Wine and dine online
Brisbane micro-winery successfully adapts business during coronavirus pandemic.
Start again and go hard was the response from Adam Penberthy co-owner of City Winery, Brisbane’s own micro-winery in the heart of the city, when forced by COVID-19 protection measures to lockdown his restaurant.
Faced with enormous changes in the hospitality industry, Mr Penberthy decided to accept the challenge and pivot the winery’s offering.
Instead of operating a restaurant and wine bar with a winery, City Winery became a centre for food and oenophile (wine lover) experiences.
Using the magic of digital communication platforms such as Zoom, Facetime and Skype, Mr Penberthy developed a suite of in-home products.
These include private chef-led degustation dinners, wine blending workshops and wine and food pairing experiences.
“The new model is almost a positive and something to be excited about,” Mr Penberthy said.
“They may not be as popular post-COVID, but we are doing three times as many in-home, four-course Saturday night degustations as we were doing in the restaurant.
“The wine blending workshop is very popular, and a cheese and wine pairing workshop is going out the door to Toowoomba as we speak.”
Mr Penberthy said he was charging the same prices as people would pay in-house.
“Our staff have taken pay cuts, but this means they all are still employed,” he said.
“People are always turning 50 and want to celebrate their milestones and corporates are also showing interest in the experiences.
“At our core, we are a winery, and now we are being resilient and selling the wine any way we can. Consumers are getting a wine experience, it’s just not face-to-face.”
Barely a year old when the COVID-19 changes hit, the urban winery was the first to launch in the heart of Brisbane since 1860.
It produces artisan, small-batch wines handmade by winemaker David Cush inside a converted warehouse in Wandoo St, just behind James St in Fortitude Valley.
Mr Cush sources grapes from the best growing regions around Australia and turns them into wines under the Gerler label.
The name comes from Carl Gerler who was a viticulture pioneer in the late 1800s when there were 121ha of vineyards around the city.
City Winery’s food, with chef Travis Crane at the helm, is heavily locally sourced and based on a farm-to-plate mantra.
Mr Crane established a reputation for ethical cooking and consumption while heading up The Barrelroom at Ballandean Estate Wines on the Granite Belt.
Now he brings the same culinary experience to the city, this time paired with artisan wines made in Brisbane.
What will happen to the online offerings when the world returns to normal?
Mr Penberthy said it would depend on the experience, but he believed the market would exist long after the virus was gone.
With government restrictions easing from 16 May, City Winery has launched Fireside Experience for diners in the restaurant.
The unique experience will be held on Friday and Saturday nights during the first stage of eased restrictions, limited to two dinner sittings of 10 people each.
Contact City Winery to make a booking.
STORY: KERRY HEANEY
PICTURES: CITY WINERY