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  August 3, 2017
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WISE Bites   Tasting Room Spotlight
Measuring Our Progress   Vino Godfather: A Rare Gathering Place on Mare Island

We still have a couple months left of our busiest season. This is our happy and hectic time. Are we making the most of our opportunities, or are we just anxious for everyone to go home? Have we been able to take advantage of the traffic we are getting during this crucial time and convert them to wine buyers, wine club members and email list members? We count on our summer traffic to help us build our business for the rest of the year. So how are we doing so far this summer?


Although it abuts both Napa and Sonoma counties and shares many of their attributes, Solano County wines are hard to find—even for local consumers. With a tasting room that opened on Vallejo’s Mare Island in October 2015, Vino Godfather is changing that dynamic.

The brainchild of Frank Kennedy, who owns the winery with Twila Nixon, Vino Godfather produces some 7,000 cases annually at a Napa facility. Kennedy has worked in the wine industry for 20 years and first envisioned the brand in 2008.


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 "WISE Bites" continued.


 "Tasting Room Forum" continued.

Here are the key performance indicators (KPIs) that most tasting rooms need to track, how they are calculated, and what they mean to our business.

Visitor traffic
Best practice is to count each and every visitor over 21 years old and track wine club, trade and consumer visitors separately. This is important because we use these counts to calculate our conversion rates. Our method of tracking these visitors—by glasses used, POS system codes, clicker, etc.—is less important than being consistent with what we’ve been doing and continuing to track all visitors. Every person who comes—whether they taste or share—is wear and tear on our property, time and resources.

Source of visitors
Who referred these new guests to us? We need to know because we don’t have unlimited marketing budgets, so this will help us measure which outreach programs are the most effective. It also shows us who deserves our thanks and rewards for sending us great new, qualified customers, and gives us the chance to reciprocate.

Order conversion rate
This is the number of orders divided by total visitors. If we offer both bar and seated tastings, we should be tracking these conversions separately to measure our success. We’ll want to make sure we are getting better performance for the individual attention we give to the seated experiences. As a side note, this metric should prompt us to thank these buyers for their orders. Just by saying thank you, we will set our experience apart from everyone else who doesn’t do this, which is most wineries!

Wine club conversion rate
This is the number of new club members divided by consumer traffic, excluding club and trade visitors. We take out trade since we don’t expect them to join a club, and current club members already are converted. Again here, we want to measure bar tasting performance separately from seated tastings, as conversion rates will be/should be higher for seated experiences.

Data conversion rate
This is the number of new email list signups divided by consumer traffic, excluding club, prior customer, prior mailing list and trade visitors. Not everyone will join our wine club on the first visit, so this is a way to ensure that we can reach out to these customers again with sales promotions and invitations to join the club. As our mailing list is an important marketing asset, it’s important that all team members know and understand the bigger picture by asking for contact data from every guest.

We want to track total sales per day in both dollars and cases, and wine sales separate from tasting fees, sales tax and shipping fees. By tracking wine sales separately, we will know if we are selling wine in addition to our great tasting experiences.

Average order value
This is our total sales dollars divided by the number of orders. We can take this one step further and also track number of bottles per order. This will help us highlight the opportunities to increase our average order value by upselling and cross-selling our wine.

A WISE winery will track these metrics daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually. Each of these metrics should be tracked in total and also by individual team member. This type of reporting will reveal which of our team members is best at each of the key conversion rates—order, club and data capture—and who has the highest average order value. Peer-led training is extremely effective. When we know that Susie is our star at getting new wine club members, we can have Susie share her tips and tricks with the rest of the team. When we find that John is our star in getting the highest average order value, he can lead a training about how to build a sale by adding on additional bottles.

A self-motivated tasting room professional will track these metrics for their own performance, even if their winery doesn’t monitor them.

So, how is the summer going for you so far? There’s still time to add these key performance indicators to what you currently monitor and make a real and measurable difference in your business before busy season is over.

Source: WISE Academy,

Winery Job Index

The Winery Job Index stood at 421 in June 2017, up 1% from June 2016. This was two points below the 10-year high of 423 set in March 2017.

Direct-To-Consumer Job Subcategory

Direct-to-consumer hiring declined 2% in June 2017, but the index remained relatively strong at 691.


Vino Godfather wines are sold 50% through the tasting room and 50% through wholesale. Distribution breaks down to 65% on-premise and 35% off-premise sales. The wine club has 400 members and is growing, Kennedy said.

Best-selling wines are Prohibition Red (a blend) and Chardonnay, Reserve Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Tempranillo. Grapes for the brand’s white wines are grown in the Suisun Valley of Solano County. Kennedy grows Tempranillo and Malbec grapes in Clarksburg, in nearby Yolo County.

Reinforcing the name Vino Godfather, Kennedy said: “We make a wine that's affordable and quality: a wine you can't refuse.”

At the tasting room, the wines are priced from $8 to $13 per glass or $19 to $45 per bottle. Judging from the handful of guests there early on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, most preferred to order by the glass or bottle rather than a tasting flight.

• Perhaps this helps keep the operation lean. Thomas Massingill is tasting room manager and the sole full-time employee. Prior to the tasting room opening, he personally painted the venue’s interior, thoughtfully retaining much of the warm, mellow oak. He is, he admitted, “invested” in the place, which encompasses a bar/tasting room/retail shop, another spacious tasting area and a shady porch. Massingill also keeps a shelf stocked with Vino Godfather wines at the nearby Food Mart.

He serves an average of 1,000 guests per month with the help of part-time staff that turns up during busy periods, according to Kennedy.

Kennedy said his servers “need to have a great personality to communicate with people.” Massingill, too, has the hospitality gene, with an uncanny gift for remembering clients and their drink preferences.

• Servers should always ask if guests would like to join the wine club or make a purchase, Kennedy said, but most importantly: “How was your experience?”

Branded and logo items all sell well among the retail offerings, Kennedy said. There is also a display of attractive wine carriers.

He employs social media, word of mouth and a billboard overlooking busy westbound Highway 80 in northern Vallejo to promote the tasting room.

Vallejo is hardly a metropolis, but Vino Godfather provides a welcome urban tasting room with the atmosphere of a private club. As the website says, it is a “gateway to Napa Valley.”

• If you own or manage a successful winery tasting room that provides an exceptional guest experience and are willing to answer detailed questions about it, please contact

—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 

Best Tasting Room contest
USA Today is asking readers to vote for the best tasting room in its 2017 Readers’ Choice survey. The polls close at noon Aug. 14. Vote here

St. Supéry to welcome satellite
St. Supéry Estate Vineyards and Winery, based in Rutherford, Calif., plans to launch a pop-up tasting room on North Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills in early August, according to CEO Emma Swain. The tasting salon will offer a variety of tasting room experiences, bottle service and virtual-reality tours of St. Supéry’s estate vineyards. The tasting salon will remain open until August 2018.

Working together
Farmhouse Vineyards in Texas will set up a tasting room with funds from a $20,000 matching grant offered by the Brownfield Industrial Development Corp. The winery’s owners plan to offer area wineries space to sell wine in the co-operative tasting facility.

Closer to civilization
Jasmine Hirsch of Hirsch Vineyards tells Wines & Vines that her family’s Sonoma Coast business is opening a tasting room in Healdsburg, Calif., on Aug. 1. Tastings and food pairings for up to eight guests will be offered by appointment at

Head west, young wine
Girouard Vines has closed its Tulsa, Okla.-based tasting room with the intent of moving wine production to California. The winery grew out of owner George Girouard’s backyard vineyard. According to the Tulsa World newspaper, the winery’s Tulsa Deco brand is being put on hold.

Wines at second position
The owners of Lazy Ballerina Winery are opening a tasting room on Lake Street in Bridgman, Mich. With offerings like Pink Tutu rosé and On Pointe sparkling, the tasting value would make anyone break into dance at $8 for five wine samples that include a truffle and keepsake wine glass.

N.C. tasting room for sale
Wilmington Tasting Room in North Carolina is on the market for $70,000. The previous owners are closing the site to work more on their own wine label. Joan Loch of Momentum Companies is the selling agent.

Custom wine solutions
A tasting room at home? Vinome, a Healdsburg, Calif., company founded in 2015 by a team of genetic scientists and wine experts, is promoting a new offering that evaluates consumer DNA to pair them with available wines. Customers sign up online, take a taste-preference survey and, in a few days, receive a saliva kit and instructions. A postage-paid envelope is provided for sending the sample to the lab. In just a few weeks, clients will receive their Vinome profile and access to the online store and wine club. Visit to try.

Winery opens third tasting room
Hudson-Chatham Winery is opening a tasting room on River Street in downtown Troy, N.Y. Guests can choose to sample wines from a traditional tasting, by-the-glass or bottle. The winery also has tasting rooms in Ghent and Tannersville, N.Y.

Brave & Maiden to get new home
Brave & Maiden Estate broke ground on a winery and tasting room in Santa Ynez, Calif. The project is expected to open in 2018 and will be set in the estate vineyard.

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