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  June 2, 2014
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WISE Bites   Tasting Rooms in the Flesh
It's Time to Shine   Consider Offering Fortified Wines

It’s that time of year again. Memorial Day is behind us, the busy season ahead. Visitor traffic will build each month from now through harvest. And if we are ready – really ready – more visitors will drive more sales through our tasting room. It’s time to create lots of new long-term relationships. It’s time to shine.

Here is our Top 10 checklist for handling the crowds, creating lasting memories for guests, and capitalizing on the potential dollars walking through the tasting room doors.

Craft Beverage
The alcoholic beverage business is doing very well in North America. Wines & Vines participated in the May 6-8 Craft Beverage Expo in San Jose, Calif., and based on the popularity of spirits it could be a wise move for wineries to offer customers fortified or distilled wines like brandy, Port and grappa — or even dabble in private spirits labels to capture some of that phenomenal growth. Read more about the Expo here.

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"WISE Bites" continued   "Tasting Rooms in the Flesh" continued
Get Ready!
  1. Staff Up. Think in terms of number of guests per labor hour, not only to staff up for the busy season but to adjust even higher for busy weekends. Justify more tasting room labor hours by understanding the service level at which your wine sales and club sign-ups are optimized, and then staff accordingly. The balance of guest to staff ratio is a fine but important line.

  2. Revise the Guest Journey Map. Fine-tune guest experiences by mapping your guests' journey through each experience offered at the winery. Choreograph it to match your goals.

  3. Revisit Visual Merchandising. Remember, your tasting room is the mirror to your brand. Ensure the merchandising tells a story that reinforces the desired brand image.

  4. Get Set!

  5. Motivate with Metrics & Compensation. Do you have a DTC Dashboard that measures what matters? Do you share key numbers with your team — all the key numbers that impact sales results? Are your bonus programs creating effective goal congruence between your team and desired performance?

  6. Schedule Some Mystery Shopping. Get an objective view on the things that can be easily adjusted to make visitor experiences even better, and increase customer satisfaction and sales before the height of the season.

  7. Tailor Training. Use metrics and mystery shopping results to prioritize how and where your team can benefit with some best practices tune ups. Training needs should be tailored to both team needs and the needs of individual staff.

  8. Build Front Stage vs. Backstage Awareness. Everything needs to be in place and prepared behind the scenes for a fabulous performance or guest experience. Encourage your team to get in the habit of debriefing daily with the questions: Where was our backstage showing today?

  9. Go!

  10. Embrace the Platinum Rule. All guests are not created equal. Along the Buyers Continuum we find that First Time Buyers thrive on recognition. Repeat buyers expect us to understand their preferences. Brand ambassadors revel in respect and rewards. Giving them what they need will encourage them to want to buy. No matter what their relationship is with our brand, there are many different types of wine buyers, each with different needs. The key to the Platinum Rule is to treat customers as they want to be treated, so first we need to figure how it is they want to be treated by asking open-ended questions, and then deliver.

  11. Encourage More Dialogue, Less Monologue. Keep in mind that the right open-ended questions build rapport, and dialogue creates a relationship. Relationships build brands and trust. Trust means sales and long-term commitments.

  12. Focus on the full WISE Triple Score. Sell wine, sell clubs and capture contact data — all by planting seeds throughout the conversation. Do all three, every time, and in a natural way. Your customers will appreciate it, and staff will respect what you inspect. So, be sure to monitor and reward your staff based on all three aspects of the triple score.

And we’re off! Enjoy the run. Keep this checklist in mind. And shine, shine, shine!

Source: WISE Academy,
Direct 2014 Symposium: May 7 was the start of the Direct 2014 shipping compliance symposium at the Napa Valley Marriott. Wines & Vines senior correspondent Paul Franson covered the event. Read what he had to say here .

Are Sparkling Wines for You? On a beautiful day in mid-May I had lunch with Xavier Barlier, the senior vice president of importer and marketing group Maison Marques et Domaines, which handles Roederer Estate, Sharffenberger Cellars, Domaine Anderson and several other brands. After a lull in 2008-09, the sparkling business in North America is back to full force and we can see a surge of still wine wineries adding “bubbles” to their offerings. Making a good sparkling wine requires a great deal of attention and expertise. So when your winemaker hesitates to produce your own bottles, a call to custom-crush facilities like Rack & Riddle for example, will provide the desired help. From a marketing point of view, your wine club members would likely enjoy a case of estate sparkling wine every year.

Children of Vineyard Workers Scholarship Fundraiser: It all starts in the vineyard, and we never do enough to recognize that simple truth. Wilson Artisan Wineries owners Diane and Ken Wilson set up a scholarship fund to promote the education of vineyard workers' children. Wines & Vines was happy to participate and hosted a table for eight at the May 10 gala.
Guests at the Wines & Vines table included Mariangela Guarienti, CEO of Della Toffola.

You may want to organize something similar at your winery (or a group of wineries) to thank vineyard workers but also help the next generation by sponsoring education. More information is available at

Duckhorn Wine Co. Last week I stopped in northern Napa Valley, near St. Helena, Calif., at the Duckhorn Wine Co. tasting room off the Silverado Trail. This is a "high-end" Napa winery catering to the thousands of weekly visitors traveling the Trail, which is the eastern route up and down the valley. I was a bit skeptical due to the "touristy" reputation of the area but ended up being quite pleasantly surprised. The oasis is lush with gardens and fruit trees surrounding the tasting room "house." The main tasting bar is in the center of the room, but most guests were sitting outside at individual tables on the veranda (Check it out on their website.) Pre-printed tasting sheets come with four glasses per taster — two whites and two reds and little bread sticks. A very knowledgeable "wine educator," Chandler Kaaa, took care of us and made the entire hour-long tasting a real experience to remember. I did buy some Merlot, which did not get a chance to age as it was enjoyed that evening with a great Boeuf Bourguignon.

Seated Private Tastings Generate 22% More Revenue Per Visitor: Paul Franson wrote an extensive article about the impact of private seated tastings based on the results of a survey conducted by Silicon Valley Bank and Wine Business Monthly. Read the article here.

The Society of Wine Educators Offers Online Testing: The Society of Wine Educators announced it has entered into an agreement with the Pearson VUE testing centers to offer certification candidates the ability to schedule  CSS and CSW exams at any Pearson VUE center in the world.


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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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