Expanding the tasting room hours of a winery is never a decision entered into lightly. Fortunately for Battle Ground’s Rusty Grape Vineyard it has proven to be one of no regrets.
Having just celebrated their one year mark (January 4th) as the first winery in Clark County to open their doors seven days a week, owners Jeremy and Heather Brown continue to be committed to their customers’ requests.
Jeremy said, “One year into it, we find that it is a welcome addition as many of the Rustygrapians really enjoy the slower pace of the new nights as well as the themes of Mac ‘n Cheese Mondays and our own version of Taco (pizza) Tuesday. The summer nights we stay very busy. As we round into winter it, of course, slows down but the investment of time is paying off. I personally like that it gives me, as an owner, time to connect with guests who are either wine tasting or enjoying dinner.”
When Rusty Grape came on the wine scene in 2006, their tasting room hours encompassed Fridays and Saturdays. Thursday evenings and an early closing on Sundays were added shortly after. The value of Vintner’s Hours in combination with the cozy, stay-as-long-as-you-like vibe that Rusty Grape is known for grew the popularity of those days quickly.
Wednesday was added in the last couple of years and Monday/Tuesday rounds out a vision the Browns had for Rusty Grape from the beginning.
Owners of nearby Spanish-style tasting room, Emanar Cellars, know first-hand the pros and cons of increasing hours. They introduced Wednesday to their lineup in 2016 and have found—much like Jeremy—that regulars are the biggest fans of mid-week opportunities.
“Some people specifically come in on a weekday for the quiet or they’ll bring their friends by to meet us, if we’re around,” co-owner, Richard Meyerhoefer said.
One of the big differences between Clark County wineries and other wine regions is the large presence of evening hours. Places like Walla Walla and the Willamette Valley typically close their doors by 6 p.m. Rusty Grape and Emanar, for instance, open theirs at 4 pm on week nights.
By doing so, tasting rooms become the perfect spot to support live, local musicians and patrons enjoy gathering to hear a new artist or introduce friends to a vocalist they follow. Offering more low-key, weekday hours sets the stage to accommodate a greater range of wine enthusiasts.
But the Browns are not resting on their grape skins. Followers of Rusty Grape can look forward to a 922 square-foot addition coming this spring. Featuring a 26-foot-long tasting bar, it will offer a dedicated space for indoor tasting and all-weather garage doors that will roll up to bring the outside in during warmer months. Add to that the Backyard BBQ and Social—which made its debut toward the waning summer days of 2016— there are more reasons than ever to visit the Grape.
“The whole 2017 is designed around offering different places to explore. We are not looking to attract more people but, rather, to give an excellent experience to the guests that are already coming up to enjoy the Grape,” Jeremy said. “The new design will add areas so that everyone can have an enjoyable experience based on what they want to do.”