"It is wine that leads me on," wrote Homer in the Odyssey. And if your group is motivated by top Australian wine, it may lead them on too - to some of Ultimate Winery Experiences Australia's (UWEA) new products for incentive groups.
UWEA provides the business events industry with a central point of contact for 19 premium wineries across five states. Each offers event, function and meeting spaces set within spectacular, leafy wine regions, with the ability to customise experiences to suit specific purposes, says UWEA executive officer Sally Cope. Think wine education, wine and food matching, barrel tastings, private and structured tastings, and behind-the-scenes winery experiences.
"Our wineries are experienced in creating the 'wow factor' for an incentive group and ensuring a memorable experience, which is all based around world-class wines, warm and knowledgeable hospitality and culinary excellence," says Sally.
Here are just a few:
Late this year fourth-generation McLaren Vale winemaker Chester Osborn will realise a 14-year dream with the opening of the d'Arenberg Cube, a five-storey multi-function building set among the vineyard's mourvedre vines in South Australia. The glass-encased steel and concrete structure was inspired by Rubik's Cube - its two top floors are askew as if one had given the cube a twist - and presents something completely different from the traditional cellar door experience.
"Visitors will enter into a wine playground, hosting a plethora of interactive experiences designed to awake the senses," says Sally. "This leads up to a new restaurant, the Cube Kitchen, followed by a wine engagement floor, and finally a brand-new cellar door on the top floor with state-of-the-art tasting room and sensational views of the rolling hills of McLaren Vale and the Gulf St Vincent."
The second phase of the launch, in April 2018, will include the release of functions packages, private dining and extended restaurant hours. Each floor will be able to accommodate 150 guests, as well as host a function on multiple levels.
In the meantime, the team at d'Arenberg are happy to help create the perfect event at the existing cellar door and d'Arry's Veranda restaurant. Options include the Blending Bench experience, where guests get to play winemaker, and an eight-course degustation featuring local produce and selected wines from the considerable d'Arenberg range of more than 70 wines from 25 grape varieties.
Jacob's Creek and St Hugo
At Jacob's Creek in the world-renowned Barossa Valley of South Australia, incentive groups can expect an exceptional experience, whether it's a food and wine masterclass, behind-the-scenes tour, or the Garden to Plate Cooking Challenge. That is a customised team building exercise that's perfect for a large group or conference. Using fresh, seasonal produce from the kitchen garden, the challenge is timed and the final dishes judged by the host chef.
"With various meeting spaces, an excellent restaurant and multiple outdoor experience options (catering up to 300 people), I'd say this is the ideal location for a corporate away day," says Sally.
St Hugo Wines is Jacob's Creek's premium wine brand, named after third-generation winemaker Hugo Gramp, whose family business would later become Jacob's Creek. Geographically, the two sit side-by-side and can be accessed on foot.
Sally explains that the new home of St Hugo opened in September 2016, following a multi-million-dollar, five-year construction process. The result is a visually stunning blend of old and new architecture based around the original ironstone winery.
"St Hugo is a premium event venue and perfect for small-scale, high-end incentives. The restaurant is exceptional, with renowned head chef Mark McNamara at the helm, and offers a genuinely memorable and intimate dining experience with an equally impressive wine list.
"When you consider that it's located in the heart of the beautiful Barossa Valley surrounded by vineyards and cork trees, and that both the building and the St Hugo brand are steeped in Australian wine history, this really is a very special location to hold an event."
Located on Victoria's pastoral Mornington Peninsula, with its seaside villages, bustling markets and local produce, Montalto vineyard, olive grove and restaurant is an easy one-hour drive from Melbourne.
It's all about the 'Estate to Plate' philosophy at Montalto, which means sourcing as much as possible from the kitchen garden, orchards and 1500 olive trees to supply the kitchens. And what better way to enjoy this bounty, than at the Piazza Cafe and Restaurant, cellar door and tasting room, which overlook the vines and Sculpture Trail.
The family-owned and run estate is renowned for its welcoming ambience, relaxed Australian architecture, and the beauty of its grounds, which also includes wetlands.
Says Sally: "This is a venue that would suit a relaxed group for a wine education, food and wine matching experience followed by lunch, or in combination with a morning of golf at the nearby course, the National."
For groups that plan to match wine and golf, the National is described as one of the sport's "true tests" - the club has three highly regarded 18-hole courses and is described as "the best piece of golf real estate in Australia".