By John ~ November 25th, 2009.
Soos Creek and Quilceda Creek wineries have “creek” in common in their names, but a huge “gulf” separates them. And it’s not so much in the quality of their wines as in their approach to customer service.
I’ve purchased and enjoyed several of Soos Creek’s wines, so I was excited to receive an invitation to attend their annual Open House last Saturday and taste through all of their new releases. Unfortunately, that’s where the fun ended. After driving almost an hour in the rain and in the dark through heavy traffic from an afternoon of tasting in Woodinville, we ended up on a dark country road near Kent next to their new winery building. I only deduced it was their building because of all the cars around it. There was no signage, no outside lighting to help you find your way, and no winery personnel to greet you, to explain the parking situation, or to direct you to the entry. Thank goodness it had temporarily stopped raining when we arrived.
After stumbling around in the dark looking for an open door, which was on the opposite side of the building from the driveway, we found light. There was a huge crowd already inside and a line of people holding glasses snaking out the door, but no one at the door from the winery to explain the system for tasting the wines. Finally I just asked another guest at the end of the line how this works. He answered that it was very disorganized, and that he had already apologized to his guests for inviting them. I had already apologized to my family when I saw this logistical mess. There were five of us in two separate cars who had driven an hour each and met at Soos Creek for the open house.
It turns out that you had to fight the crowd to get inside to get a wine glass, then get in a long “figure eight” line that crossed over itself to eventually get your first tasting sample from the single tasting station, and then get back at the end of the line outside and do it all again, six times if you wanted to taste all of the wines. If it had been raining during the time we were there, it would have been an impossible nightmare. I quickly concluded that there are too many other good Washington wines to put up with this mess on a Saturday night. I just forgot about tasting any wine, fought my way through the mass of people to get a cookie for the road, and left. By the way, the cookies were $1.00 each, but they were delicious.
Contrast this experience with a visit to the Quilceda Creek open house and wine pick-up party. When you attend a Quilceda Creek function, you understand why they are “the best”. Not only are their wines superb but they know how to run a business and put on a customer friendly event. First of all they have their open house in the afternoon, rather than in the evening, when there is plenty of light and you can see where you are going if you’ve not been out to their facility before. Second, you are greeted outside near the street by friendly winery personnel who check you in, explain the system, and call ahead so that your wines are ready for pickup when you get inside. Third, when you get inside, you are again personally greeted by one of the family members and directed to the wine tasting station which is located away from the entrance and has two people pouring.
I don’t enjoy “calling out” a winery like I’m doing with Soos Creek in this post, and I wouldn’t even bother to do it if he made plonk wine. But Dave Larsen is a real nice guy and an excellent winemaker. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a Taste Washington seminar earlier this year. And I’ve liked his wines that I’ve tasted. But Dave needs to know how upset many of the people attending his event were last Saturday and the negative light it shines on his business. In these tough enough economic times, it’s not enough to make good wine, you have to develop and maintain good customer relations. Wine lovers have too many other choices if you don’t.
I didn’t put up this post until today, because I thought that by now those of us who had been invited to the open house would have received an apologetic email or snail mail letter offering a re-take of the open house, special discount, or something to acknowledge how he inconvenienced us last Saturday. So far, nothing. C’mon Dave, you can do better than that!
Filed under: American Wine, General Wine Information, Washington State Wine