Necessity was the mother of invention for Flat Creek Estate Winery & Vineyard when it was looking for a way to make tastings safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aided by innovative recyclable and reusable packaging, Flat Creek was able to improve its outdoor self-guided tasting game in a way that quickly gained popularity with its customers.
“Outdoor contactless self-guided tastings have allowed us to serve a broader clientele,” said Amanda Koraska, Director of Business Operations. “The self-guided tastings have been our biggest change (since COVID) with the most increase to the bottom line.”
The Marble Falls, Texas winery implemented an outdoor counter-service option for less contact and more social distancing, allowing guests to purchase a self-guided tasting that is prepackaged in StackTek wine glasses.
StackTek, a Modesto, California-based company, is a high-speed co-packing facility that says it can produce as few as 2,200 cases of wine for a customer in its stackable glasses, but has the capacity to serve a national roll-out. It takes a customer’s wine and puts it in stackable, sealed plastic containers that give the appearance of Riedel stemless glasses. A stacked, sealed set of 4 glasses equals a 750mL bottle of wine.
They can also be filled and sealed as one-unit packs.
“Customers can enjoy them anywhere on our 80-acre property,” Koraska said. “As an experience-driven winery, it was a major shift in our business model to present the wines in such an informal way but we have found that some of our guests prefer this type of tasting with or without the COVID risk.”
In addition to the self-guided outdoor tastings, the winery is continuing to keep indoor seating limited and require reservations for indoor full-service tastings, even though Texas lifted social distancing, masking and occupancy requirements relatively early in the pandemic.
The changes to indoor and outdoor seating protocol are here to stay. As an added bonus, the indoor tasting model currently in use commands a higher price per guest, catering to luxury clientele.
In short, Flat Creek is poised to operate, come what may with the Delta variant of COVID-19.
“As COVID cases declined, and our state fully opened, our team decided to keep our new initiatives in place,” Koraska said. “Limited seating and required reservations for indoor full-service tastings have allowed us to know our guests and cater to their expectations.
“Regardless of how our local government officials respond, we will continue to offer full-service limited indoor seating by reservation as well as contactless outdoor StackTek packs.”