09 August, 2016

My Year of Living Dangerously: Event Planning in Napa

Scott from TMN Events
Ever take one of those assignments where you learn a lot but more than anything else live the maxim: "What doesn't kill you.."? Well, at least I can say I am stronger now and I came away with some very good advice.  Here are five life lessons and some nice Napa travel planning you can use if you find yourself tasked with event planning.

Don't say yes till you have a team you can count on 
The smartest thing I did was select a vendor I knew I could 120% count on to create a wonderful event no matter how inexperienced the event planner was #ME.  TMN Events could make a five star happening in the break room of a Wal-Mart if they had to.  So, it was a piece of cake (well, maybe closer to an eclair from Bouchon) to make our event magical.   At every step of the way, I had a partner I could count on.  And unlike, say brides,  I actually got immense enjoyment out of the event itself because this awesome team took care of the nuts and bolts. One of their secrets is that their staff members all came from other lives that enrich the event talent pool.  One member is a CIA (think culinary not Langley) trained chef, while another is a golf pro. Awesomeness on many levels.

Invest in the best
Photo credit TMN Events
My first executive decision was to tweak the budget to get our group into the Bardessono Hotel and Spa.  We toured several other venues but the combination of walkability, amenities, and overall luxury tilted us easily to this wonderful spot.  A modern venue that has constructed a place where every touch, literal and figurative, feels comfortable, planned and artful.  The Bardessono is one of only three LEEDS platinum hotels in the US; all that luxury is sustainable.  They helped us with garden tours, welcome cocktail contest and at every step of the way, let our guests create a memorable experience tailored to their needs.   Mornings in Yountville are a world away from my day to day and something I will always remember.  Cool points for seeing so many of my east coasters out and about too.
The Bardessono Pool will uplift you but you have to be a guest #memorable

When in doubt choose bacon 

Photo: TMN/ On fleek t=me
Photo Credit TMN Events
Napa throws a plethora of world class experiences into your lap.  My biggest problem was narrowing down the choices.  Two added degrees of difficulty were that we needed to let the guests choose onsite and I loathe anything  that requires large busses.

 Peju rewarded my indecision with an amazing Bacon Bacon Bacon experience that kicked off our adventure with an elegant  snack and pairing lesson in their vineyard.  Having an outing with universal appeal made the people on our excursion happy they picked us instead of indolence by the pool.  And even people who were Peju Wine Club members felt like they received a special discovery of something wonderful at a familiar spot

People will remember coming to the mountain top

Photo Creidt TMN Events
Photo Credit TMN Events
But which mountain do you pick?  I reached out to someone I knew was familiar with my type of guests, an expert on Napa and an overall lovely human being: John Corcoran.  He provided me with some wonderful recommendations, one of which was Robert Craig Winery.  My Day 1 excursion covered the Napa Valley floor.  Touring Howell Mountain was a great contrast and was the extra step that many attendees had never experienced.  This brought everything together and ended up being the most memorable part of the trip for many of the guests. Many had never spoken to a winemaker, or felt a windy vineyard first hand.  To get to try this amazing wine on the top of Howell Mountain in the vineyard was worth the adventure of scaling it.  We field tested the theory that there are six ways to get there. Each SUV felt that their way was best. Great advice and an amazing staff at Robert Craig transformed the visit.  We were all grateful to  Lori Reed, Director of Retail Experiences, who  knocked it out of the park for my guests. Anyone can make a rez at the tasting salon, which I am sure is lovely, but taking it  to the literal mountain top makes memories,  However everything we planned after that fell a little flat, so my lesson was really plan the rhythm of the day. I see you experienced planners nodding and smiling

Be two steps ahead
Dinner at Flora Springs
Looping back to the first item, having a great team on your event makes life worth living.  Attention to detail meant that our final gift was a copy of the Wine Bible.  In addition to being the perfect gift for novice and expert alike, author Karen MacNeil took the time to hand sign each and every copy.  These delighted our guests, but suddenly the prospect of carrying home all their loot loomed.  No problem. We had a checkout process that included our staff packing any items small or large and Fed Exing them back to their final destinations.  It allowed us to include a thank you and make sure all those amazing fluffy robes, bottles of wine, fragile candles, etc got home in one piece

This event  was the cherry on top of a firecely tough fiscal year and adding the stress of managing this entire process nearly killed me.  However, the relationships we fostered and pulling it off made it all worthwhile.  I think fondly of the event when I wear my fluffy Bardessono robe and my hope is that so do our guests

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