative because we’re not the same as Healdsburg,” Christensen said about the community, just 10 miles south on U.S. Highway 101. “What we want to do is bring (visitors) up here and showcase our beauty. And if you walk around here, there won’t be a bunch of cars going back and forth.”

Geyserville Inn is a family-owned and operated business that includes Christensen’s sons, Danny and Rob. Christensen brought Geyserville Inn to life in 1997 after buying the property in 1984, when it housed a fruit-processing dehydration plant, a restaurant with a shaky foundation, and a horse corral out back.

Christensen stabilized the restaurant’s foundation, reengineered and remodeled it to what it is today: Geyserville Grille, which includes a full bar and outdoor patio.

When Christensen decided he wanted to build a hotel on his property, it took about four years to get Sonoma County’s approval.

“I had to fight with the Agriculture Department because they worried my guests would walk out and destroy the vineyards,” he said. After spending time with the Board of Supervisors explaining his plans would be a boon to the region’s wine industry, he finally got approval. “We argued that (the hotel) would be close to the vineyards and wineries, and overnight guests would be able to sample wine.”

The Christensen family also makes their own wine, called Christensen Zin.

“We grow the plants here, harvest them ourselves and sell the wine here,” he said.

Over the years, Geyserville Inn has undergone several renovations, the last being about 20 years ago, Christensen said. But this one is a big deal, as it also includes a big marketing and public relations push.

In January, he contracted with McCue Communications, a PR firm that specializes in the tourism and hospitality industry, with clients in the U.S. and abroad. McCue also is working closely on the social media and digital front with Geyserville Inn’s in-house marketing team, led by Sharon Thomas.

“Right now, my main focus is on the digital marketing side and making sure we are at the top visibility for travelers by staying on top of our SEO,” Thomas said, adding that 75% of travelers start planning by using a search engine.

“With the digital advertising, the goal is to adjust the income target to a higher household income through Google ads and pay-per-click advertising,” she said. “With the new rooms, we have to adjust our price per night and know this will be difficult to achieve with success without reaching a new clientele.”

Room rates range from $249 to $469 per night, depending on room size and peak- or off-peak season, said sales director Christina Heraty-Averill.

Christensen’s relationships and partnerships with multiple wineries in the region also play an important role in Geyserville Inn’s business.

He works with several winemakers, some who will be hosting tasting events at the hotel, and also partners with big businesses in the area, including River Rock Casino and Francis Ford Coppola Winery.

“We book many of our trade guests at the Geyserville Inn for their visits with The Family Coppola,” said Rick Toyota, senior director of hospitality operations, The Family Coppola. “It’s important that these clients receive the best possible Alexander Valley Wine Country experience, and the Geyserville Inn plays a significant role in creating a memorable visit for our clients and guests. They have been great partners for both the Francis Ford Coppola and Virginia Dare wineries.”

The draw of Geyserville may be its differences from other nearby destinations.

Local tour operator Woody Guderian, who co-owns Woody’s Wine Tours with his wife, Lisa, said his clients often want to go to Healdsburg Plaza because it’s a well-known tourist attraction.

“I don’t think (people) necessarily realize that Geyserville is there,” Guderian said. “As far as an alternative that’s not far away, I think Geyserville is a great option. You’re minutes outside of Healdsburg, you’re in the middle of wineries and vineyards, and there are a couple of great restaurants in town. It’s wine country and I like to see people have multiple options on where they can stay.”

Staff Writer Cheryl Sarfaty covers tourism, hospitality, health care and education. Reach her at cheryl.sarfaty@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4259.