Tonton Marcel, a French and German guide to agritourism, dropped by O’Vineyards toward the end of harvest. They’re on the lookout for the unpretentious, country relation of Mr. and Mrs. Smith who also runs accommodations on the farm.
Photos they took while here
Tonton Marcel separates the wheat from the chaff
I think this is a guide that needed to exist. One of the big problems with agritourism is that you’re never sure if you’re getting a cool, modern farm experience or a cheap little cot in a hayloft with a farmer who seems to dislike visitors. This second group is often a historical artifact resulting from the way farmers used to make a little spare cash.
There was a time when your horses got tired and you’d ask one of the locals if there were any pensions before the next big town. A place where you could tie up your horses and shut your eyes until morning. Those places still exist. A lot of farms and vineyards run their chambres d’hotes or gites in a similar manner. You show up, get the key, and then they’ll avoid you at all cost for the rest of your stay. The room is located on a farm, but otherwise you’re as separated from the farm experience as possible. These places also tend to be a little run down. A little rusticity can be charming, but people also expect a certain level of comfort.
Modern agritourism, especially in wine, can result in massive investments like four star hotels with a view on the vines. Every comfort imaginable. But then these accommodations can go a bit too far and you forget you’re even staying at a farm.
Tonton Marcel seems to seek out the special sweetspot between authenticity and modernity. They’re looking for operators like my family. We actually make wine and we’re winemakers before we’re hoteliers. But at the same time, we understand that you should show your guests a bit of hospitality and we’re savvy enough to include them in the winemaking process when we can. Guests at O’Vineyards will almost definitely remember the winemakers as they look back fondly on their stay.
So the guide finds farms like mine. And I think a lot of kids my age are looking for this sort of experience. I say kids because the average age of our B&B guests so far is about 35. That’s exceptionally low for a B&B. It’s eye opening for a lot of operators who think that only older couples are interested in the bed and breakfast concept.
So here’s hoping that Tonton Marcel becomes as much a household name as Mr & Mrs Smith.