Lake Breeze Wines managing director Roger Follett says a new $1.8 million venue at the Langhorne Creek winery will be ready to start hosting weddings by October this year, despite current COVID-19 restrictions.
Lake Breeze has been planning the upgrade for more than three years, with a $300,000 Regional Development Grant pledged to the project by the State Government in 2018.
Despite the current closure of the winery’s cellar door and restaurant, and a freeze on most of its wine exports, Lake Breeze is continuing to employ staff and will take advantage of the quiet period to construct the new facility.
The new event space will allow for 25 weddings per year — more than double what the winery currently holds — while also catering for additional conferences and gatherings. The venue will have capacity for up to 200 people.
“We’ve been doing weddings for quite a few years now. We host them in our barrel sheds out the back of the winery, but that space is unavailable during vintage,” Follett says. “We couldn’t do weddings through February, March or April at all.
“We didn’t want to disrupt things over the busy summer period, and had planned to begin in autumn to be ready for October.”
Located just an hour south-east of Adelaide, Lake Breeze has already started taking bookings for the new space.
“People are mostly looking towards 2021, but there have been couples looking at October onwards. Even though it’s a long way out, seven or eight months, we’d like to give people confidence that if you do book we will look after you.”
Designed by architect Trisia Kwong, the new structure will feature original limestone and sandstone mixed with industrial galvanised steel, with large glass windows to take in the surrounding scenery of the 90ha vineyard run by the Follett family.
“We’re trying to emulate that barrel room atmosphere in the new venue by bringing in 50 barrels and creating a rustic feel with a modern touch to it,” Follett says.
“We know that’s what people want from a winery venue — being in amongst the vineyard and the gum trees, but to also have that barrel shed atmosphere.”
He says the winery’s popularity as a wedding venue has been boosted by exposure from the Handpicked Festival. Handpicked was established by the winery in 2015, is held each November, and has grown to become so popular that last year’s event sold out in just two weeks, featuring headline acts such as Amy Shark, Missy Higgins, and John Butler.
“A lot of people who come to Handpicked are in that 20-to-40 age demographic, and there have been quite a few who’ve come back to book weddings after being at the festival,” he says.
Lake Breeze is still working towards the November 14 date for the 2020 festival, which would be a fitting celebration following social isolation in South Australia, if restrictions are eased.
“A lot of planning has gone into Handpicked over the past year,” Follett says. “We’ve got it on hold, but we’re hoping that if restrictions do lift we’ll have enough time to put it together.
“It’s turned into such a fantastic event and we want to keep that momentum going. So many people look forward to going and it would be a shame not to run it.”
The winery normally has healthy exports, particularly to China, which were halted from mid-December through to the end of March. However, in the past two weeks, the winery has again begun to fill orders from China.
Locally, Lake Breeze has experienced an exponential increase of online wine sales, somewhat softening the blow of being closed over Easter — normally a booming weekend of tourism for regional wineries.
“In our restaurant, all the chairs are stacked up, the cellar door’s closed and the lights are off. It’s strange not having people coming and going, but the online sales have kept things ticking over,” Follett says.
“It’s important to keep your employees around because when things get going again, you’re going to need everyone around. We’re looking at putting on another half a dozen people for the new venue.”
Having just completed the recent vintage, Lake Breeze’s yields are down up to 70 per cent, but the quality of fruit is high.
“It was just a perfect storm this year, of a few little weather events,” Follett says.
“A lot of South Australian vineyards are down a good 50 per cent, so it’s been a very light year, probably the lightest year we’ve ever had. It was a very good vintage quality-wise, so at least that’s a bit of a plus.”
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