Tasting Room Newsletter December 2011

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  A newsletter for managers of tasting rooms, wine clubs, and DTC wine sales
  December 1, 2011
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WISE Bites
Embrace the Platinum Rule
We are all familiar with the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. In other words, treat others as you would like to be treated. But in a high-touch service industry like wine, is that really the best we can do?

Successful wineries have learned that it isn’t enough to just be courteous. With so many wineries for customers to choose from, how will you distinguish your brand? The key is to make the service exceptional, the interaction unique and the experience memorable.

For an extraordinary customer experience, upgrade to the Platinum Rule: Treat customers as they want to be treated. This means finding out how they want to be treated and following through. Be observant. Listen. Ask open-ended questions that engage customers in order to determine their needs and wants. Pay attention to their responses, both verbal and non-verbal, and be sure to create dialogue around their answers. When you ask questions, listen to the replies and build a connection with the person in front of you; their unique experience at your winery will be memorable. When you build rapport and tailor the discussion to their needs, you not only can exceed their expectations but also successfully make an easier, more natural sale.

For example, we may have a special on Chardonnay and want to sell that wine. But if we learn that the customer across the tasting bar only likes red wine, we need to honor their preference and find a red wine that will suit their palate. Likewise, during the tasting experience, some customers want conversation and others prefer to be left alone to enjoy the wines quietly. One size does not fit all. Get to know your customers individually and deliver a platinum experience they deserve.

Source: WISE Academy, www.wineindustrysaleseducation.com

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  Tasting Room in the Flesh
To Do and Not To Do
Thanksgiving was upon us in November, and I decided that we would just have “To Do” experiences in that spirit. Out of the dozen or so tasting rooms I visited during that month, only a few were just so-so. Most had something to learn from and, possibly, apply to your own winery.
To Do: While at a popular Dry Creek Valley winery I overheard some visitors mention that they had a great time at Zichichi Family Vineyard & Winery because they were doing “Barrel Tasting.” Now that’s a new concept that needed investigating. Jennifer Radomski is the tasting room and DtC manager. While only a few months on the job, she knew her stuff, was very friendly and engaging, and after tasting great Zins and a Cab, she took us (a couple of tourists had just arrived) 20 feet around the corner to the barrel room. The smell was great, and we were surrounded by dozens of full barrels. Using a glass thief (the plastic ones look tacky and stain more easily), she extracted and poured two 2010 Zins. The wines were from the same vineyards we had sampled at the bar, but different vintages. The explanations of vintage and age differences were clear, and we could really visualize the way they would taste one or two years from now. We all remembered the experience. Zichichi
sells most of its 3,000-case production as futures, which is great for cash flow. This is not for everyone, as maintaining consistent flavors in the open barrels requires the winemaker to adjust daily, but it definitely is a long-lasting experience for the visitors (without the unruly, thirsty crowds at most “barrel tasting” events).
To Do: Downtown Healdsburg (Sonoma) has seen an invasion of tasting rooms during the past five years. I’m all for it, and the visitors, merchants and restaurants love it. La Crema
is part of the Kendall-Jackson family, but it acts like a small, 5,000-case winery with premium Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. As you walk down the main street, you are attracted to the tasting room by the brightly lit, modern interior. As you enter the tasting room, you are welcomed by the dynamic, fast-talking, warmth-filled smiles of April Lombardo, tasting room supervisor, and Samantha George. At least 10 visitors were at the counter, and I was automatically included in the experience. Visitors felt comfortable, attended to, and the wines were always quickly described to guide the palate rather than dictate. The rain had started to fall, and the late fall temperature was penetratingly cold. I stepped out of the room feeling warm and thankful—I only had three or four tastings, so it could not have been the glow of alcohol…
Lessons to Learn: Warm greetings and smiles are still the basis of good hospitality. Although we may not remember all wineries that are like that, we certainly remember the ones that are not. New ideas like daily barrel tastings are part of making your tasting room and the experience different and memorable from others. Let me know what makes your tasting room “out of the box”…


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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