Napa Winery Using Covid Lessons On How Technology Can Take Wine Hospitality To Next Level

Garden at Bouchaine
Photo Credit: Bouchaine Vineyards & Winery

As beautiful outdoor weddings, charity events and meaningful anniversaries are coming back in droves to Napa Valley, it makes one forget that a pandemic ever existed. Chris Kajani, winemaker and general manager of Bouchaine Vineyards & Winery, noted that everything is off its typical schedule as it is difficult to gauge when Napa Valley has its high season these days as significant life events were on hold “for two years”. There was a time when California was on the roller coaster of shutting down and opening as no one had dealt with a pandemic in modern times, and so, it was impossible to balance, at times, the protection of people’s health while keeping a healthy economy going. As many wineries were struggling to stay engaged with their customers, Bouchaine was one of the first to leap into the virtual tasting space giving their long-time customers, as well as potential future customers, a great experience that could make them feel connected to the outside world and bring some much-needed indulgence to their home.

Bouchaine’s Terrace
Photo Credit: Bouchaine Vineyards & Winery

Bouchaine is in an enchanting corner of the cooler climate area of Carneros in Napa Valley, with jaw-dropping views that bring the magic of Napa to life. Before Covid, Bouchaine was a popular place to visit as it is a sanctuary where one feels tucked away from the more frenetic parts of Napa, surrounded by vineyards and trees and very little else, while sipping delicious Pinot Noir on a terrace that looks out over the San Pablo Bay with San Francisco in the background. Since Carneros has cooler temperatures, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive in this area of Napa, with Bouchaine also producing some small bottlings of Riesling, Syrah and Pinot Meunier, as well as other varieties. Still, every bottling is small since Bouchaine’s total production is only around 5,000 wine cases.

And so one would think that a winery with such a small production, which can’t be found in every restaurant and retail store, and is known for its more intimate property that many wine lovers like to visit, would struggle during those two years of Covid.

Yet they found great success in virtual tastings that brought friends, strangers and colleagues together in various formats that were either geared towards companies, current customers or people who wanted to get more familiar with Bouchaine wines, and even with the days of shutdown long gone, they are finding that these virtual tastings are a permanent part of their hospitality offerings.

Taste of Technology 

There is a wide selection of virtual tastings offered by Bouchaine including basic wine lessons, wine pairings, collaborations with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and of course, customized experiences, yet it is bringing a multifaceted technology experience with their Taste of Technology tours.

The Taste of Technology tours have become hybrid events where corporations can bring a group from their company to the actual winery, to enjoy their beautiful estate yet also bring in other employees from other areas of the country and so those colleagues in New York City can be brought in virtually and enjoy Bouchaine’s 4K camera system that brings the vivid colors and overall experiences to life. And there is no need for any employee to stress out about having to know about wine, or having no experience drinking expensive bottles, or a potentially unhealthy competition among colleagues being created on this tour, as the Taste of Technology tour focuses on bringing everyone to one of the most humbling aspects of winemaking, Mother Nature.

View from Bouchaine
Photo Credit: Bouchaine Vineyards & Winery

And so, not only does technology help to connect everyone from far and wide but it brings another fascinating aspect with Bouchaine Cisco sensor technology which will track the vines block by block in the vineyards and use reliable data about temperature, light, humidity, wind and soil moisture to help guide the Bouchaine team to make ideal choices for the grape vines block by block. Discussing how the Cisco soil moisture probes work in the Bouchaine vineyards is especially relevant in regards to concerns about climate change as water has become a “critical” and scarce resource in California. Chris says that since 2015 they have discovered that their property gets enough water for high-quality grape growing and that they can dry farm for the most part with the exclusion of their older vines. But when it comes to severe drought years, such as last year in 2021, they have to have a much more accurate view of which blocks need to be irrigated and which ones are doing fine with the continuation of dry farming as they realize that there could be a significant difference between blocks right next to each other in regards to their water needs. 

And so, when Chris and her team are setting up these technology tasting tours, there is no need to worry that one may not know enough, as everyone, even Chris and her team, are learning more and more each day about how different factors can affect the vineyards and ultimately shape what one tastes in the glass. 

How It Made A Group Feel

View from Bouchaine
Photo Credit: Bouchaine Vineyards & Winery

As companies start to find the balance when it comes to bringing people back to work, dealing possibly with hybrid experiences of part-time at home and part-time in the office, employees are coming back with a greater sense of giving importance to their mental well being over cutthroat goals of climbing the corporate ladder. As many have found that they could avoid the toxic elements of some work environments such as humiliation, fear or unhealthy competition becoming a detriment to performance, hence those workers feel they could stay at the same company long-term while keeping a happy and hopeful disposition. Of course, many lose out on key elements of working with co-workers in person by not having that same sense of belonging, or that there is something bigger that they are a part of, and indeed, there are lost opportunities of emotional growth as a professional who can witness how senior employees handle various situations.

The idea of any harmonious working environment is to ensure everyone’s strengths are highlighted as benefits to the company and that weaknesses are nothing to be ashamed of but are a part of everyone’s journey. A place that lacks intimidation yet is challenging in a fun and wondrous way makes employees want to learn more. That is what Bouchaine, before Covid, had always been in Napa, a safe and friendly place to learn about killer Napa Pinot Noir in Carneros with a magical view that knocks one’s socks off. Yes, the wines are fantastic, but the place would make a group of people feel as if they belonged, they were part of something bigger than themselves without any of the baggage of feeling inferior that sometimes comes with fine wine tastings.

And as Bouchaine had been implementing more technology tools to take them to the next level during Covid, they are now able to give corporations the chance to create authentic team-building experiences avoiding cliché exercises and instead put people in a situation where they are all on equal footing, learning about something that brings them so much pleasure and realizing that at the end of that gorgeous day, when the sunset creates a stunning golden aura over the vineyards, that everyone there has the power to build a better work environment; an environment where each person is empowered to be her best, knowing that she is a vital part of the success of that business.

***Link to original article published on Forbes:

Bouchaine Vineyards & Winery is bringing a multifaceted technology experience with their Taste of Technology tours in Carneros, Napa Valley.
Bouchaine Pinot Noir single clone wines
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

The below Bouchaine Pinot Noir wines come from three different clones, as different Pinot Noir clones will have nuanced differences from each other that are fun to experience in the below single clone bottlings.

2019 Bouchaine ‘Swan Clone’ Estate Pinot Noir, Carneros, Napa Valley: 100% Pinot Noir from the Swan Clone. The Swan Clone Pinot Noir lives up to its name with an overall elegance and delicacy in its texture with a floral nose, fresh black cherries and hints of crushed rocks. It is stunning in its subtle beauty.

2019 Bouchaine ‘Pommard Clone’ Estate Pinot Noir, Carneros, Napa Valley: 100% Pinot Noir from the Pommard Clone. Chris talked about the creamier texture of the Pommard, and it was on display in this vintage with a rich texture while still being energetic with spicy notes and bright red cherry flavors. Delicious.

2019 Bouchaine ‘Dijon Clone’ Estate Pinot Noir, Carneros, Napa Valley: 100% Pinot Noir from the Dijon Clone. Mouthwatering acidity comes from the Dijon Pinot Noir and a fierce minerality with finely etched tannins that give more structure than the previous two Pinot Noir clone wines and lots of fresh crunchy red fruit on the palate. Multi-layered wine. Chris says she always loves to hear her customers talk about their favorite out of these three Pinot Noir clone wines, and it is often balanced when it comes to the votes.

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