The joys of wine tourism post Covid-19

Samantha White talks about the challenges and changes of running a cellar door tasting room post Covid-19, while retaining Alert level 2 protocols - and her journey from toddler to wine cellar door manager.

The story of Whitehaven

Samantha White was a tender young two year old when her parents Greg and Sue White established Whitehaven Winery, named in homage to the calm haven they found whensheltering in the Marlborough Sounds on their family yacht, and for the importance of family.  Fast forward 26 years and Samantha is now the new customer experience manager at Whitehaven’s newly re-opened cellar door post lockdown.

The 28 year old spent the first few months of her life at sea with parents, Greg and Sue; keen sailors in the 1990s whwo had decided to shed their corporate business suits and explore the Pacific on their 48 foot yacht, Chanticleer.  The trip was momentous for many reasons, not least for Samantha who spent the first six months of her life on board.

The family sailed into the beautiful Marlborough Sounds to shelter from Pacific storms and fell for the peaceful charm of the region. And they were inspired to drop anchor and set a new direction for themselves and Samantha - and set up a new winery, which they named Whitehaven.

The company has since grown to become a recognised producer of premium quality wines and a generous supporter of the local community. This year, Whitehaven Wines purchased $10,000 of vouchers from local hospitality and donated them to essential workers during lockdown.

Samantha's new role is full time role and will see her continue the legacy her parents established 26 years ago, while she covers maternity leave for the incumbent cellar door manager. Post Covid-19, the cellar door role is a challenging one.

The ever evolving Covid-19 situation has required Samantha to quickly reposition the cellar door as a destination for a New Zealand audience, whereas prior to lockdown, it regularly hosted large numbers of international visitors and cruise ship customers, who together made up 80% of visitors. To some degree this is still the case with vintage workers and tourists who remain in the region as a result of being stranded when New Zealand’s borders were closed, but Samantha expects international visitor numbers to slowly diminish as stranded internationals return home. 

Targeting local tourists

Samantha is now investigating ways to target local visitors and domestic tourists to generate foot traffic to the cellar door. She sees the situation as an opportunity to develop unique and personal offerings that deliver memorable tasting experiences.

Food in the pipeline for visitors

There are also plans to offer food platters at the Whitehaven Cellar Door with light lunches for visitors or cyclists. Tastings are currently by appointment only and can be booked online, so that the company can manage Level 2 restrictions.