Picture yourself at a Tuscan-style villa, sampling fine wines along with cheese and olives. You look around and see acres of lush, green vineyards that sprawl out to surrounding picturesque mountains. The sun is shining warmly in a clear, blue sky as a soothing breeze wafts by. Life is good.
Now, many words might come to mind to characterize this scene, but “learning” probably isn’t one of them. And Lloyd W. David, president and CEO of the Sonoma County, Calif.-based Viansa Winery, thinks that’s a shame.
“One of the biggest focuses that Viansa has is wine-food pairing and wine education,” he said. “When people come to the property, we try to teach them about wine.”
In recent years, David has invited corporate groups to the Winery for team-building workshops.
“Throughout my career, I’ve been on a number of team-building, off-site events where they want you to climb mountains, or they put you in rooms and try to come up with different strategies to work together,” he said. “And I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to bring people in who don’t know much about wine and demystify it for them. We show them how it’s made and figure out what tastes good and what doesn’t taste good for them.”
The Viansa program involves people from a company, who often are in varying disciplines, working together to come up with a new wine via blending and a label and a marketing pitch to promote it. They are judged by winemakers and wine educators, and prizes are given to the teams that devise the best wine, label and marketing campaign, respectively.
“Our hope is that people who haven’t worked together before have a chance to do something together that’s fun and informative,” David explained. “Through this whole process, we’re educating each group on wine. And we hope that when they leave, they’re more comfortable working together.”
Programs such as Viansa’s represent a growing trend in the learning industry: so-called “vacation” learning, in which participants travel to some interesting destination outside of the corporate milieu to experience something new and fascinating that has some connection to their own performance. The appeal of these kinds of events is that they give employees a chance to learn while their minds aren’t on work.
“Many people are bored at [learning events], or they don’t want to be there,” David said. “They’re not interested because they’ve got a thousand things on their desks to do, and they don’t have time to get away. And they’re thinking, ‘My manager is telling me to be out of the office for a day doing stuff I don’t want to do. And when I get to the office, I’m going to have to work until midnight for the next three nights just to catch up.’
“So you want to put them into an environment where you can teach them about goals, strategies or whatever it is you want to do, but also take them to a place where they can kick back and relax a little bit while they learn something.”