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  February 4, 2015
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WISE Bites   Tasting Room Forum
Does Your Team Deal a Win?    The Train to Discovery
During one of our recent onsite training workshops for tasting room staff, a customer-service issue came up: What do you do with a group of six to eight persons who come to the tasting bar and want to share one tasting between everyone? Even for seasoned tasting room professionals, the first reaction may be to get a little irritated. Why?

Let’s look at the scenario: A group of six or eight come into the tasting room.…Well, that’s kind of a win isn’t it? They want to share one tasting between them, and to make it more difficult, they want you to pour all five tastings in separate glasses so they can share the tasting. This is a bit more problematic, but we can still turn it into a win if we consider why the group is doing this.

Unfortunately, staff members often negatively profile (prejudge) and don’t try to understand the nuances of this situation. In order to get through this quickly, some staff members will quickly pour the tasting, not explain the wines, collect the tasting fee and walk away. That is not a win. The staff member has already pre-determined that these guys are not going to buy wine, that they are cheap, and that the group is not worth the effort.


Napa Wine Train
Image courtesy of Napa Valley Wine Train.

I can be a little bit of a snob regarding widely promoted tourist attractions, but I have no problem being proven wrong.

My sister Marie-Jo’s recent visit from Paris prompted a luncheon on the Napa Valley Wine Train. The three-hour ride—which included a first-class lunch, first-class wine tasting (see photo below), first-class service and a leisurely visit of the three other vintage cars—was extremely pleasant, relaxing and gave a wonderful perspective of the Napa Valley without the inconvenience of driving on the extremely busy Highway 29. I ate my hat and strongly recommend the ride to anyone.

Jacques Brix
The Napa Valley Wine Train quickly alleviated my blue mood.

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

Before negatively profiling, let’s look at this scenario as an opportunity and try to discover what their motivation is:

  1. Sometimes groups come from other countries and are not sure how we do things here. They understand that wine tasting is the thing to do, and they are here to learn.
  2. Some may not be accustomed to drinking alcohol, and their biggest fear is tasting wine and getting a DUI.
  3. Perhaps they aren’t sure if any of them will like the wines, since they normally never drink it, and they don’t want to spend money on something that will go to waste.
  4. Some people are doing a lot of tastings in one day; in order for them to taste wines from many places, they need to pace themselves accordingly so they can enjoy the experience responsibly.

Make it a win situation
and take the high road

If you have the opportunity, set up each glass and use this time as a teaching tool. Show the group how to look at the glass, how to swirl, smell, sip and savor. Teach them why you pour the wines in the order you pour them. Explain that you pour 1 to 1.5 ounces, which is just enough to taste the wine, but not overconsume. If they seem worried about overconsuming, let them know that an individual would have to consume three 5-ounce glasses within 45 minutes to reach a blood alcohol level of 0.08, and they would never get close to that by having a standard tasting.

Present each bottle and explain the wines as you normally would in any standard tasting. Use your WISE training and build rapport through open-ended questions, analogies and storytelling. Find out their favorite foods and what products you have that will enhance the meal. Plant the idea for purchasing (or joining) throughout the experience, but be sure to close the loop with presenting the wine club, asking for the sale or getting contact info.

You have been trained to be a star performer, and even if the group does not buy anything, you have made them feel welcome and they will be able to see that in the future they can taste more and learn more of the mysteries of why wines are so unique and special. They may even send friends. What do you have to lose? Make it a win!

Source: WISE Academy,

  What’s on your palate?
While scanning the Wall Street Journal, I found an article trying to decide whether the wine palate is God-given or acquired. Writer Lettie Teague gives us a great review of where the term “palate” comes from and how many connoisseurs have similar (yet different) opinions. Read her article here.

Millennial wine drinkers
The tide is changing. Millennials did not seem to have the money during the recession to participate in high-end wine purchases, but according to an article at  (based on Rabobank analysis), 55% of high-end wine drinkers are millennials. Meanwhile, Julie Lynem of The (San Luis Obispo) Tribune reports that while “everyone thinks the millennials will be online,” a Cal Poly study showed wine shipping costs are an impediment to sales for this “cost-conscious” group of consumers.

Keeping your club members
Keeping your customers happy is the heart of a successful business practice, as it will cost three times more in time and effort to win them back… Karin Ballestrazze, vice president of WineDirect, offers some tips for keeping your wine club members engaged.

FLCC opens Viticulture and Wine Center
Students taking viticulture and enology classes at Finger Lakes Community College stepped into the school’s new Viticulture and Wine Center for the first time Jan. 26, and FLCC's brand new winery will be opening shortly. According to Linda Jones McKee, editor of the Wine East section of Wines & Vines, the new 8,900-square-foot facility was built in two parts and meets the meet the standards for a LEED silver rating.

Wine Industry Metrics
Overall direct-to-consumer sales were up in 2014. Wines & Vines editor Jim Gordon outlines reasons behind the 15% growth here.


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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.




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