While it might not be brain surgery, being a winery tour guide is still a pretty important and impressive job. Tasting room associates and tour guides are the "front line," the face of the brand, and often the first interaction guests have with our brand, wines and winery. A winery tour guide is seen as a professional wine educator, and most people are not only in awe of all the knowledge a guide has, but they look to the guide as an expert. A tour guide is tasked with introducing – or reinforcing – the brand and being the go-to source for knowledge while guests are visiting.
A tour of the caves at Clos de la Tech
winery in the Santa Cruz mountains.
Not only are tour guides an important liaison to guests, tour guides are a big part of a winery's financial success. When a tour is done well and guests really enjoy the experience, they will want to "keep the magic alive" after the experience is over by joining a wine club and purchasing wine. Tours are a huge benefit to a winery because of this increase in wine club signups, sales dollars and brand awareness. The better the tour – and the more engaging the tour guide – the more likely sales and wine club signups will result.
I attended the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival on May 16. Settled in the heart of a beautiful east-west valley only a few country miles from the Pacific Ocean, Anderson Valley is home to some world-class Pinot Noirs as well as Roederer Estate. (As you know, most Champagnes crafted in the methode traditionelle are made with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.) The event was first class, packed with visitors and professionals alike, and displayed an impressive array of food pairings for all to enjoy. I recommend this annual event even if only to see how well it is organized!
May 27 was the second annual French-American Business Awards at the City Club in San Francisco, another example of a fabulous event organized to perfection for 300 guests. City locations are always more challenging for parking, but good planning helps. I was there to represent Pierre Seillan, the GM and vigneron of Verite who is on a world tour checking on the Jackson Family Estates. The awards recognize French professionals and entrepreneurs for their contributions to American business enterprises; Seillan was nominated for the “wine” category. If you have have any wine professionals in your area that you think would be interested in participating in this Franco-American event, please let me know…
It’s a win-win situation: Guides get the respect of being an expert (not to mention getting to walk around each day making new friends), and the winery benefits financially and with brand recognition. It sounds simple, but we all know being a tour guide isn’t that easy. Here are some key best practices to keep in mind to ensure not only we – and our guests – are enjoying ourselves, but that we’re also adhering to our business objectives.
Tour Tips & Tricks for Best Practices
Corral the Crowd: Tours can be a challenge, especially with larger groups. The best way to keep control of your group is to treat them like a bunch of 4-year-olds and shepherd them: Walk ahead of the group and keep them close. Talk loud enough that the back of the group can still hear you (speak from the diaphragm, not from your throat), and choreograph the tour so it is physically inappropriate for the guests to be walking ahead. If people are talking during the tour and distracting others, stop talking and make eye contact. Usually that’s enough for people to keep private comments for a private time, or use open-ended questions to re-engage them.
Create the Connection: It’s easy to make friends when we have a captive audience who wants to hear all about what we do. Our job is to engage with our guests and educate, entertain and entice them (with incentives to buy wine, join the wine club or keep in contact with the winery). Not everyone is created equal, so don’t assume guests all understand everything, especially our "wine industry" vernacular. If we can engage guests by using the Golden Rule (treat others as they would like to be treated), we can play off their answers to our questions and find out their needs. The easiest way to do this is to create intimacy within the larger group by engaging in smaller subset groups and asking open-ended questions.
Consider the Crumbs: Don’t let Hansel and Gretel be the only ones laying a good trail to follow. The best way to build a connection with guests and give good service is to figure out what their needs/wants are and deliver them. Laying a trail of bread crumbs for your guests on the benefits of buying the wine that they are enjoying, joining the wine club or staying in touch is just good service if you’re giving them what they want. Plant those ideas throughout the entire experience and then complete the experience by closing the loop with the Triple Score (1. Ask for the sale. 2. Present the wine club. 3. Collect contact data.)
Now, go out there and give the phenomenal tour that you know you can. Just remember, the experience isn’t over until the guest has made their purchases, signed up for the club, and are walking out to the door.
Source: WISE Academy,
Sonoma State Adds Summer
Wine Business Programs
Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, Calif., is adding Wine Business Seminars that will allow students to earn certificates in direct-to-consumer (wine sales), wine industry finance or accounting. Get more information here.
What Does Tesla Have
to do With Wineries?
Hall Winery has partnered with Tesla Motors and their Tesla Destination Charging program by providing two charging stations at the winery. Lisa Heckaman writes, “Hall joins a rapidly growing network of resorts in Tesla's Destination Charging Program. Tesla partners with hotels, resorts and restaurants around the world to offer high-power connectors as an amenity for visitors, allowing them to charge the Tesla Model S at locations where they want to stay for several hours like hotels, ski resorts, and restaurants.”
VinoVisit and Canvas Launch New App
VinoVisit and CANVAS have announced a new mobile web application allowing tourists, concierge professionals and tour guides the ability to book reservations on the go.
Society of Wine Educators Conference — August 2015
This year’s Society of Wine Educators Conference is Aug. 12-14 in New Orleans, La. More than 60 sessions and 67 speakers will cover the international world of wine education professionals.
Wine Industry Metrics
April 2015 numbers are now available from Wines & Vines.
North Coast Classifieds
North Coast Classifieds is a bi-weekly, regional classified listing serving California's Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties. More than 1,100 wine industry professionals received the inaugural edition, which was sent out May 4. To subscribe to North Coast Classifieds, click here.
SSU Study to Identify Three
High-Frequency Wine Market Segments
A recent study by Dr. Liz Thach and Dr. Janeen Olsen of the Sonoma State University Wine Business Institute identifies “low,” “moderate” and “high” wine spenders. Learn more here.
Nevada: Can the Nevada wine industry grow? Jane Firstenfeld tackles this question in Wines & Vines.
Michigan: A benchmarking program focused on Michigan wineries and vineyards could help managers attract higher profits.
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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.