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Meet John and Kim Kelliher of Grapeline Wine Tours in Temecula

Today we’d like to introduce you to John and Kim Kelliher.

John and Kim, please share your story with us. 
Kim and I moved to Temecula in 1997, not knowing that there was a small, growing wine country in the valley. I was traveling internationally for my job as a business development manager. I had always wanted to start my own company, and wrote a business plan for an airport shuttle service. Kim, who was raising our three young sons and working part time at a winery, suggested modifying the plan – she saw the need for a wine tasting shuttle – and the Grapeline concept was born.

We started Grapeline in Temecula Valley Wine Country in 2002 to provide a safe and fun way to go wine tasting not only in Temecula, but in all California’s major wine regions. Our company has since expanded to Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, Sonoma, and Napa, and has a vision to serve every major wine region in the U.S., including the wine countries of Oregon, Washington, Texas, Virginia, and New York, among others.

Grapeline currently serves more than 25,000 visitors annually, and maintains a five-star rating for every region on all major user review sites, including TripAdvisor and Yelp.

For us, serving our local community is an important part of our mission, and we have twice been named as a Business of the Year by the Temecula Chamber of Commerce.

We have both been named Temecula’s Citizen of the year, and two Grapeline manager have been named Temecula’s Young Professional of the Year.

Has it been a smooth road?
In the beginning, Grapeline started with a hop-on, hop-off concept similar to a public bus service. It required five vehicles running at all times to maintain the route schedule.

The first day of business, after four months of intense preparation and more than $60,000 spent in marketing, the service had only 4 paid customers. The customer base grew quickly over the next several weeks, but cash was still evaporating quickly, with no turn around in sight. We revamped the concept to be much more efficient, stabilizing cash flow, and in six months the service was attracting more than 200 guests per week.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Grapeline Wine Tours story. Tell us more about the business.
Grapeline offers wine tasting tours, including a variety of daily shared tour for smaller parties, and private tours for larger groups.

The most popular daily offering is the Vineyard Picnic Tour, an all-inclusive day of wine tasting featuring a vintner’s tour at the first winery, a catered picnic lunch at the midday stop, and a total of four wine tasting flights at four distinctly different wineries.

Daily itineraries are constantly changing, ensuring that repeat visits can offer completely new experiences, and encouraging repeat riders. Launched in 2016, Grapeline’s Club Kay Syrah is the first guest loyalty program in the wine tour industry, and has a growing membership of over 1400.

A close working relationship with wineries, respecting their interests, ensures that our guests are welcomed and treated to insider perks not available to the other visitors.

Grapeline has grown revenues in 14 out of its 15 years of business, with the only one slight decline occurring during the 2008 through 2010 economic slump.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Interest in wine country visitation has grown steadily since the company’s inception, and continues to increase. As a result, competition in the wine tour business has multiplied, and will likely continue to become more intense.

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Image Credit:
Grapeline Wine Tours

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