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  June 6, 2018
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WISE Bites   Tasting Room Spotlight
10 Ways to Surprise & Delight   Connecting Sonoma's wine history

In the past 5 years, we've seen a trend with our mystery shopping and the experiences wineries are providing. It used to be the exception, not the rule, when we would see a host surprise and delight a guest beyond their expectations. In the past, we used the 'bonus pour' to wow our visitors. But today's consumers are getting more savvy and have higher expectations, so our new goal becomes to surprise and delight every guest beyond that extra splash.

WISE Best Practice: Exceed every guest's expectations on every visit by formally choreographing these elements of surprise and delight into each guest experience. The key is to do so in an authentic way, tailored to each guest. By asking open-ended questions, it will become easy to learn what will thrill each visitor.

 Continued below.


"We had zero plans to open a tasting room," said Morgan Twain-Peterson, owner and winemaker of Bedrock Wine Co. "It was really just a function of happenstance."

It seemed like fate when the Hooker House, in downtown Sonoma, Calif., came up for lease at the beginning of 2017. The historic salt-box style house, erected in the 1850s by Gen. Joseph Hooker, has been preserved by the Sonoma League for Historic Preservation since the 1970s. Hooker was just a lieutenant colonel when he built the house and would later serve as a general in the Civil War. Twain-Peterson, who grew up in Sonoma, remembers visiting the house on school field trips.


Continued below.

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 "WISE Bites" continued.


 "Tasting Room Forum" continued.

Tens ways to surprise and delight our guests - when time, weather, by-laws, and locations permit:

1. Greet them with a splash in the parking lot
This delightful greeting sets us up for a fantastic visit, with our guests already enjoying our winery before they even walk in the front door. If you are by-appointment, it's easy to anticipate their arrival. If you always have a lot of traffic, use a host to greet them outside and welcome them in.

2. Call them by name
If our visitors are by appointment, you know the name of at least one of the party who is coming. Put up a chalkboard with the names of expected guests. This lets them know that you thought about them in advance and are prepared to show them a great time. If your winery isn't by appointment, introduce yourself and try to remember - and use - their names during their visit.

3. Take guests on an impromptu tour into the cellar/vineyard/cave
If guests are interested and time permits, they will love the insider's view of what happens at our winery.

4. Call ahead to the next winery and let them know our guests are on their way
Our visitors will appreciate having a personal concierge who looks after their needs and keeps them on schedule. Be that person.

5. Make a dinner reservation or offer dining suggestions
Visitors frequently ask for our insider recommendations about where to dine. Since we have learned about our guests' preferences during our tasting, we will be able to offer restaurant suggestions. Moreover, we can take that extra step to call in the reservation. This also should prompt the restaurant to refer their guests to us.

6. Offer to take their picture…and email it to them
Sometimes people are too shy to ask for a photo. Plan a space with a nice backdrop, bring a camera and offer to take that perfect vacation shot. As an added bonus, we can email it to them. That way we get their contact information and can follow up with our customer at a later date to offer wine and invite them to return.

7. Have something for their kids to do and taste
We endear ourselves to our guests when we provide an appropriate distraction for their kids, our future customers. Offer sparkling juice, a low table with paper, stickers, crayons so that the kids can have fun while the adults taste. If the kids are occupied, the parents will have a better time and buy more wine.

8. Have water and treats for dogs
Love me, love my dog. If we welcome their fur kids, our guests will remember this and return. If dogs aren't allowed on your property or tasting room, make sure guests know we still love their fur kids and have water and treats available for them when the guests return to their cars.

9. Provide recipes
If you offer food pairings, provide a great recipe card that our foodie-visitors can take with them. This gives us another opportunity to send our brand message home with them and can prompt future purchases of the paired wine.

10. Take their purchases out to their car for them
This final act of hospitality sends our visitors on their way with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.

People will remember what we don't do - so take the time to do something really above and beyond their expectations. It doesn't take much in time or money to really thrill our guests and be the winery they talk about when they return home. It just takes time, attention, and a desire to be of service. Are we meeting or exceeding expectations?

Source: WISE Academy,

Winery Job Index
DtC Job Subcategory

Direct-To-Consumer Job Subcategory 

Winemaking positions continued to see strong demand, with the index for the subcategory rising 22% to 630 in April.

Winemaking Job Subcategory

Direct-To-Consumer Shipments

Winemaking positions continued to see strong demand, with the index for the subcategory rising 22% to 630 in April.


Connecting the story
More than childhood memories tie the winemaker to the property.

Twain-Peterson's father, Joel Peterson, founder of Ravenswood Winery purchased his first vineyard in 2005 and it happened to be the last remnants of General Hooker's 400-acre Glen Ellen Ranch, containing old vines dating back to 1888.

When the Hooker House became available, Twain-Peterson snatched the opportunity to connect the historic vineyard with the historic home and share Sonoma's winemaking history with the public. "The connection, the story, was too good to pass up," he said

Besides adding air conditioning, sound absorption pads in the ceiling and walls, and a modest renovation of the outdoor seating area (incorporating rocks from the estate vineyard), Twain-Peterson has done little to change the original structure. "I want to continue the ethos of what the house has been about for the past 30 years," he said.

Twain-Peterson added he'll be working with the Sonoma League to curate historical exhibits within his tasting room.

Shop talk
Tastings will be by appointment only, with guests scheduling visits via email through the winery's website. The tasting room will be run by two full-time managers, who Twain-Peterson has had on payroll for the past two months, traveling with him, learning about the vineyards and getting to know the growers.

Neither manager will receive incentives for selling wine or signing on new club members. Twain-Peterson has a well-established wine club mailing list, with 80% of his wine sold direct-to-consumer via the list; he doesn't feel the need to push sales. "We've never had to do much in the way of hard selling or marketing. The wines speak for themselves," he said. "I'm fully confident on just relying on that."

Customers' visits and purchase history will be recorded using Offset, which Twain-Peterson currently uses to maintain his mailing list.

Twain-Peterson called his choice of glassware a critical one, "It's the one thing that comes into contact with the wine," he said. Along with his business partner, Chris Cottrel, and the tasting room team, Twain-Peterson tested several glasses but ultimately settled on Zalto. At $35 per stem, he admits it's a bit of an expense, "but the tactile element is pretty amazing," he said. "Plus, they're the glasses I use at home and I want people to experience the wines the way I do."

To keep stemware clean, Twain-Peterson's installed a Hobart LXeH-2 Undercounter Dishwasher washing system that uses a high-heat steam finish. He won't use detergents or cleansers, just a little citric acid to help with descaling, and managers will polish the stemware by hand.

When asked about advice for other winemakers looking to open their first venue, Twain-Peterson said, "Think of things through the eyes of the consumer…And think of the best way to use the space to tell your wine-story."

—Stacy Briscoe

Tasting Room News 

Silicon Valley auction tops $1 million
The fourth annual Silicon Valley Wine Auction, hosted by Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Education Foundation (SCMWEF) on May 19 and 20, raised more than $1 million for education programs that serve local communities. The two-day event attracted more than 1,000 guests to Eden Estates and Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, Calif. The weekend-long event featured 50 local vintners from the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association pouring more than 150 wines.

Cowhorn tasting room certified
The tasting room at Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden in Jacksonville, Ore., earned Living Building certification, making it one of the first in the wine industry to earn the green building standard. Green Hammer, a unified design-build firm based in Portland, Ore., designed and built the 2,200-square-foot tasting room, which includes a case storage area. As of May 2018, only 20 buildings worldwide have achieved Living Building certification, according to the ILFI.

New Tasting Room Products

Riedel Performance Series glassware
Riedel debuted the Riedel Performance Series of glasses that it describes as "engineered to enhance an imbiber's perception of wine's bouquet and flavor." The glasses are blown with near-imperceptible ridges along the inside of the glass bowl. The ridges expand the interior surface area of the glass, thus increasing the movement and agitation of the wine when swirled, expediting aeration and a fuller release of aromas. The Riedel Performance Series is also available in varietal specific stemware.

Chatterbox Telesales as a service (TAAS) 
Chatterbox launched TAAS, telesales as a service, to provide wineries with the opportunity to have Chatterbox sales professionals recover declined credit cards or bounced emails. Chatterbox works with the winery to create objectives and guidelines for success while handing the heavy lifting of calling declined credit card holders and researching bounced email addresses. Chatterbox claims it is reacquiring up to 35% of declined credit cards and 20% to 25% of bounced emails. TAAS can also be applied to event sales, direct-to-consumer sales and to wine club conversion campaigns.

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