Grapeline Wine Tours has announced plans to launch a new branch in Sonoma by next April.
Within the next five years, the company, a Santa Barbara staple since 2007, plans to expand from its current three locations to at least six and up to 12 within the next decade. The company currently offers wine tasting tours in two other wine regions: Temecula Valley and Paso Robles.
“We’ve studied several promising wine regions, and settled on Sonoma for our next expansion,” said John Kelliher, co-founder of Grapeline. “The potential market is very strong, and despite heavy competition, we believe we have significant advantages in service delivery and marketing that will allow Grapeline to make quick inroads to Sonoma’s very established wine tour market.”
Since its inception in 2002, Grapeline’s goal was to expand into all suitable wine regions throughout the U.S., but in response to the 2008 onset of the economic recession, the company tabled all branch additions.
"We started Grapeline with the intention of growing to at least 10 branches, and maybe more than 25, depending on market conditions," Kelliher said. "We launched three branches within our first five years, then slammed on the brakes when the economy stalled.
"Now, all the economic indicators seem to be trending positive. After five years of modest growth, we're seeing double-digit gains in all three of our branches. For Grapeline, it’s time to put the foot back on the accelerator."
In response to its planned expansion, as well as organic growth, the company has invested in new equipment and personnel within the past six months. In December, Grapeline added two new custom touring coaches to its fleet. In addition to filling several front line positions, the company created two new management positions: one in marketing and one in human resources.
This month it initiated a project to develop a new online reservation system and website that will facilitate around-the-clock bookings from all major mobile and desktop platforms.
"We've built a healthy business model that is easily replicable," president and co-owner Kim Kelliher said. "No one in our line of business has the economies of scale we do, and no one can match our experience and depth. As a result, we can offer industry-leading service levels, yet still maintain value pricing."
She added that Grapeline has more than 700 five-star ratings on popular review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor — more than twice as many as any other wine tour company in Southern and Central California. Approximately 88 percent of Grapeline guests who post online reviews rate the service a five out of five.
Grapeline Wine Tours was founded in 2002 by John and Kim Kelliher. The company is the largest wine tour operator in Southern and Central California, touring more than 20,000 guests through wine country every year.