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  June 6, 2017
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WISE Bites   Tasting Room Spotlight
Wine Club: How I’ll Spend
My Summer Vacation
  Domaine Carneros
Napa, Calif.

The last spring wine club shipment is finally out the door. Woo hoo, it’s time to plan our summer vacation. Let’s have that well-deserved umbrella drink and relax for a while—at least an hour!

OK, now that we’re all refreshed and ready to go, here’s what we want to do for our wine club this summer:

Review our data and plan for next year
What happened with our wine club this spring? How did our successful ship rate compare to our number of members? What was our average order value? Where can we improve? Let’s make some notes now so we can start next year’s budget while the details are fresh in our minds. What will we do differently next spring?



Unlike many winery tasting rooms located on obscure country roads, Domaine Carneros is hard to miss. Looming above Highway 121/12, the well-traveled artery linking Sonoma and Napa, the 45,000-case winery is housed in a chateau overlooking the Carneros vineyards.

It’s a tempting destination for thirsty wine travelers, but despite the high visibility, there’s a catch: Reservations are required, starting at $30 per person. The winery does try to accommodate drop-in tasters if space is available, according to chief marketing officer Erin Stauffer, who has been with the organization for 11 years. Given the amenities, Domaine Carneros could easily provide hours of delicious relaxation, education and sparkling wine paired with sophisticated bites.

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 "WISE Bites" continued.


 "Tasting Room Forum" continued.

Assess our club structure
Who were our most valuable club members this past year? Do we have the opportunity to create a new, higher value club just for them? How about our whales (those great customers who don’t belong to our club)? How can we show our appreciation for their business? Although they are not officially club members, we need to treat them as such and continue to earn their business.

Spend time in the tasting room
Let’s show up and work side by side with our most important partners: our tasting room colleagues. Not only does this show support for their efforts, it also gives us a chance to spend some face time with our members and hear firsthand what customers are saying about our club.

Review our website
Does our website include everything we want visitors to know about our club? Let’s ask our friends to review it since we may be too close to really see if anything needs expansion or clarification. Let’s also try to sign up for the club online and make sure it’s still working well for us. Are returning club members able to get their discounts on purchases? Test, test, test to be sure.

Review our auto-response emails
So many of our club-related emails are system-generated: requests for information updates, shipment notifications, tracking information, etc. These workhorses are often ignored and frequently lack branding. Can they be improved to include the kind of information that helps drive readers to our website and entice them to buy? And while we’re at it, how about the packing slip that goes out with the shipments—are we overlooking a chance to call out our reorder program?

Review our collateral material
Does our club application need a refresh? Is it classy yet inexpensive enough that it can be used as a bag stuffer for purchasers who haven’t yet joined the club? Does it follow best practices and have the takeaway information showing benefits and features while the piece the winery keeps is only the billing and shipping information of the new club member?

Keep in touch with our members
It’s really nice to communicate with our members when we don’t have our hands out always asking for money. Are we adding value with entertaining tips, recipes and food pairings? What’s new with our club? Can we remind members of the benefits of our club? This is a great time to invite our members to visit and bring their friends, which can increase our club enrollment with like-minded individuals.

Cure our email bounces
and credit card declines

Who are our club members and other great customers whose email addresses are bouncing? Let’s pick up the phone and see if we can get an update to their contact information and credit cards. Not only will this improve our results, it also demonstrates outstanding customer service and shows our commitment to taking care of our customers. What email or offer did they just miss? Let’s offer them that great deal while we have them on the phone and see if we can increase our sales in the process.

Plan for corporate holiday gifts
Corporate gift givers plan holiday gifts for their clients during the summer. Let’s reach out to those folks and make sure they know what options we have to offer.

Create an optional holiday shipment
What worked for us last year? What wines or gift sets were our best sellers? Can we create an additional club shipment from this information? Do we have magnums or gift sets for the for holidays?

By spending our summer WISEly, we can set ourselves up for a great fall/holiday season and a successful 2018 club program. Have a great summer!

Source: WISE Academy,

DtC Jobs Data
from Wines Vines Analytics

Direct-to-consumer hiring by wineries increased 3% in April 2017 versus a year earlier, rising to 720 index points. This was the first monthly gain since January. 


Founded in 1987 by Claude Taittinger, a scion of Champagne’s famed Taittinger family, the Napa Carneros winery specializes in methode traditionnelle sparkling wine in numerous iterations. Still Pinot Noir is also on the tasting menu. Best sellers at the winery include vintage Brut, sparkling rosé and La Reve Blanc de Blancs, Stauffer reports. She estimates that 40% of production is sold direct-to-consumer (DtC) through the tasting room, wine club and online sales.

Domaine Carneros looks for enthusiastic workers who are passionate about customer service. “It’s hard to teach that,” Stauffer noted. “We can teach the wine knowledge; we look for sales and service background.”

Sales strategy means selling from beginning to end of the tasting experience. Convincing tasters to join the wine club focuses on the benefits including lower prices and a special room for members. Contact information is captured when visitors reserve their tasting, so it’s easy for the winery to keep in touch.

• Staff members earn sales commissions and are paid for club sign-ups and achieving group goals, among other incentives. “Always remember the value of the wine club,” Stauffer stresses. “Members are so much more valuable, and so much more expensive to obtain than to retain.”

• Table service both indoors and out makes the experience enjoyable for any group—no elbowing for bar space is required. Food choices offer up-selling options, from cheese platters to charcuterie to caviar, the classic accompaniment to sparkling wine.

• Like every tasting room, Domaine Carneros sells branded hats and shirts, but Stauffer says the biggest non-wine seller is the Bouchon, a reusable closure that will preserve opened bottles of bubbly in the refrigerator for as long as four days. The winery also uses the device if the level on an opened bottle doesn’t fall below the label.

• The correct equipment can help smooth tasting room operations. Domaine Carneros employs a point-of-sale system from Vin65, which is integrated with the Vin65 DtC system.

• Glasses are sourced from Reidel and Lehmann Glass. They are cleaned in Hobart dishwashers, the go-to choice at restaurant operations.

• Like most tasting rooms, traffic rates vary depending on the season and the weather. For Domaine Carneros, July and August are busiest; visitors generally are 30% fewer in other months.

—Jane Firstenfeld

Wines & Vines contributing editor Jane Firstenfeld has been writing about the North American wine industry since the 1970s. If there are any questions you would like answered by future Tasting Room Spotlight participants—or if you would like to have your tasting room featured—email her here.


News Briefs

Rare winery/ tasting room on the market
The wineries of Baja California have gained recognition in recent years, but they are at the extreme north of the peninsula. A vineyard/winery/distillery in the Pacific Coast town of Todos Santos is now for sale.

DtC sales classes
Sonoma State University is offering a summer intensive program with classes that can be used to earn a direct-to-consumer sales certificate. Five core classes in the DtC track and seven electives are scheduled between June 19 and June 22. For more information, click here.

Wood Family joins tasting room
Starting June 10, Wood Family Vineyards in the Livermore AVA will join four other wineries with a shared tasting room at 2407 Research Drive in Livermore, Calif. Winemaker Rhonda Wood is releasing her 2015 Big Wood Zin to mark the occasion and will offer a lineup of events through the weekend.

Pennsylvania winery revamp
Randy and Linda Rice welcomed guests to their new tasting room and wine-production area May 4, when they opened the doors to their new Mountain View Vineyard winery facility. The tasting room is 3,000 square feet and boasts a wrap-around porch with views of the 45-acre vineyard. 

New tasting room under construction
Parrish Family Vineyard of Paso Robles, Calif., is building a new winery and tasting room, which is scheduled to open in early 2018. The winery, founded in 2004 and operated by winemaker David Parrish and his daughter Cecily Parrish Ray, currently pours wines at a location just off City Park in downtown Paso Robles. Read more about the Parrishes here.

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