Weddings and Winemaking: Via Vechhia Winery
Via Vecchia Winery in Columbus, Ohio has learned to strike a balance between maintaining an emphasis on winemaking and hosting events, according to owner-partner, Paolo Rosi. This urban winery is located in a historic former brewery in downtown Columbus near four major hotels.
Moving to the new location in April 2010 from Powell, Ohio satisfied the need for a larger production facility, Rosi said. However, Rosi said the demand for wedding ceremonies and receptions created by the new downtown location initially surprised them. Teaming up with an experienced weddings caterer allowed for a comfortable transition period from the beginning, he said.
‘We are fortunate that weddings are weekend-oriented so we get the wine making done during the week,” explained owner-partner Rosi. ‘But we have to remember not to take bookings during October when we receive 20 tons of whole grapes from California,” he added jokingly.
Even without October for bookings, Rosi said weddings and other events now amount to a substantial portion of their winery’s revenues. A reasonably large wedding involving 150-175 guests, excluding food (the winery can recommend a caterer) but including venue rental for a roughly 30 minute ceremony and a five hour reception including liquor, beer and wine, costs from $7500 up.
The red wines provided at events and weddings are all made on the premises. The winery doesn’t make white wine, so sources it from off the premises. What the winery refers to as “third party alcohol,” which includes white wine, can make up only 30% of total alcoholic beverages consumed at the event.[stextbox id=”custom” caption=”Infrastructure Required for Winery Events ” shadow=”true” float=”true” align=”right” width=”350″]
- Adequate parking,
- Traffic control,
- Space for tents or indoor capacity,
- Food service kitchens approved by the MDA,
- Fire safety lights/exits for crowds,
- Service ware (plates, glassware, staff uniforms, tablecloths, serving utensils, chaffing dishes),
- Cleaning staff and equipment,
- Banquet tables and chairs (preferable to buy, otherwise expect waits for delivery times and allow for mistakes on your order)
- Legal event contracts,
- Defined and written policies for deposits and hours,
- Insurance coverage,
- Marketing plan for events,
- Advance ticket sales/reservation mechanism online or otherwise,
- Adequate toilet facilities
- Changing rooms for the bridal party, musicians or entertainers
- ASCAP license[/stextbox]
A typical wedding ends at about midnight, but the winery is licensed to stay open until 2: 30 a.m. from Monday to Saturday and until 12: 30 a.m. on Sunday nights. An events room with a stage and a kitchen, plus a separate barrel room and bottle room, means that production areas can be roped off from the wedding parties. However, during the crush period the winery uses all available space and closes to other guests. That can happen quite a lot — the winery is almost completely booked for weddings during 2012 and for much of 2013.
One key factor that allows this emphasis on weddings and events is that the Rossi’s on-site tasting room is not an essential part of their revenue stream. ‘Our model never involved the public, we self-distributed and did tastings off-site, so we never relied on tasting room traffic to begin with so there is no conflict here. We have found that the weddings and events are more efficient than keeping a tasting room open on spec waiting for traffic to come in.” said co-owner Michael Elmer.
Via Vecchia keeps an online calendar so customers can check for public tastings, but they do not allow the public into the winery during weddings. The winery sells bottles at Whole Foods, the Clintonville Community Market, and other outlets, but events create a key portion of the business.
The popularity of their winery as a venue for weddings is helped by the close proximity of hotels, which can be an advantage when competing with rural wineries for weddings and events. Elmer said they are no more than a couple of blocks from two major hotels, the Westin and Hilton Doubletree.
See related story: Brother’s Drake and Middle West Spirits Express Ohio Terroir
Via Vecchia has also found that weddings create a significant number of return customers and generate new events like photographic shoots, exhibitions, office parties, charity drives and other family parties. Weddings also are a way of finding new volunteers for the winery.
The large open space in the winery can also accommodate other types of events in addition to weddings. On Wednesday evenings during the winter, the local arts community comes to the winery to hula-hoop, dance, listen to music, and swap stories while drinking mulled wine. The winery attracts visual artists with gallery shows and dancers by letting them use the stage.
‘The previous occupant put in a fully functional stage and left all the theatrical lights, so that really helps.” Paolo Rosi said. ‘Because the high, wooden ceiling in the main room is perfect for acoustics, we have been fortunate to get the Music in the Round series two-years in a row and again on February 16, 2013. We will also be hosting the City Music series for a second season.”
With weekends spent hosting weddings, and the weekdays spent cleaning and making wine, Rosi’s challenge is finding time to take off from work. ‘Weekends are taken by the winery, and when are you going to get a holiday? We booked over 50 weddings in 2012 and half of 2013 is booked. If you’re not ready for the committment, you may not want to be in that game.”
[stextbox id=”custom” caption=”Partnerships for Successful Events”]
- Caterer, Partner Restaurants, or Food Trucks
- State-Designated Liquor Store
- For weddings: Three distributors of beer because they don’t carry the same labels.
- Your landlord, if you’re leasing and the neighbors
- Performance artists — get to know your arts community
- Parking lot management companies
- Tent/chair rental companies (highly recommended)
- Beauty Salons
- Event Planners
- Facebook friends, tourist bureau, and the Chamber of Commerce.
NB: Reporter Cynthia Rosi is the wife of Paolo Rosi, of Via Vecchia Winery.