“When we took a seat ourselves, we realized just how beautiful the view is from our cellar door,” says Wirra Wirra Marketing Manager Luke Tyler, explaining some of the benefits of their new cellar door program. “Before customers used to stand belly to the bar and taste wines facing us. Now they get to look out over a biodynamic vineyard. It makes it that much more special.”
While it’s the little things, like an improved view, more considered use of space and greater integration between Harry’s Deli and the cellar door, that has transformed the cellar door experience at Wirra Wirra – the effort that has gone into the changes has been monumental. While Covid-19 pulled the trigger for change, Luke and Cellar Door/Tourism Manager Lisa McNicol had been planning a transformation well beforehand, with the hope for a Winter 2020 launch. The inspiration stemmed from cellar door, winery and hospitality services that the Wirra Wirra team had experienced all over the world, adapting the elements they liked, such as Napa Valley’s penchant for a concierge upon arrival, but in their own way. This consideration is evident.
“We didn’t want it to look like we just pulled out some chairs and tables,” says Luke.
There’s no danger of that – using the skilled team at Wirra Wirra to renovate the cellar door space during the mandated lockdown, with the redesign showing a courteous consideration for individual seated groups. Besides being in line with the ‘new normal’ protocols, the format opens up for a more intimate experience and engaging atmosphere, which McNicol offers allows for groups to chat to each other during a tasting over a wine flight, making the experience more pleasant, social and leisurely.
A new format and space can only do so much – both Lisa and Luke declare that the service the staff provide is the real hero of a visit to Wirra Wirra. They gush at how their staff, who returned to work after lockdown to a very different cellar door to what they left, have risen to the new challenge.
“It’s more like restaurant service now than a typical cellar door,” McNichol says of the staff’s role. “A group will now be served by the same attendant through their whole tasting, which wasn’t always possible before.”
Online bookings are encouraged using Wirra Wirra’s new booking system, meaning your visit can be pre-planned and run like clockwork upon your arrival. There is a full suite of experiences to choose from depending on how much time you want to spend, from tastings to tours and masterclasses, each offering a unique combination of services and special encounters, including lunch provided by Harry’s Deli, if desired. With each having their unique spin, repeat visits will be warranted.
Tastings at Wirra Wirra now offer their rare Flagship wines, giving greater insight into the winery’s long history. Tasting plates can complement your flight of choice, which have another new addition of organically-grown produce from the cellar door’s garden. This includes herbs, fruits and vegetables grown on-site that are then used for cellar door tasting plates and Harry’s Deli. The gardening boom during lockdown has made an impression on Wirra Wirra in the best possible way, it seems.
Taking into consideration how simple some of these changes are, the detail and effort that have gone into bringing them to life has been meticulous. Now, with the recognition of the Best Wine Tourism Services award, all this effort has paid off. And yet, it’s the simple pleasures, like taking a moment to turn your chair to face the view, that is the best reward we can all hope for.
Story written by 2020 Wine Media Cadet, Lachlan Aird