Grape ideas hold fast in Grapevine

Grape ideas hold fast in Grapevine

Hotel Vin Bubble
Hotel Vin in Grapevine, Texas opened a wine-focused boutique hotel concept in September 2020. Quickly adapting to the times, they created luxurious outdoor dining bubbles, which now add a winter wonderland ambience.

Downtown Grapevine, Texas recently sprouted new growth entangling the fruit of the grape gods with great wine knowledge.

“At Hotel Vin our niche focus is about wine and wine education,” says Nicole Haarklau, corporate director of food and beverage for Coury Hospitality, the top franchise operator of the Marriott’s niche Autograph collection of hotels. “Our restaurant Bacchus Kitchen and Bar is named for the Roman god of wine. And throughout the hotel the art and objects reflect this inspiration.”

The Hotel Vin, located in a historic downtown so quaint it reminded Haarklau of a “Hallmark movie set,” opened the doors to its concept in September 2020. “Though this was not an ideal time to open, we’ve been wheels-off since the beginning,” Haarklau says.

In a Q&A with Boxerbrand’s blog Recipe for Success, Haarklau discusses the approach of the concept, the architecture designed in keeping with the town and 1800s railroad, and even offers some inside tips on the best way to enjoy a glass of wine — spoiler alert: it’s all in the stemware!

Boxerbrand: With a name like Grapevine, a concept focused on wine sounds ideal.

Haarklau: We couldn’t have picked a better location. The first time I came to Grapevine and walked down Main Street six years ago, I felt like I was on a movie set for a Hallmark movie. It’s from another time. There’s a chocolate shop, a shoe-shine shop, glass blowers, a glass-blowing studio, a farmer’s market, and they’re all bustling. There’s a rich history here dating back to the 1800s for trade and the historic Grapevine Railroad.

The Hotel Vin looks like it fits right in, it was designed to look like an old-fashioned train station, but it was a new build, from the ground up. And it’s beautiful! You can sit at the bar and watch the trains go by.

Boxerbrand: How did you pull in customers after opening as the world was locking down for pandemic?

Haarklau: It was not the best time to open, but, from the beginning, the locals have backed us from the beginning with their enthusiasm and patronage. They really embraced us. As a company, we employ people who take initiative and pride in our product, and take projects on as if they were entrepreneurs investing their own money.

So when the pandemic hit, for example, during one of our brainstorming sessions, the idea to build outdoor dining bubbles came up. We contacted a restaurant in New York City that had some beautiful examples of outdoor bubble pods and they shared with us where they’d purchased them.

Boxerbrand: With the outdoor bubbles, you found a way to differentiate Hotel Vin from the rest.

Haarklau: After we purchased the bubbles and put them together in another brainstorming session when someone mentioned one of our slogans, which is, “We’re exactly like nothing else.” And this was when we decided to furnish them as an extension to our interior design, with the goal of making them luxurious accommodations that you’d find in a ski resort. We’ve evolved with them. We started with four on our roof-deck, and as their popularity has grown, we’ve added to their numbers, and relocated them to our lawn to create a winter wonderland effect.

Boxerbrand: So tell me about the wine theme. How does it work?

Haarklau: We have several approaches to the way we bring wine and wine education to our guests. We have a partnership with Riedel glassware, and we use these varietal specific glasses to teach patrons the best way to enjoy a glass of wine.

We have a lot of fun with this. In our restaurant, we work on pairing the best wines to the correct glass, and to the meals for the best experience.

In meeting rooms that were underutilized on weekends, we opened a speakeasy bar that’s very popular. This is a reservable space with mixology level cocktails, and our patrons love it.

We also have events weekly and yearly events with our partners, aimed at attracting and educating wine enthusiasts.

Boxerbrand: Tell me more about the relationship between the wine glass and the wine.

Haarklau: Each glass is designed from the stem to the base, the bowl and the mouth piece for the varietal of wine. For example, the mouthpiece for a pinot noir is more narrow because the goal is to manipulate the wine to hit the pallet more centrally. A Cabernet has more tannin and tastes better if the mouthpiece is wider so that it hits the cheeks.

I tell people that when they go to a restaurant, before they order wine they should look at the wine glasses. You want to look for a bigger bowl shape. If you go to a restaurant with a small, all-purpose wine glass, you’re better off having vodka. Big chunky crystal goblets are also a no-no, because they just don’t do justice to the varietal.

Boxerbrand: Wow, that’s cool. Who are your customers?

Haarklau: What’s surprising is that about 70 percent of our business is local. They’ve gravitated to us because we’re new and exciting. And the area didn’t have a luxury boutique hotel.

When we positioned our concept in Grapevine, we created concurrently a food hall called Harvest Hall that houses food by culinary creatives. Our mission was to bring food and beverages that complimented Main Street.

In some cases, the people who’ve moved into Harvest Hall are local Mom & Pops that had been operating out of food trucks. We’ve become their first brick and mortar location and we feel great about that. We have a Mediterranean concept who came in from a food truck, and it did so well they’re now opening their 2nd brick and mortar concept with us.

Boxerbrand: And you also folded Boxerbrand into your concept. Is it working out?

Haarklau: I’ve been using Boxerbrand since 2012 at this and other concepts. I have experience in hospitality working for major luxury brands, and over the years, I’ve familiarized myself with other (menu cover) companies. Boxerbrand has surpassed them all, from the experience of working with the sales department, to the professionalism of the company, and the beauty of the product.

Hotel Vin of Grapevine, Texas uses Boxerbrand’s Corks menu covers line in its table presentation. Thank you!

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