By John ~ July 15th, 2009.
Last year, I did a post on tips for visiting wine country which included advice on being friendly and polite and respecting the time of the people working in a tasting room. I would encourage all wine country visitors to review that post before venturing out on the wine trails again this summer.
Several months later, I did a post directed more towards winery owners and tasting room managers on areas needing improvement. Today, I want to update that post as a result of the many tasting room visits Iâ€™ve made since then. In this recessionary environment, I believe that it is essential for every winery tasting room to make the best possible first impression to potential customers.
Hereâ€™s my updated list of suggestions for tasting rooms:
- Make sure that you are open and open on time during the hours that you have advertised or posted that you are open. As our regular readers know, nothing ticks us off more than a tasting room which is not open as advertised. Be sure to keep your hours up-to-date on your website, your area wine associationâ€™s website, your voice mail, and all other places you advertise or have your hours listed.
- Make sure that your tasting room personnel are friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable. Nothing is more off-putting than a tasting room person who ignores you or acts like a visitor is a bother. Why are you open other than to court visitors?
- Make sure that you clearly explain your tasting fee policy, if any, up front. Better yet, have it posted clearly and explain it. Iâ€™ve seen it get very awkward when it was not explained up front and a visitor has already finished tasting when the tasting fee is brought to their attention.
- Have a handout with tasting notes and a price list. Too often, tasting notes and a price list are nonexistent or either they are in a laminated copy on the counter but not on a sheet on which a visitor can make notes and take with them. Be sure to include your contact information (website, email address, phone number, etc) so that the visitor knows how to reach you when he/she decides to buy some of your wine later.
- Have spit cups and dump buckets available. I have been amazed at how many tasting rooms do not even have dump buckets, much less provide disposable spit cups.
- Have water and crackers available for tasters to use to cleanse their palates. This might seem like a small and somewhat unnecessary item; but believe me, visitors remember the wineries whose tasting room covers all the bases.
- Give your tasting room personnel some flexibility in wines to pour. Again, when I drive five hours to visit your tasting room that is 30 miles from anyone else just to taste a Cab you are noted for, pay a tasting fee, and then your tasting room person tells me youâ€™re not pouring the Cab today, I get more than a little upset. My suggestion is that you give your tasting room personnel the flexibility to open that Cab if they can see that the visitor is a serious wine enthusiast and not just a freeloader.
- Cool your uppity attitude. Obviously, this suggestion does not apply to all tasting rooms as we have had many wonderful experiences and met some very friendly people on our winery visits. In fact, when we have been served by the owners and/or winemakers in a tasting room, most have been very down-to-earth folks who are very courteous and welcoming. Too often, though, we have encountered tasting room hired hands that cop an uppity attitude and talk down to visitors. Not smart and certainly not good for business.
If visitors remember to be polite and respectful and wineries take some of these suggestions to heart, I truly believe the tasting room experience can be great for all of us. Have a great summer in wine country!
Filed under: General Wine Information, Wine Travel