The holidays are very special times for gathering friends and family. Beyond the holidays are many more opportunities to enjoy being with special people. Gail Griswold and her husband Barrett Elwyn enjoy offering their gatherings places, Shawnee Bluff Winery and Shawnee Bluff Vineyard, to the Lake’s enthusiasts year-round.
“We strive to give our clients a memorable time. It’s also very important to us that we fit into and help improve the economy and culture of the Lake. We are trying to establish a stable, year-round business that the community is proud of and will last 100 years,” Gail declares.
In 1934, The Shawnee Bluff Inn, on the 14 mile marker in Lake Ozark, began offering lodging to its guests and was known for its “Wow! What a view!” The Shawnee Bluff Vineyard on Highway 54 toward Eldon is a much larger attraction. It’s nestled atop a hill dipping into a valley and is the site of many outdoor concerts. Both businesses grow St. Vincent grapes, offer tasty entries, more than 20 varietals of local, regional and West Coast wines, live, memorable music and present breathtaking wedding venues.
Missouri was where Gail grew up. She and her older sisters lived in the country in her parents’ Wentzville home. She remembers riding their horses, Peanut and Dolly, exploring the woods and learning to ride her bike on their gravel road. Trips to the Lake, staying at Four Seasons and going to The Strip are also fun memories. Gail played sports year-round and one sport, soccer, she continued playing later at St. Louis Community College-Meramec.
Gail remembers her first taste of the hospitality business when she worked at resorts in Breckenridge, Colorado. “I would snowboard when I could,” Gail says, smiling. “My Colorado experiences help me in our current businesses.” Her business degree from St. Louis University with focuses of political science and Spanish also empower her in understanding and communicating with others in their businesses.
A very special “other” in her life is her husband Barrett, whom she met at a charity event in downtown St. Louis. They married in 2008. Right out of college they began Rethink Renovations, an eco-friendly construction company. They specialized in renovating turn-of-the-century, 1900 through 1920 homes and businesses utilizing sustainable and nontoxic building materials and methods. “We really understand older infrastructure and know how to bring buildings back to life!” Gail says.
Gail and Barrett’s lives are happily busy with their three boys plus their dog Buddy. They began helping out with her parents’ Shawnee Bluff businesses in 2014, and decided to purchase the entities in September 2015. After making this commitment, they moved to the Lake in 2016 and now call it home. Together as a family they enjoy being very involved in their boys’ hockey league (of which Gail is treasurer), the Mid MO Tigers, in Jefferson City. Boating, fishing and riding their bikes on trails keep the family active around the Lake.
Gail is business-driven with Shawnee Bluff’s daily operations, especially when the boys are in school. “I’m very interested and involved with our wine products and product design,” she explains. “It’s fun! I procure all of our wine. I enjoy our dry red and white wines but appreciate them all.” Their Shawnee Bluff venues offer more than 20 varietals. Some are bottled onsite. This year was their first harvest from grapes grown onsite and is proudly named “Ros. by Shawnee Bluff Winery and Vineyard.”
Besides being known for their wine, music and concerts at both venues are anticipated events at the Lake. Headliners at the Vineyard have included Clint Black, The Oak Ridge Boys, Charlie Daniels and many other talented musicians.
“It takes a team!” Gail assures. “Barrett oversees all the daily activities. He’s full-in! Our employees are like family, too.”
Utilizing their Rethink family, they put in a new bar at the Winery. Soon, construction begins on expanding the kitchen there to allow them to offer more dining choices to complement their wines. They also have plans to expand into beer making and distilling. Continuing with more excitement and offerings is their recent purchase of the former Casa De Loco winery in Camdenton.
They will renovate, and continue to provide wine, food and entertainment, as well as lodging. “We hope to even offer kayaking wine tours since it’s located on the Niangua River,” Gail shares. Planning for the future and improving their current Lake venues, combined with their past tried-and-true success, Gail and Barett will continue to offer many memorable, great gatherings around the holidays and every day. •