Valdemar Estates Winery: Part One
That All May Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
Show notes by Heather Meares
Almost 2 years ago, I received an email from Valdemar Estates Winery, in Walla Walla, Washington, asking if I would be willing to consult with them and discuss ways they could become more inclusive and accessible for people with all types of disabilities. Yes, yes, and yes! This, of course, got my adrenaline pumping and my mind was flooded with potential ideas. Full of excitement, I met with them for the first time to hear their story. Little did I know this would be the beginning of an incredible journey.
I sat down with David Brauhn, Marketing Director, and Kaleigh Brook, General Manager, and we talked about so many things, like menus that could be red in Braille or digitally, and QR codes that could be scanned with smart phones to hear tasting notes about specific wines or special features in the winery. Website accessibility, audio described videos, and how people with visual impairments could best navigate the facility, were all big topics. Soon after this meeting, we brought in Reg George to help with website testing and other technical aspects. But what I really wanted to know was why they reached out to me in the first place. In my experience, many businesses only do this as an after-thought, when someone has complained or legal action is being pursued. I was pleasantly surprised, and dare I say overjoyed, to find that this is a huge project they are choosing to take on… wait for it…because it is important to them. And it actually started in Spain, at Bodegas Valdemar five generations ago.
Here are some excerpts from their website to explain:
“Valdemar Estates is the first internationally owned winery to open in Washington State. It is one of the few wineries in the U.S. that has a full restaurant, as well as a tasting room. Valdemar Estates is owned by the Martínez Bujanda family, which operates the Bodegas Valdemar winery in Rioja, Spain. In 2018, Bodegas Valdemar became the first winery in Europe to offer a 100-percent inclusive wine tourism experience, an initiative that has earned numerous awards. Valdemar Estates is working to become the first winery in the United States to offer a 100-percent inclusive and accessible experience for all guests. Our Walla Walla, Wash., winery, tasting room, and restaurant has implemented extensive measures to ensure that guests – regardless of ability – are able to enjoy the facility. These efforts include:
Use of QR codes throughout the building, which link to web pages that relate information via American Sign Language, dictation, and text.
Fully inclusive tours.
Website and printed material set in a hyper-legible font designed for those with low vision.
Wine tasting notes that use icons and easy-to-understand descriptions of flavors and aromas.
Braille wine and food menus.
Availability of Braille labelling for wine bottles.
Shatterproof wine glasses hands-free holders.
Staff member training for serving guests of all ability levels.”
As you can see, most of the original concepts we discussed at that very first meeting have been implemented. The project will be ongoing, as the work is never really done, according to David. There are more exciting plans for the future, including blending classes and tours, which we hope to capture in more podcast episodes. This episode is a gathering to taste some delicious wine, Spanish tapas, indulge ourselves with Basque cheesecake, and have an open conversation to test new features and give feedback. We also explored their fantastic water feature on the veranda. At the table, you will hear Kaleigh Brook, David Brauhn, Heather Meares, Cindy Maywalt, and Reg George.
As for myself, it has been an experience I never would have guessed I would have. I have enjoyed every moment thus far, and will continue working with them as long as needed. And maybe, someday, I will make it to Spain to check out Bodegas Valdemar…a girl can dream, right?
To learn more about Valdemar Estates Winery, visit the website at
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