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2010 Best Conference/Meeting Site: Vintners Inn

Author: Alexandra Russell
May, 2010 Issue
When NorthBay biz hosted its Best Of the North Bay event in May 2007, guests were welcomed to the newly revamped Vintners Inn Event Center. What a perfect way to showcase the space’s versatility: Attendees mingled throughout the spacious main rooms and outdoor patios, easily flowing from one area to another (sampling award-winning wine and food, no less). When it came time for the awards presentation, top-notch audio-visual equipment broadcast the action across drop-down screens.
In all, the event center encompasses 14,000 square feet, with 7,000 available as meeting space and the rest better suited to more free-flowing special events, like fund-raisers and weddings. According to Percy Brandon, general manager of the green-certified Vintners Inn (including VI, the event center and John Ash & Co. restaurant), “weddings have become the biggest part of our business these days,” accounting for close to 60 percent of event revenues.

This turn toward nuptials comes as the travel and corporate meeting industries continue to struggle following the exposure of excesses in those areas. “When the government ‘shamed’ all the corporate meetings, everybody turned off that part of their business,” says Brandon. “We lost a huge amount of corporate business at the time, especially because we’re in the ‘luxury’ line, and that became a bad word. We had to find a new balance.

“It was a tough year, but we’ve always been a property at the forefront of innovation. We began creating different events to bring in new business, like winemaker dinners, creative fund-raisers or cooking classes and events with chef John Ash,” he explains. “For 2010, we’re looking at 30 percent growth over 2009 at the event center.”

Brandon is quick to stress that business-oriented gatherings haven’t disappeared completely. “We still host corporate meetings,” he says, “but those are usually smaller. We only have 44 [guest] rooms, so we don’t bring in larger groups—usually they’re about 40 to 60 people, unless it’s for a local company. We do a lot of presentations, workshops and meetings for local companies and groups, like Kaiser Permanente and Medtronic. We also do dinners for pharmaceutical companies.”

All meeting rooms are “smart rooms,” with audio-visual capability (including the drop-down display screens) and computer connectivity built into a base station in each conference table. There’s also free WiFi for all guests.

“We also have an amazing space for fund-raisers,” Brandon continues. “These have become a new trend for us because of our central location in the county. Plus the center is so versatile in how it can be arranged.”

Vintners Inn recently hosted Chefs of Tomorrow, benefiting the culinary programs at local high schools, and has also welcomed patrons of the Sonoma County and Healdsburg museums, Children’s Village and the Santa Rosa Symphony. On July 11, the Sixth Annual Pinot Family Reunion will raise money for Sutter North Bay’s Women’s Health Center.

Vintners Inn can host such a variety of gatherings because, “[owners] Don and Rhonda [Carano] have amazing vision,” says Brandon. “They’ve built a structure that’s really versatile, so we can host just about any kind of event, from five to 600 people.”






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