With the goal of increasing wine culture in Sweden, this brand-new hotel draws guests looking to enjoy and learn about wine.
When I discovered The Winery Hotel. the first thing that came to mind was “Why do we not have this ins South Africa!?”
Walking up to the reception area of The Winery Hotel, it’s easy to get distracted from the check-in process. Behind large windows and directly behind the desk is a working winery.The Winery Hotel bills itself as the world’s first urban winery and boutique hotel. A shared passion for wine brought three families together – two from the hotel industry and one from wine making – to open the hotel at the end of January.
“In all my hotels, I always try to create something extraordinary that no other hotel has,” says co-owner Ejnar Söder. “In Stockholm, I owned the Nordic C Hotel and there we had the ICEBAR, a permanent bar made out of ice. And now we are the only hotel with a winery in the lobby. You see oak barrels in which our own wine is being aged, as well as the steel vats for making the wine. Everything here is based on the concept of wine.”
Still going strong at age 83, Söder has more than 50 years of experience in the hotel industry. During the 1960s, he managed 16 Esso Motor Hotels in Sweden ( these later became the Scandic chain). In 1971, he started his own Star Hotels chain and later, the Nordic Hotels. Rounding out the hotel expertise is the Östlundh family. Their HKC Hotels chain includes the Hotel Kung Carl in Stockholm, the Best Western Plus Noble House in Malmö, the Best Western Hotell Hudik in Hudiksvall and the Clarion Hotel in Örebro, Sweden. The Ruhne family brings the wine expertise. Mats and Birgitta Ruhne have made wine for 25 years from their vineyard in Tuscany, and now daughter Sofia oversees the vineyard. Ten tons of grapes will be transported from the vineyard to the hotel, where they will produce about 8 000 bottles of wine per year. The hotel also holds lectures, training, product launches and fairs. In addition to their own wines, the hotel has a wide range of wines from Australia, New Zealand, the US, Austria, Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain and South Africa.
Why Sweden instead of a more typical location like Italy or California? “We drink a lot of wine in Sweden,” says Söder. “Our primary goal is to bring wine culture to the Swedish people and educate them about it.”
There is a wine theme every month. It was California in February, the Rhone region in March, and Austria in April. As part of the theme, regional winemakers host a dinner tasting. The restaurant menu follows the seasons and the wine themes. So when it’s Italian wine month, the menu features Italian food.
At the other end of the large lobby, which is designed to look like a food hall, there are sommelier-led wine tastings. Guests can also help themselves to a tasting at the automated wine dispensers.A love of wine is also reflected in the hotel’s architecture and interior, designed by Söder’s son Jan and Lina Östlundh. The building resembles a restored factory and has red brick walls, concrete floors and large floor-to-ceiling windows. In contrast, guest rooms have a more organic look, with grape-green and burgundy walls as well as cork floors. The interior takes inspiration from the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn, New York as well as vineyards in Italy.
Located in Solna, a suburb just north of Stockholm, the hotel sits between the airport and the center of town in a growing area. It’s within walking distance to the newly opened Mall of Scandinavia as well as the Friends Arena.
“It’s too early to say who our clientele is yet, but so far, we have had a lot of people from wine clubs staying here,” says Söder. “The challenge right now is getting people in. The room occupancy is far too low. But I know from long experience that it takes time. Happily, we have been overwhelmed by the large number of locals coming into the restaurant.” The hotel projects an average occupancy rate of 54 per cent for its first year. To grow the business, the hotel plans to leverage wine education. To that end, they offer one-day and three-day wine courses. There is also a one-year sommelier course.
“We are hoping that the wine concept will attract people over the weekends for the tastings and the education,” Söder says.
“There’s been such a great interest in this. I think that sooner or later, there will be another wine hotel opening in Gothenburg or Copenhagen.”