Team-Building through Wine-Blending

Sonoma's Viansa gets office workers out of the cubicle and into the winery.

Wine is good for your physical health—and now it can improve a corporation's fiscal wealth as well.

Viansa Winery in Sonoma County, California has launched a "Wine Blending Program" that combines winemaking with corporate team-building. Co-workers band together to blend the perfect wine and create a sales-savvy label and marketing pitch.

Led by a Viansa wine educator, each team creates its blend from three to four wines the same way top winemakers do, first mixing components together in a glass, then swirling and sampling. Finally they present their best "Master Blend" to Viansa judges. Teams strive to craft not only the best wine—they also compete to create the best label and advertising campaign (parodies of commercial slogans and TV spots are popular). "You see a sincere competitive spirit develop, especially when it comes to designing labels," says Victoria D'Orazi, hospitality groups coordinator, who recalls a particularly vivid depiction of a blend dubbed "Kick-Ass Merlot."

The program also helps participants develop a greater knowledge about wine. According to Lloyd Davis, president and CEO of Viansa, "We want to demystify wine. A lot of people cringe when they have to order from a wine list. In the programs, we use varietals people often find in restaurants, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot—they become familiar with the tastes and flavors of the different varietals." Organizations that have participated in the events include Google, YouTube, Bank of America, Mercedes Benz, and the American Dental Association.

Above all, the program breaks down barriers that extend beyond the cubicles. "Sometimes someone in accounting comes up with a better pitch than the person in marketing," D'Orazi observes. "Everyone gets closer. That's the bottom line."

The program is geared to groups from four to two hundred. Prices start at $65 person plus a 20% service fee; lunch can be included. Contact: 707-935-4717;


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