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  May 3, 2016
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How Does Your Garden Grow?   Tiny Bubbles

Now that the weather is getting warmer in most of the country, it’s time to plant seeds in our gardens that will grow food and flowers in the months ahead. This annual ritual of spring renewal is a happy time for gardeners.


For those of us who manage tasting rooms, it’s time to look forward to the coming busy season, when many guests will visit. Just like the gardeners among us, we need to plant seeds with our customers and staff that will bear fruit in the coming months. To reap the benefits of a bountiful harvest later, we need to prepare now.

Are your team members prepared to plant seeds with guests that will lead to sales, new club members and email list members? Just like in our gardens, the fruits of our labors don’t appear overnight; they are grown over time. So let’s examine how we tend to these budding relationships.

Sometimes in our haste—or out of ignorance—we forget that our customers must be warmed up to our ideas to sell wine, club memberships and get their contact data. All these wonderful offers are saved up for the end of the visit, when it can seem like a barrage of requests to our customers, completely spoiling the pixie dust in our magic kingdom, and resembling the dreaded, stereotypic used car sales pitch.

What can we do to plant the seeds with our customers that will bring the harvest we desire? When it comes to selling wine, here are some ideas for helpful sales:

  • Ask the guest about their wine preferences and experience to gauge what kinds of information they may find engaging. We need to convey facts and anecdotes about our wineries that are geared to our customers’ interests and level of knowledge, while bringing our brands to life.

  • One of the easiest and best ways to help visitors relate to our wine is to talk about food affinities. When they say “stop, you’re making me hungry,” you know this is working on a gut level (pardon the pun). How about: “Sounds like you love seafood. The great thing about our Sauvignon Blanc is how versatile it is—on its own or with any kind of seafood. May I pack some up for you to take home?”

  • When a wine is running out, we serve our customers best by letting them know this so they don’t miss out on their favorites. Simply say, “I can tell that you really like that wine; we are almost sold out, so you may wish to buy a few extra bottles.

  • Try not to focus on discounts. Pay attention to what the customer likes and offer that. If they say it’s out of their price range, offer another great wine in the next tier. If they were just looking for a discount, they’d shop at Costco. The key is providing a great, memorable experience and high-quality wine.


Most of us understand the word “Champagne” as being the birthplace of sparkling wines. Methode Champenoise is the traditional way to make sparkling wines by adding yeast and sugar to bottles that are filled with “base” wine (i.e., wine that was made with grapes picked at about 18º Brix—vs the average 24º Brix for “still” wines—and with high acidity). The addition begins a second fermentation, which is followed by “disgorgement” (i.e., the removal of dead yeast cells) and finally adding a liqueur de dosage at bottling time, which will continue the aging process in the bottle.

On April 14, Oregon State University organized a one-day symposium on the topic of sparkling wine. Learn MoreAbout 100 winemakers attended the event at Ponzi Vineyards to learn not only the basic principles of making sparkling wines but also the economics and marketing necessary to have a successful sparkling wine program. Danielle Gabriel of OSU was the primary organizer for the event. 

 Speakers at the Sparkling Wine Symposium & Tutored Tasting.

Of course, while in Oregon I took the opportunity to visit a few wineries like Archery Summit,where the patio felt like a French chateau with new, well-made furniture.


And Durant Vineyards, which has wonderful views and what I think is a great addition to a winery: a nursery…


And to finish, I am going controversial by showing the pollution caused by burning vineyard prunings on a beautiful day in the Dundee Hills of Oregon… Why can’t we have a mobile business collecting these and using them to produce steam/electricity? Here is at least one group’s opinion.

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Planting these seeds for our visitors is a non-pushy way to increase sales. Always remember that our wineries produce some of the best wines in the world! Peoples’ lives are enhanced by wine; it adds pleasure to life, makes any meal an occasion, brings people together, and research has shown there to be many health benefits to wine.

Remember: Sales are what pay staff wages, and we need to keep our business gardens growing. The key to knowing our customers and fulfilling their needs is by taking the role of concierge who lives to serve you by observing and asking open-ended questions. Our guests will tell you what they care about, what is relevant to them, even how to sell to them and how to help them buy. When we have developed rapport and planted seeds along the way, they see us as a trusted advisor and are much more likely to buy when we ask for the order.

That’s positive, helpful, professional salesmanship, and this is what will make our gardens flourish. If any of your budding gardeners need more tips, please come join us in our WISE Academy “gardening” classes this spring.

Source: WISE Academy,




Wine Industry Metrics
The March 2016 indices for direct-to-consumer shipments continue upward at double-digit rates, and the Winery Jobs Index reached its second-highest level since January 2007.

Does Wine Taste Different As You Get Older?
Writer Elin McCoy approaches this question for the ages. Read More. 

Near and Far

Arizona: Richard Ruelas of The Arizona Republic reported, "Arizonans will be able to order wine (and) have it shipped to them." Read more here.

California: Sonoma State University continues its expansion for wine-related certification by offering a Wine Branding Certificate. Learn more here.

A new law regarding farm labor compensation considers employee productivity as well as time on the clock. Learn more here.

Minnesota: Itasca is the name of the new cold-climate white wine cultivar developed by the University of Minnesota. Wines & Vines has the story here. 

New York State: The New York Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYDAM) presented a "Clean Plants for the Future of the Eastern Wine and Grape Industry" webinar to announce a new, state-of-the-art certification program for grapevines sold by several nurseries in the state. Read more at

Wine & Spirits magazine published an article about the ascent of Cabernet Franc in New York's Finger Lakes region. Read more here. 

Washington State: Walla Walla Community College (which has a lot of wine-related certifications) was named the Best Community College by the Aspen Institute. Read the full story.


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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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