Published August 18, 1997
Volume 5, Number 8

New Business Offers a Grape Escape
Home-Based Business Offers Guided Tours of Napa Wine Country
Grape Escape
Brian and Kelly Hartley with the Grape Escapes touring van.

By Jay Hipps
Network Editor

With a host of Fortune 500 companies leasing hundreds of thousands of square feet of office space, Hacienda is no stranger to the largest citizens of the business community. The park is host to the full spectrum, however; even home-based businesses are starting to spring up. 

One such business is Grape Escapes, a company founded this year by Brian and Kelly Hartley. The couple, who lives in the Verona project here, provides VIP tours for up to 12 people to some of the finest wineries in the Napa Valley. 

"We're offering a way for the people in this area to go to the wine country conveniently and in a way we think is unique," says Brian. "All of our packages are private tastings and exclusive tours that we've planned in cooperation with the wineries." 

Having a Vine Time
For the Hartleys, Grape Escapes is a natural extension of their own interest in wine. 

"Kelly came up with the idea," says Brian. "For years, we've been taking friends and family prob ably six times a year up to the wine country and visiting different wineries."

As they began exploring the feasibility of the business, they got an enthusiastic response from both wineries and oenophiles. 

"Before we began, if you wanted to take a hosted trip to the wine country, you either had to go to San Francisco and get on a bus with 50 other people or rent a limousine and pay accordingly," says Brian. 

The new business is finding itself a happy niche, working with local restaurants and hotels in the Tri-Valley area to promote the tours. 

Terrific Tours
With the deluxe tours that Grape Escapes has created with the wineries, it's easy to see why people are excited. 

"On any given Saturday, you can walk into a winery's tasting bar and there might be 150 people there," says Brian. "Our guests bypass all those lines, because we've arranged private tastings with the wineries."

"It can be insane there on weekends now," adds Kelly. "The wine country recently passed Disneyland as the number one tourist attraction in the state." 

Avoiding the lines is only part of the appeal, however. "In all of our packages and at all of the wineries, they've developed something special so our guests get VIP treatment," says Brian. From private tours and tastings to catered picnic lunches, Grape Escapes guests get the finest treatment at wineries like Niebaum Coppola, Joseph Phelps, Codorniu Napa, Clos du Val, Pine Ridge, Markham, Merryvale, Pine Ridge, Robert Sinskey, and more. 

Tours are also planned which will incorporate stops at spas and factory outlet shops. For more information, call Grape Escapes at (510) 460-WINE or (888) 4-1-GRAPE.


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