Tasting Room Newsletter November 2012

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  A newsletter for managers of tasting rooms, wine clubs and DTC wine sales
  November 1, 2012
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WISE Bites

Positive Change Management

Let’s face it: In most tasting rooms, the more things change, the more they stay the same. In a typical tasting room there are always issues that require change management: labor cuts, changes in organizational structure or management, team turnover, changes to goals, pay or commission structure, and so on.

So, how do we implement change effectively? Change requires skill and sensitivity. It’s tricky because simply imposing the new change doesn’t work; it assumes that people’s personal needs are completely aligned with the organization, or that there is no need for alignment. It also assumes people want the type of change that the organization deems appropriate for them. The truth is change is only successful when employees actually engage and buy into it.
  Tasting Rooms in the Flesh

Wines & Vines Sponsors "Best Wine Student" Competition

If a college or university in your area offers viticulture, winemaking or wine business classes, why not engage the future leaders of our industry? In cooperation with French-American Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco, Calif., Wines & Vines sponsored a wine knowledge competition for undergraduate and MBA students at Sonoma State University in Santa Rosa, Calif. The final competition took place at the La Soiree event in downtown San Francisco. The visibility for the wine industry was tremendous, and the first prize was a week-long trip to France’s Champagne region (all expenses paid) and participation in three days of MBA classes at the local university.
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"WISE Bites" continued

Here are eight ideas to help engage your staff and generate involvement in order to manage positiive change:

1. Understand the fear. Asking people to make significant behavioral changes usually creates fear. Underestimating the fear response and potential resistance is the most consistent mistake made by those introducing change.

2. Consider the group's perspective. Approach the group from the team members' perspective and understand what they have to lose-or to gain.

3. Build trust. Concentrate on team building and open/honest communication. Authentic participation in the process, with many opportunities to raise issues of concern, will help keep a group open to the possibility of significant change.

4. Avoid manipulating. Don't pretend to listen to the group and consider their concerns if you've already made your decision. Invite staff to help solve a challenge.

5. Encourage group ownership. Employees who are included in planning will often suggest changes that improve the original plan because they're the ones most affected. Employees are much more likely to support a new set of ideas they've had a key rold in shaping.

6. Actions vs. words. Employees will burn out on changes that are announced but not successfully implemented. One well-executed change is worth far more than multiple failed new programs.

7. Reward new behaviors early. Don't wait for things to change completely before providing rewards. Recognize employees for doing things right and reinforce any significant movement in the right direction.

8. Manage the myths and realities. Don't underestimate the power of myths and rumors. Address them promptly, directly and with understanding.

Work with your team and ensure everyone understands the changes and their roles. Don’t get discouraged: There is an Eeyore in every group, but these tools can help mitigate the pessimistic person in the crowd. Embrace the change and find a silver lining; remember, your attitude affects your team.

Source: WISE Academy,

"Tasting Room in the Flesh" continued

 Best Wine Student 

Sebastian Briare, Rachel Kau Taylor, Shane Ryan and Palmer Emmitt (from left) were the top four finalists in a student wine-tasting competition at La Soiree. The first-place finisher, Emmitt, won a one-week trip to Champagne, France.

The first elimination included wine-related questions only, while the semi-finals and finals involved a combination of wine-tasting and wine business questions. For more information or sample questions, contact trf@winesandvines.com.

Pinot On the River: Varietal-Based Marketing by Local Wineries
Another way to promote the wines of a region is for wineries to get together and, under the auspices of a charity fundraiser, have locals and tourists taste specific wines. Having a varietal-specific tasting attracts tasters who may be more sophisticated and therefore more apt to remember their favorites and buy them in the future. This is also an opportunity to provide personal invitations to visit the tasting rooms. Pinot On The River took place on the plaza in downtown Healdsburg, and hundreds of locals and tourists filled the area for the entire morning and afternoon. A quick survey of winery owners, winemakers and marketing folks suggested that it is a very worthwhile way to show your best and gain new customers while benefitting a good cause.

Pinot on the river

Joni Summitt pours samples from Berridge Wine Co. for attendees of Pinot on the River.

How Tasting Room Employees Should Present Vintage Differences
When a customer asks why Wine Spectator rated a vintage “mediocre,” or several bottles from the same year are still for sale on your shelves, it is critical that tasting room employees know how to describe the difference between vintages. Tasting room employees should have a “Talk Track” printed and safely protected inside a waterproof/wineproof sleeve to explain the positives of each vintage. If media rated the vintage as less than tremendous, then the winemaker and the tasting room staff should come to an agreement about how to describe that year. Examples include, “It was difficult, but our micro-climate was not affected,” or, “We harvested earlier/later than usual.” There are always positives in every vintage, you just need to provide the vision for consumers. When selling several vintages in the same tasting room, it is even more critical to offer written tasting notes (created by the winemaker and including details such as Brix, harvest dates, etc.) Offer suggestions for food pairings with the understanding that each vintage will appeal to one group of tasters or another.

Left unchecked, your wine story will be all over the place and probably misguided. As the wine finishes fermentation in November, now is the time to have a comparative tasting with your winemaker and come up with the 2012 Talk Track…

A new book for your Tasting Room
We’re always thinking of new things to provide tasting room visitors to enhance the memory of their visit. Distilling wine is an art and a business that is thousands of years old. Many visitors want to bring back winery samples such as bottles of wine or olive oil, souvenirs, late-harvest splits and brandy made from the same estate. I think that every tasting room should offer sparkling wines (usually made by custom-crush facilities with the correct equipment) and brandy (made by a local distiller.) In the meantime, the book “Traditional Distillation: Art & Passion,” written and published by Hubert Germain-Robin (whom I consider one of the best brandy makers in North America), would make a great addition to your giftware.

Traditional Distillation


Please send suggestions to trf@winesandvines.com

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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