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Wine with that

Tasting rooms and winery activities expand, as do options for creative meeting spaces
Private patios at Evolve Cellars on Okanagan Lake can seat up to 24 for semi-private meetings and tastings | Shawn Fillion

It doesn’t take much of a search to find claims that a glass of wine at work can boost creativity. So imagine what an afternoon of wine tasting at a corporate retreat can do.

Head to a winery on a sunny day and you’re guaranteed an enjoyable activity, a relaxing afternoon and a beautiful view overlooking vineyards or more. What better place to stimulate the senses and generate innovative problem solving?

With new wineries popping up offering reception-sized tasting rooms along with smaller board meeting rooms, it’s easy to find one to accommodate your needs.

Family-owned Blue Grouse Estate Winery near Duncan just celebrated its two-year anniversary in spring 2017. The two-storey, distinctively designed tasting room with a swooping glulam timber roof can hold up to 50 for a tasting and tour or long-table dinners.

But what’s unique to Blue Grouse is a boardroom table on the mezzanine for private meetings of up to 10, next to a lounge area with club chairs for more relaxed discussions.

The winery has a large, dedicated grassy area for outdoor events that has been landscaped with its own raised stage to facilitate presentations (or nuptials).

The award-winning winery also has an exclusive “Bed & Bottle” retreat. The private building at the back of the vineyard has two accommodation rooms and space for small meetings. For group accommodations, hotels in Cowichan Bay or Duncan are within a 10-minute drive.

Just down the Malahat from Blue Grouse, the newly renovated and recently reopened Villa Eyrie Resort has a special wine showcase event on the first Friday of each month in its Summit Restaurant.

“Our wine society began in 2016 and it has been a great addition to the events here at the Villa Eyrie Resort,” says Gigi Choy, sales and catering manager for Villa Eyrie Resort. “The event is a combination of a mini sommelier session with unique wines selected by our restaurant manager, Ali El-Khalafawi, paired with dishes prepared by executive chef Carmen Ingham.”

Seats are limited to 40 guests in a private section of the restaurant. In the past year, regions highlighted include Germany, France, Spain, Napa Valley, British Columbia, Italy and Argentina. And after a night of imbibing, guests can meander over to one of the villa’s 38 luxury suites.

For an off-the-beaten-track experience just under four hours’ drive from Vancouver, you can plan your next meet-and-drink at Lillooet’s first commercial vineyard, Fort Berens Estate Winery.

Founders Rolf de Bruin and Heleen Pannekoek came from Holland in 2005 looking for suitable land to start a vineyard. Among others, they consulted B.C. wine legend Harry McWatters, who suggested the Lillooet area.

The weather is “just as hot as the South Okanagan,” de Bruin says.

The winery was completed in 2014 and can now host 60 for a reception, 32 for a sit-down function. In outside tented areas, it can accommodate 80 for dinner.

Several hotels in Lillooet offer overnight accommodation just minutes away.

For a gorgeous lake view, hold a meeting on the terraces of Evolve Cellars right in the vineyard on the shore of Okanagan Lake in Summerland.

Evolve has a 600-square-foot dedicated indoor meeting space that can host 50 people seated or 60 standing. For larger gatherings of up to 120, receptions can be held on the outdoor breezeway and upper and lower patios. Full catering is available for all meals and there is AV equipment for meetings as well.

Accommodations in Summerland or Penticton are within 20 minutes’ drive. Kelowna is 40 minutes away.

Farther south, at the north end of Osoyoos Lake, Burrowing Owl has just completed a renovation that includes a large meeting and function room. And there’s no need to worry about finding a designated driver. This all-inclusive guest house, restaurant and winery has 10 luxury suites, each with a balcony overlooking the vineyard and a fireplace. There’s also an outdoor pool and hot tub, and the Cellar Lounge is fully AV-equipped. For added grandeur, the two-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot Meritage Suite is perfect for an executive retreat, complete with a private elevator and gourmet kitchen.

If you’re looking for a one-day retreat and hotels are not within your budget, consider Krause Estate Winery in Langley. The fruit winery has a tasting room to accommodate standing receptions or a dinner or board meeting for 16. The outdoor terrace can fit 80 in good weather.

Of course, all the wineries offer wine tastings for corporate groups, but consider adding extra activities such as food -pairing classes, seasonal grape picking or team-building games such as scavenger hunts and vineyard events, including` croquet, Frisbee or even yoga.