Tasting Room Newsletter June 2012

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  A newsletter for managers of tasting rooms, wine clubs, and DTC wine sales
  June 1, 2012
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WISE Bites
Make room for superstars
Over lunch last week I asked a vintner friend of mine if he was hiring any new tasting room sales people and he informed me that no, they were “fully staffed.” 

I said “That’s too bad. I know a young, bright, polished, certified WISE Tasting Room Professional graduate who just moved here from another wine region. At her last winery she was selling about 4 times what your top sales person is currently selling. Her conversion rates for wine club sign-ups were about 5 times your current run rate.”

Of course my friend practically jumped out of his seat and demanded I forward her contact information immediately. “But why . . . you are ‘fully staffed’ so what good will that do?”

Are you ever, really fully staffed?
The only problem for my friend is that I was trying to prove a point with a non-existent person. But, the question remains: Are you ever really fully staffed? If the right person – super salesperson and great fit for your brand – came along, wouldn’t you make room?

For most businesses, this is binary. You are either recruiting, or you are not. WISE wineries are constantly recruiting – either to add to their staff or to top-grade their current team – and raising the bar. But if you are not in this continual recruiting mode, which superstars are you missing? If you are “fully staffed,” are you actively reaching out and finding those who may not be looking for a new job? If you’re not looking to improve your team, how will you improve it?

Build this discipline of continual recruiting and keep moving your consumer direct business forward.

Source: WISE Academy, www.wineindustrysaleseducation.com

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  Tasting Room in the Flesh
Somewhere in Sonoma...

A couple of weekends ago I was invited to participate in a wine tasting at the Mayacama Country Club, an exclusive Northern California golf club where 90% of the members seem to be from other states. The wines poured in the open courtyard were made by member vintners from well-known wineries such as Marcassin, DuMOL, Silver Oak, etc.…Some local restaurants were serving food, and the $150-per-ticket event sold out! As guests arrived they were handed a printed list of participating wineries, the bottles they were pouring, the retail and special event prices, plus an order form. I have never seen so many completed order forms!

Lessons to be learned: Most wineries are located in beautiful parts of the country and, usually, there are several country clubs within driving range (humor). Why not partner with other wineries in your area and sponsor such an event? Serve your best wines and give your financially secure friends every opportunity to easily purchase bottles—even guarantee delivery because few people want to bother carrying cases of wine after such an event…


During an award ceremony for Sonoma State University wine marketing scholarships, I went next door to the Sheldon Winery and tasting room, where I met with owner and winemaker Tobe Sheldon. She was pouring three wines from stainless kegs, each containing the equivalent of 28 bottles. Sheldon swears by the kegs for ease of use and quality control. The wines were fresh, no bottle was wasted, and it was very easy to control the pour. Sheldon plans to increase the use of the kegs. For details about the winery, visit sheldonwines.com.

Lessons to be learned: Never stop innovating.…Your differences make your winery more memorable.

Reader comments
I enjoy reading your column. The column about K-J warmed my heart because a few years ago I totally rearranged our tasting room, with particular attention to our wine wall. We also make sure that we greet every person who walks in our door, no matter how busy we are.
Topic idea: Problem customers. Do you fire them, and if so, how?
Karyn Howard,
Mocksville, NC

JB’s response: Thanks for your comments. Great move on the wall design. Regarding “problem customers,” my approach is two-fold in this business: If the customers are doing something illegal (i.e.: serving themselves from the bar or being inebriated), and the winery or staff could be deemed legally responsible, my advice is to get rid of them as fast as possible; this includes calling the police if necessary. If a customer is merely being disruptive (and therefore hampering my ability to conduct a profitable business), I advise “bribing” the culprit with a free bottle and say goodbye. If this person is part of a group, get another group member to help. Another option is to play good cop-bad cop with two employees. Here again, the faster the better…

I find your reviews of tasting rooms extremely valuable and enjoy the newsletter every month. Being a winery in Alaska and not having a lot of access to other wineries, your insights and “dos and don’ts” are very helpful. The descriptions you write of other tasting rooms paint a good picture and help me get an image of what else is out there.
Louis Maurer
Homer, AK

JB’s response: Louis, great to hear from you from Homer, Alaska. Can’t wait to visit you some day.

Please send suggestions to trf@winesandvines.com

Happy Tasting!


Jacques Brix is Vice-President and Director of Sales, West Coast for Wines & Vines. This column is based on his personal experiences at winery tasting rooms.

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