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  April 2, 2015
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WISE Bites   Tasting Room Forum
Decrease Hiring Mistakes
and Get an All-Star Team
  Sparkling Wines
It’s hiring season in the wine industry, and it’s time to get all team members on board and ready for the high season. Ideally every winery wants to have an all-star team, but how do you hire these superstars?

You probably have a tasting room associate job description that’s been used for a while. To raise the bar, it’s important to start fresh. Think about the all-star team you’re trying to build. What do the great staff members have in common? When considering these qualifications, think about them from three different angles:

  1. Knowledge (general wine and wine industry basics, specifics on the winery, etc.)
  2. Skills (wine tasting, wine service, sales skills, etc.)
  3. Behavioral traits (both behavioral and cultural fit)

And for each, we need to determine what’s essential upon hiring versus what can be trained. While certain knowledge can be taught and skills can be practiced, basic traits like work pace, customer service interest, facility with details, curiosity and warmth are part of a person’s natural behavior profile and aren’t easily changed. For example, we can train someone to better understand wine, but we can’t train them to be personable.

Job Description
The job description should be a high-level description of work responsibilities and expectations up front to save time later. This also works as a good self selection/self opt-out process for the candidate. If it is well written and combined with actual goals, it also can be the foundation of future performance reviews. A win-win situation, so it is worth it to spend some time here.


Some fine Champagne.

As the drink of holidays and celebrations, sparkling wine has never gone out of fashion. U.S. consumption is about 20 million cases, with half originating from California, 5% from other states and 45% from other countries. Yet the segment of U.S. wineries producing bubbly is less than 10%.

In October, Epernay, France (the “capital” of the Champagne region), organizes VITeff, an international trade show for the sparkling wine industry. The name comes from VI (viti-/viniculture), T for Technical and eff for “effervescent.” More than 19,000 visitors and 450 exhibitors participate to the four-day event (Oct. 13-16).

The challenge for North American wine professionals is that date is usually in the middle of the harvest, but if you can delegate and escape for a week, I would recommend joining the 5,000 Champagne wineries and getting a professional education about Champagne flavors and aromas as well as production and marketing strategies. (The Champagne region is probably the most successful global unified marketing machine in the wine world.) For more information, please contact me at or visit

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"WISE Bites" continued.   "Tasting Room Forum" continued.

Taking the time to understand the requirements of the open position – going beyond required knowledge and skills to include both cultural fit and desired behavior style – will ultimately pay off in the form of engaged, successful employees, happier customers and (of course) more DtC sales.

So, what will attract the right-fit candidates in a job description? A good job ad should be broad, brief and focus on the must-have knowledge, skills and – most importantly, but often overlooked – behavioral traits and cultural fit. Use behavior and cultural fit terms that will resonate with the right candidates. The right descriptions promote self selection of the right people.

A great way to help narrow down the candidates to a smaller, more targeted, better candidate pool is to use questionnaires. By using questionnaires during the recruiting process, candidates themselves shoulder the bulk of the pre-screening process. Here is how the process works:

  1. Advertise for the job.
  2. Gather resumes, but don’t review any of them (literally don’t peek).
  3. Send out a questionnaire to all applicants along with a very, very thorough job description.

This thorough job description should be the kind that will attract the right person and scare off the wrong fit. Invite all candidates (no matter if they are qualified or not, because remember, you have not even looked at their resume) to review the job description and, if they still want to apply, to fill out the questionnaire.

The questionnaire is the same for everyone and should dive into some behavioral, experience-based questions that you would want to ask in the first interview anyway. It may also screen for salary expectations, weekend availability, etc.

The result? Only interview those that complete the questionnaire. It should be about 20% to 25% of the original pool. By reading both the resumes and questionnaire responses of a much smaller and usually more qualified pool, it will be really clear who is worthy of an interview and who is not.

Consider the following before the final stage of hiring:

Do knowledge and skills testing before hiring. There are many kinds to consider as well as how and when you do this during the recruiting process.

  • Explore cultural fit.
  • Do behavior profiling. Again, there are many kinds of behavioral profiling. Consider at which point of the process you would do this.
  • Do reference checks.

These final checks will help decrease hiring mistakes.

This is a quick overview of some key points in hiring superstars. If you do it right, you will be prepared with a great job description, know how to develop a good job ad and have ideas on how to pre-screen applications. You will be ready to interview the best candidates, conduct skills testing and behavior profiling, and do reference checks. Now you’re ready to hire. Good luck!

Source: WISE Academy,


Food Safety at Wine Events
Food and wine go together, and wineries are hosting more and more events where food is served for the delight of their visitors. Alameda County, Calif.-based blogger Jo Diaz communicates some food safety guidelines in this blog post. You should check your local laws as well.

Social Media Top Influencers
We all know the power of social media, and we should be using it for our wineries. This article on lists the top 20 wine consumer influencers from a social media point of view. Your challenge is to find out how to have the influencer of your choice write good things about you. 

Do Big Distributors Hate Small Wineries?
This humoristic – but probably accurate – blog post about the relationship between most distributors and most smaller wineries (I assume Screaming Eagle, although very small, gets royal treatment), explains some of the reasons why big distributors may not be the best sales channel for small producers.

Registration is Open
ShipCompliant’s 10th annual conference will take place May 28-29 at the Napa Marriott. Registration is now open.

Wine Industry Metrics
February 2015 numbers are now available from Wines & Vines.

Regional News
Kentucky: A bill in the state House of Representatives would allow winemakers to also produce Brandy and fortified wines. Learn more here.
Monterey: Carmel is revising its tasting room policies.

Training Tasting Room Staff
in Visitor Handling, Selling Wine
and Club Memberships

Winery Advisor’s Tasting Room Sales Training provides all the tools necessary for you to conduct in-winery training for your tasting room and wine club employees. A 50-minute video is the core of the program, but it is supported with many other assets. To find more about this training program, visit Barrie Cleveland’s website.


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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