Running a hotel, even a small one, is not something Peller Estates Winery was expecting to get into, but when the hotel in question has 17 acres of grape vines bordering the winery’s own vineyards, it was an obvious choice.
“It seemed like a natural fit,” says Greg Berti, vice-president of business development for Andrew Peller Ltd., which has just purchased the Riverbend Inn and Vineyard for $10 million.
“We weren’t in the inn business a month ago, but we are now,” says Berti. “This is a first for us,” although some of Peller’s winery properties in B.C. have houses on them, which are run as Airbnbs.
And while, he adds, “we didn’t see this coming, we’re happy to have it.”
There was a time, almost 20 years ago, when purchasing the property nestled between John Street and the Niagara River Parkway was a consideration, but then John and Jill Wiens bought it and built the elegant, Georgian-style, high-ceilinged 21-room inn and restaurant, with a beautiful view overlooking the 40 acres of vineyards and Peller winery.
It is tempting to think the two properties might have all been one at some point in their past, says Berti, but he hasn’t researched their history going back that far.
While it’s early days yet and there are many decisions still to be made, he says Peller winemakers are anxious to take over management of the vineyards, and will likely use the grapes to produce wines under the premium Peller label.
“It happened so quickly,” says Berti of the purchase. Although the Riverbend property had been for sale, Peller was late coming to the table, and there were other parties interested. But with adjacent vineyards, “it made sense.”
He toured the property early this week, and although the inn has been closed since December 2020 due to the pandemic, he says it is a beautiful building with “the same look and feel” that he remembers from its early days, and of course, the same spectacular view.
He expects it will be open and operational this spring, with some investment in updates to be made before then.
The acquisition of the inn will add to the wine tourism experience, says Berti, and is a “natural extension of wine hospitality.”
The inn’s restaurant has also been closed for more than a year, and Jason Parsons, Peller’s chef, and his team will oversee its reopening.
The current owners will be retiring once the transaction is completed.
“We are very pleased that our neighbours and friends are acquiring the inn and the vineyards, and excited that our heritage of providing one of the region’s highest quality hospitality experiences will be only enhanced under their new ownership,” said Jane Yu, Riverbend’s owner and manager, in a press release issued by Peller.
Andrew Peller Limited now operates Peller Estates, the Riverbend Inn, Trius Winery and Wayne Gretzky Estates in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Thirty Bench Wine Makers in Beamsville and additional wineries in British Columbia.