File photo Wineries suggest you call ahead to ensure they allow bachelorette parties or large groups. File photo

Okanagan wine tour party? Know before you go

Parties are asked to remove any bridal paraphernalia, including veils, phallic objects and costumes

A new conversation is bubbling up at Okanagan wineries — how do they handle the influx of bachelorette parties celebrating pending nuptials by touring tasting rooms?

A few bad brides have threatened to spoil the bunch and wineries are now tightening up the rules for those about to tie the knot.

More wineries are requesting that the parties remove any bridal paraphernalia before they enter. These include veils, phallic objects and costumes.

Tina Baird, from the Naramata Bench Wineries Association, said there isn’t a blanket policy that covers all of the 28 wineries within the association.

“It is up to each individual winery. There definitely have been issues because of those types of parties and discussion amongst wineries, but it is in different degrees. It all depends on that party. As well, some wineries have that age group as their target demographic,” said Baird. “There are workarounds, such as a side area where they can be on their own and not disrupt the whole tasting room, or private tastings.”

Related: Millennials closing in as B.C.’s biggest wine drinkers

Smaller wineries have found that hosting large groups and bachelorette parties takes over their tasting rooms and impedes other guests experience at the winery.

“Bachelorettes are always a bit of a challenge,” Tina Slama, wine shop manager of Little Straw Winery said. “We have very strict rules about behaviour and over-serving. We have to abide by our Serving It Right. It’s hard to tell the difference between groups being silly and loud or being drunk. If guests act that way we take it as them being over-served and refuse to pour wine for them.”

Baird said it also concerns the wineries on Naramata Bench, as Serving It Right rules have to be followed. As well, there is wine tasting etiquette that may be unknown to new wine-drinker. A survey conducted in December showed that the age demographics of wine drinkers is changing. More than half of wine drinkers (ages 19 to 34) say they are consuming more wine from B.C. than they did five years ago.

“I think this is a good education, often people don’t realize that bringing a bachelorette or stag party to a winery is an issue and that they can be potentially turned away. I suggest if they do want to bring a party or group to a winery, to call and find out their policy before or do it through a tour company. Don’t just arrive and expect it will be OK,” said Baird.

Wineries are relying on tour companies to relay their rules to groups as they enter the winery. Wineries send their rules and expectations each year to the tour companies and their guides to ensure a smooth season ahead.

Some tour companies, like Grape Escapes, based in Penticton, offer a bachelorette or Jack and Jill specific tour and take the party to group-friendly wineries.

“We work pretty closely with wineries and it sucks that bachelorette parties get grouped together. Some are lovely, some get out of hand and just want to get drunk,” Kevin Forsythe owner of Aprés Tours said.

“I have a way of telling everyone in my groups, ‘you can have as much fun as you want in the bus, and do whatever. But when we are at the wineries, listen to the people giving you the tasting, be respectful and have fun that way.’ They definitely don’t have to leave the bus if they don’t want to adhere to that.”

The tours have scheduled stops with wineries that welcome bachelorette parties with open arms, as long as they behave appropriately.

“I have heard stories where a group arrives with their own designated driver and off they go touring. That is where it can be problematic because they may not know the tasting room policies as opposed to a guided tour company. Still some wineries will welcome them because they have the space too, but really the best thing to do is call ahead and find out what their policy is,” said Baird.

Reservations have become increasingly important to wineries to accommodate the influx of the wineaux coming through their doors to ensure all guests leave the winery with wine they enjoy and happy memories.

Proprietors are still discussing how to move forward with the trend of wine tasting themed bachelorette parties fueled by fun, celebration and wine in the sun. Working towards finding the right way to accommodate and set etiquette boundaries for the parties to uphold their atmosphere.

Related: Tips for turning your ‘wine-nos’ into wineaux

“We have been a part of round tables where wineries have said that (banning them) was their position, it’s more catering to their demographic or the types of people and atmosphere they have and catering to that,” Rio Kitsch, co-owner of Kitsch winery said.

“It’s a huge market first of all, and they are young customers that have the potential to be really loyal. We are a younger team so by nature we are more into the younger demographic. A bachelorette party is a celebration, every word has its own connotation but it’s how you choose to see it.”

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