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  September 4, 2018
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WISE Guest Count Best Practices   Long Meadow Ranch opens Anderson Valley tasting room

Data is King. Every marketing guru out there is shouting that from the mountain tops. What is a small winery with limited resources to do to understand their data? It all starts with quality, and consistency of data. For this conversation, let's dive into a few that wineries of every size can employ starting today.

Make it Easy

In our industry, it all begins with the guest. While there are several methods to count the number of guests coming in to your business, we have found a few best practices and considerations that make the data actionable and easy to capture. When it is easy to capture, you will find that your frontline staff will be more likely to consistently and accurately track the information. Once you have solid data, you can make WISE decisions to drive your business efficiently.


In 2015 Long Meadow Ranch purchased 69 acres of vines in Anderson Valley, planted to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Today the company, which also owns estate vineyards in the Mayacamas Mountains and Rutherford AVAs in Napa, a cattle ranch in Marin County, and just recently acquired Stony Hill Vineyard, located in the Spring Mountain District of Napa, produces about 8,000 cases from its Mendocino County vineyards. 

In July 2018, Long Meadow Ranch celebrated the grand opening of its new Anderson Valley tasting room, located at The Madrones in Philo, Calif.

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 "WISE Bites" continued.


 "Tasting Room Spotlight" continued.

Consistency is Key
It's important to be consistent, so whichever 'method' of counting your guests you are using, make sure it stays the same over time. You can change it; however, you need to do so strategically - end of quarter, end of year, etc. and roll it out so that everyone is on the same page for a clean transition. Some wineries install a door counter, and then divide the number in half (guest walks in, guest walks out). They may inform staff not to use that door so only guests use it. Other wineries count the number of glasses washed at the end of the day, and then use that to estimate the number of tasters. Others still will count flights or glasses sold. While these methods can be useful, we have found the best method is to establish four $0 SKUs in the POS. 

Four SKUs
Why four SKUs? We want to capture not only the number of all the guests, but what type of guest they are. First, we have all our "Guests" (1) - these are the all the guests that are potential members. Then, if we know how many guests are "Returning Members" or club members (2), we can remove them from the number of guests that are potential future members. Tracking "Trade/Industry Comps" (3) helps us understand how much wine (and time) we spend on influencers who will help grow our brands. What about that fourth SKU? Often times, "Guests" will share a flight or experience. The "Shared Experience" (4) guest is still a potential, and still uses resources that we need to account for, like flushes on the potty, glassware, staff time, breadsticks, etc. When a winery uses SKUS and captures them on each transaction in the POS, that information becomes actionable. Reports are easily run by any time period (day, week, month, quarter, year) to give historical perspective.

Conversion rates all have a common denominator of Guest Count. How many guests purchased? How many joined the wine club? How about average order size? How many joined our mailing list? If you know the guest count, and type of guest, you can start to really understand your metrics and how they compare to your neighbors.

  • Customer Conversion Rate: Number of new customers divided by total tasting room visitors less trade, existing customers or club members
  • Sales Conversion Rate: Number of orders divided by the number of tasting room visitors, website visitors or phone calls
  • Club Conversion: Number of new club members divided by the number of tasting room visitors (or unique website visitors or phone calls) - after backing out trade and existing club members.
  • Data Capture Rate: Number of customers or prospects for which contact information was captured divided by total tasting room visitors.
  • List Conversion Rate: Number of new mailing list sign-ups divided by the number of tasting room visitors, minus visiting club members, trade and those already on list.
  • Average Order Value: Total dollar sales (net of shipping and tax) divided by number of orders

Making Business Decisions
All of that is great to understand past performance, but how does a WISE winery use that information to drive future results? There are three levers to pull: more visitors, more wine purchase conversions, and upping AOV (average order value). It is far easier to control what is happing within the four walls of your tasting room than it is to bring in more traffic. After all, do you want spend more resources to be seeing more guests and not selling to them, or do you want to have the guests who are already walking in to purchase and spend more on each transaction? Use the trend information, and forecasting, to drive future results. Understanding the data is half the battle, with focus and training, you can change future results. 

Source: WISE Academy,

Winery Job Index

The Winery Job Index was 388 in July, up 10% from a year ago.

Winemaking Job Subcategory

Demand for winemaking positions fell 1% in July. The subindex stood at 474, little changed from the same month in most of the previous four years.


"From the moment we acquired the estate in 2015, we knew we wanted to also have a place for visitors to taste our wines and experience Long Meadow Ranch hospitality close to our estate vineyard," said tasting room manager Mark Mendenhall. "As soon as the opportunity presented itself at The Madrones, we knew this would be perfect."

Mendenhall said The Madrones was an "obvious choice" for the winery's new tasting room, calling it a "fun and vibrant corridor" of Philo. Plus, the winery's new estate, Tanbark Mill Vineyard, is just a few miles away from the tasting room. "Being so close to our estate makes the connection and the experience for our guests more compelling, Mendenhall said.

The Madrones, a boutique resort that includes accommodations, a restaurant (Smoke & Embers) as well as two other tasting rooms (Drew Family Wines and Smith & Story Wine Cellars) is already a destination for visitors to the somewhat remote Anderson Valley. Mendenhall said sharing the space with other businesses has the added benefit of building a community within the local wine, food and hospitality industries, where they can promote each other and share a common target audience.

A place for Pinot
According to Wines Vines Analytics, prior to the new tasting location, Long Meadow Ranch conducted about 30% of its business through direct-to-consumer (DtC) sales. Though the tasting room has only been open for just over a month and the team can't comment on the specific metrics of its business, Mendenhall said Long Meadow Ranch has already seen a boost to its DtC sales. "A number of Anderson Valley wine enthusiasts have been coming in to check out what Long Meadow Ranch has to offer. We are very happy with the positive feedback," he said, adding that they've seen the highest interest and response to the venue's sit-down tastings, which incorporate Long Meadow Ranch's farm products and provisions.

Mendenhall said that Pinot Noir is the winery's best seller across the board — both in DtC and three-tier distribution. "Anderson Valley, and in particular our Tanbark Mill Vineyard, is a special place for growing world-class Pinot Noir with its cooler climate," Mendenhall said. Guests of the new Madrones tasting room can enjoy five expressions of Pinot Noir grown on Long Meadow Ranch's newest estate: Pinot Noir Blanc, Pinot Noir rosé, Pinot Noir, and two specific soil selections of Pinot Noir.

Staff training
In addition to Mendenhall, Long Meadow Ranch's tasting room employs two part-time staff members. When hiring, Mendenhall says he looks for people who embody hospitality and who understand and can provide excellent customer service. "We love to train on our fundamentals and specifics, yet that core of hospitality is key to success," he said.

Staff is rewarded financially for any sales and for signing up wine club members. Mendenhall said the key to retention and longevity of wine club members and/or repeat customers is communicating with members in a personalized way and enhancing their experiences in the tasting room. "We encourage and train our staff to give a thoughtful, educational and professional guest experience," Mendenhall said. "We don't really have any 'tricks.'"

Tools of the Trade
The Long Meadow Ranch Madrones tasting room uses a Perlick wine cellar to store all wines served to guests and a True Merchandiser fridge for all beverages, both wine and non-alcoholic, sold on premise.

The tasting room serves wine in "The One" stemware by Andrea Robinson and keeps Riedel decanters on hand to use "as needed," though Mendenhall says they do not use them on a daily basis. All glassware is washed in a CMA commercial glass washing machine.

Guests to the tasting room can also enjoy espresso drinks, featuring custom Stumptown Roasters Organic Farmstead blend, made with a La Marzocco espresso machine.

Long Meadow Ranch uses WineDirect as its point-of-sales (POS) software and Base CRM.

—Stacy Briscoe

Tasting Room News 

New Pahlmeyer tasting room
Pahlmeyer Winery in St. Helena, Calif., opened a tasting room for its Jayson by Pahlmeyer wines in The Village at the new Visa Collina Resort in Napa Valley. Jayson Pahlmeyer established Pahlmeyer in 1986 and the Jayson label in 1992. In 2017, Pahlmeyer's daughter Cleo Pahlmeyer took over as president of the winery and now oversees the Pahlmeyer family of brands along with more than 100 acres of estate vineyards in Napa Valley and the Sonoma Coast.

Domaine Carneros garden conservatory
Domaine Carneros, opened a new garden conservatory, Jardin d'Hiver, with an expanded hospitality space and five-course pairing experience. With the opening of the Jardin d'Hiver comes an expanded tasting experience called "The Art of Sparkling Wine Pairing: Asian Bites with Bubbles," an Asian-inspired, seasonally-driven five course food and wine pairing designed to showcase the versatility of sparkling wine.

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