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  July 5, 2016
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Saying No with Grace   Rosé Wine

According to a recent study of guests at 5-star resorts in Europe, the three most significant, positive employee behaviors that impact the guest experience are:

  • 1. Being polite and cheerful
  • 2. Making the customer feel special by anticipating needs and providing relevant surprise and delight, which is tapping into their unidentified desires
  • 3. Being knowledgeable enough to answer questions confidently

The two most significant negative behaviors are:

  • 1. Being sulky or moody
  • 2. Giving negative answers to requests

The good news for us is that delivering on the positive behaviors, while avoiding the negative behaviors, costs us exactly $0. So let’s take a few moments to dive deeper into the topic of how to say no in a very positive way.

First Rule of Hospitality
No one ever wants to hear what they can’t have. Guests feel more valued when they have choices. While we can’t anticipate every request we may get, we do a better job when we are prepared. Sometimes we do have to say no; the challenge is how to say no with grace, and how to elevate the guest experience in the process. We need to take it from a negative place and put a positive spin on it.

The first rule of hospitality is that we do not say “no.” Instead, our immediate reply should be “let me see what I can do for you.” This reinforces the three most significant positive behaviors of being polite, making the guest feel special and confidently answering questions. If guests can’t have “A,” offering them a choice of “B” or “C” is a good strategy and still makes them feel valued and accommodated.



Rosé is the trendy wine of the summer. As with other varietals and wine types, there is a rosé-specific competition organized by Rosé Wine Today. In mid-June, Soda Rock Winery hosted the event in the Alexander Valley AVA of Northern California. This kind of event motivates winemakers to produce better wines but also attracts visitors to try the variety of flavors that can be produced using grape varieties like Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Franc, etc. In addition, the event serves to familiarize consumers with new brands, which is all positive.

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What are the requests that trigger “no?” What criteria do we use to respond? Is it policy? We know that there are common issues at all wineries—guests show up late, with unruly kids, having consumed too much prior to reaching us. Let’s look at the criteria for prompting the “no,” and see how we can reframe the answer in a positive light.

When & Why We Say No—with Grace
How we respond depends on the type of challenge. Here are some decision criteria to consider when we need to handle these difficult situations:

Compliance Issues
This covers how we handle over-served guests. Know the regulations. We cannot serve an intoxicated guest, no exceptions; it is illegal. Even if they say they aren’t driving, we still can’t serve them because they might fall and hurt themselves or someone else. So we show our concern for them by offering to get them a ride, offering them water, getting assistance from someone else in their party.

Safety Issues & Internal Company Policies
Show concern for their safety and use third parties as the “bad cop” when needed. This takes the pressure off us and moves it to someone in higher authority.

Please stay on the path with the tour and hold your kids’ hands. Bob the gardener will kill me if his plants are trampled.

My boss would be very upset if I allowed you to smoke here, because it would violate our LEED certification.

Robert the cellar master won’t let our guests wander into the barrel room when the floor is wet and covered with hoses because it is so slippery and dangerous.

I’m so sorry that the wine you asked for isn’t available here today, but I do have these extra special bottles that I can open for you.

Bothering Other Guests
Most people feel a certain social pressure to be considerate of others, but with large, celebratory groups wearing tiaras, caution sometimes goes out the window. When pantomiming "Shhhhhh!" doesn’t work, we need a relief valve. Identify the group leader and ask for their assistance. It is ideal if there is an overflow area outside, in the barrel room, or elsewhere, where we can take the large group to continue their own party. Bring them a complimentary bottle to enjoy in this new setting.

Inconvenient to Staff
Saying no just because it is inconvenient is always unacceptable. Think about how you would want to be treated if you were the guest. Every day we need to put on our “guest eyes” and think about the guest perspective.

Saying No—with Grace
Be prepared: When the feathers hit the fan, and they will, we can be mentally prepared for what we might encounter and be ready. There are times we may have to scramble, but like the swan, let’s be sure our guests only see us glide gracefully along and not peddling like mad under the surface. For example, what do we do if our group is early? Late? Larger than anticipated? When we are prepared and have everything in place, we are set up to succeed and what our guests will remember is how cheerfully we said “yes!”

Use decision criteria: Consider why we need to say no and use these criteria to help manage expectations, turning a negative into a positive, memorable experience.

Deliver with grace: We can’t always say yes, so when we can’t, let’s ensure we’re delivering the message in a positive way, offering alternatives for what we can deliver, and elevate the guest experience in the process.

Source: WISE Academy,





Take Your Packaging to the Next Level
Executives from Michael David Winery will speak about their unique approach at the Wines & Vines Packaging Conference taking place Aug. 17 in Yountville, Calif. Learn more here.

Pennsylvania became the 44th state to allow direct-to-consumer shipments June 8, when the governor signed a law stating, “Wineries that obtain a DtC shipping permit will be allowed to ship up to 36 cases annually per consumer at a tax rate of $2.50 per gallon, plus applicable local sales taxes. Read about the legislation’s effects on the state-run system here.

Industry Metrics Continue
to Show Strong Growth
The data arm of Wines & Vines tracks direct-to-consumer shipments and the Winery Job Index in this summary of the wine industry’s progress in May 2016.

Classifying Your Customers
Master of Wine Tim Hanni, an expert on consumer perception of wine sensory issues, spoke at the Wines & Vines Oak Conference about our understanding of how people analyze flavors in the wine they drink. “His basic premise is that individuals’ tastes differ widely because of their physiology and experiences...” I heard the same comment from Alexandre Schmidt, a well-known Bordeaux sensory expert who started his career as a perfume maker... Read the rest of the story here.

Glass Size Matters?
Mandy Oaklander of Time magazine wrote this article about the influence of wine glasses. Researchers from the University of Cambridge in England studied wine sales at a local pub. It seems that changing the glass size—but not the amount of the pour—had a significant impact on sales.

Collecting Customer and Sales Data
The Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS) took place June 14 in Sonoma, Calif. The emphasis was on data collection and its effective uses Learn more about what was said here.

Federal Overtime Law
The U.S. Department of Labor “raised the minimum salary threshold required for an employee to qualify for the ‘white collar’ exemption from overtime rule to $47,476 per year.” The new rule takes effect in December 2016. Learn more.

Louisiana Direct Shipping
Direct shipping laws in Louisiana got a little looser for wineries without distribution in the state. According to ShipCompliant, Louisiana “will allow wineries holding a direct wine shipper permit to ship wine directly to consumers (DtC) in Louisiana without requiring the consumer to visit the winery—as long as the wine has not been assigned to a Louisiana wholesaler.”

The Wines & Vines Online Marketing System (OMS) shows that Mexico has more than 60 wineries and produces 3.67 million cases of wine per year. This article by Paul Franson takes a look at the growth and challenges of the Mexican wine industry.

Wine Educators
The Napa Valley Vintners graduated 26 wine educators from its program that covered viticulture, geography, winemaking practices and more. Full story here.


New Product for Tasting Room
You can find the list of tasting room suppliers in the Online Buyer’s Guide here. Further down, suppliers of giftware are available. Building on their French heritage and appreciation of great food and wines, Bertrand and Zoe Corp. (yes it is their last name) developed a compact and sustainable picnic box that will meet the best epicurean palates when they visit wineries or want to relive the great moments of their wine country experience. More here.

New Wine Glasses
What’s the best sommelier of the world to do with his (or her) talents? One option is to design glasses that enhance the senses. Check out this new collection at or contact the distributor at


Please send suggestions to

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 and events.




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