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  September 6, 2017
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WISE Bites   Tasting Room Spotlight
Go See   Caduceus Cellars: Espresso Energizes Rock-Star Tasting Room in Arizona

How has the summer been for us so far? What valuable lessons have we learned about our customers and business challenges?

Many of us who manage tasting rooms barely have time for the basics of hiring and scheduling staff, selling wine and taking care of housekeeping chores during the summer. Very little beyond those demanding tasks gets done during our busiest season, and that’s a shame. There are lots of opportunities for learning from others. If, however, we can manage to carve out some time to visit other wineries, we can learn a lot about how others handle the same challenges we all face during the summer.


While 1 million tourists pass by Caduceus Cellars’ tasting room in Jerome, Ariz., each year, it takes more than wine to get them to stop. Espresso drinks and the possibility of meeting Maynard James Keenan, front man for the band Tool, are essential to the winery’s direct-to-consumer sales through the tasting room, wine club and website, which together account for about 95% of the 6,000-case winery’s annual revenue.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Jerome was a thriving copper-mining town high above the Verde Valley north of Phoenix. After the last copper mine shut down in 1953, the population dwindled to about 100. With the development of tourism, including many visitors en route to the Grand Canyon, the number of residents has gradually rebounded to 400.

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 "WISE Bites" continued.


 "Tasting Room Spotlight" continued.

Here are the top five reasons taking the time to GO SEE is worth it.

1. Visit our neighbors so we can refer.

See what their guest experiences are like so we can recommend the good ones to our customers and enhance their visits to wine country. These referrals are valued by our guests, since they trust us to know what’s happening in our area. They are also deeply valued by our neighbor wineries, since we all thrive on word-of-mouth advertising, which is priceless. Wineries that we refer guests to will likely reciprocate and send folks our way.

2. Visit wineries we admire to see what the buzz is all about.

Who do we see as our main competition, and what can we learn from them? What are we hearing from guests about the experiences they’ve had at the wineries they think are tops? When a raving fan tells us about the fabulous time they had at ABC Winery, we need to see for ourselves what made it so great.

3. Be an unofficial mystery shopper.

From our thousands of WISE mystery shops, here are the key lessons we all need to master for great sales and high customer satisfaction:

Is our backstage showing? Not just our physical backstage like schedules on the tasting bar, but also inappropriate staff conversations that spoil the heck out of the pixie dust during the guest visit?

Is our greeting prompt and friendly, with eye contact within 15 seconds?

Are we building great rapport with our guests through asking open-ended questions and creating a dialogue instead of a monologue? Are we listening to the answers and tailoring our approach accordingly?

What unique stories are we telling about our winery that will bind our guests ever closer to our brand?

Are we noticing buying signals? They can be easy to miss if all we are doing is pouring wine and moving on to the next customer.

Are we meeting our business objectives to sell wine, sell the club and get contact data?

4. It’s an incredible training opportunity. Let’s take new staff members along when we visit other wineries. It’s a chance to show the newbies what others are doing and how they handle the same situations we all deal with daily. It’s a marvelous opportunity to see what they notice about the guest experiences they encounter and discuss the take-home lessons for our wineries. What did they see that they vow will never happen at our winery? What did they love that they will adapt to our brand to enhance how we treat our guests?

5. We come back to our winery with fresh eyes about our own business. Based on what we observed, how are we doing in solving the same issues we saw firsthand at other wineries? When others are slammed with traffic, how are they handling the flow?

It’s not too late to catch the last of the summer visitor traffic, so make time to Go See!

Source: WISE Academy,

Winery Job Index

July 2017 saw the Winery Job Index rise 1% versus a year earlier to 328. This was the second straight month the overall index increased 1%.

Direct-To-Consumer Job Subcategory

Hiring for direct-to-consumer positions, including tasting room and retail staff, led growth in July 2017 with a 19% increase over July 2016. The index for the month stood at 600.


The Caduceus Cellars tasting room serves espresso drinks in the morning and wines from the winery (located three blocks away) every afternoon.

According to tasting room manager Brian Sullivan, many visitors are drawn there in hope of encountering Keenan, whose best-known band Tool made a splash in the 1990s with the song “Sober.” During the growing season, Keenan regularly pops in for espresso in the mornings. Once crush is complete, he continues to tour the world with his bands and often arranges educational wine tastings along the way.

The winery was founded in 2003, and the tasting room opened in 2009. Sullivan, who previously managed a restaurant in Seattle, has been Keenan’s friend for decades and began working at Caduceus in 2012. While most might know “Caduceus” as a symbol for the medical profession, Keenan’s inspiration goes back further: He named the winery after the Staff of Hermes, symbolic of temporality, transformation, eloquence and change. Caduceus wines sell direct for $40-$125 per bottle. A second brand, Merkin wines, sell for $20-$30 per bottle.

With so few locals, it’s surprising that Sullivan encounters many repeat visitors. He runs the tasting room every day, with the help of five other servers. Among them, they sell and serve an average of 41 four-wine tastings at $13 each; 15 glasses of wine and 32 bottles per day, in addition to espresso, small plates and retail.

No reservations are required. The typical visitor age range is 26-40, and the average visit lasts about 30 minutes, although “some people hang out all day long,” according to Sullivan. Age range and length of visit may partly be explained by the fact that the volunteer town government does not permit seating. Caduceus supplies two couches in a separate alcove space for those whose knees can’t abide the stand-up bar tables.

Recruitment, training, retention and compensation: Fortunately for Sullivan, employee turnover is rare. But he’s always looking, always filling in: When he needs someone new, he recruits from people he meets around the town.

No specific training regimen: Fresh hires start with espresso service and food prep for small plates, mostly sourced from Keenan’s gardens, orchards and greenhouses. These recruits learn the trade by observing interactions and transactions. “After a few months, you know when they’re ready” to graduate to wine sales, Sullivan said.

As in Napa and Sonoma, affordable housing is a problem in Jerome. Still, once ensconced at the tasting room, “It’s probably the best job in town,” Sullivan said, with hourly pay of about $15 per hour and great tips. Caduceus staffers are excited to sell wine, Sullivan said, consequently he doesn’t offer bonuses or incentives for sales or wine club enrollment. Wine club membership is about 1,400, and social media is a major component for promotion.

Suppliers and stock: Wines are served in Libby tumblers, although Caduceus sells Riedel crystal in its retail space. The dishwasher is an old CMA, purchased used and due for replacement. Servers polish the tumblers with the same logoed, lint-free towels sold in the retail room. An argon-injection system is used to preserve open bottles.

Sullivan is proud of his retail sales section, which emphasizes Arizona products. He plans to attend the Local First Arizona trade show in September to scout out additions, especially those with beautiful packaging.

Although we couldn’t pay a real-life visit to Caduceus, our experience came complete with some samples: An especially rich, deeply colored and flavorful Lei Li Nebbiolo Rosé (named for Keenan’s youngest daughter), and a soft, balanced 2014 Grenache, which, given Keenan’s stated preference for Italian and Spanish grape varieties, might as well be labeled Garnacha.

The Verde Valley has only five physical wineries, but given its popularity with tourist tasters, there are perhaps a dozen tasting rooms representing southern Arizona wineries.

Do you own or manage an exceptional tasting room anywhere in North America? As Sullivan did, you can nominate your operation. Be prepared to supply all the details. If we can visit, we may show up. Contact and explain why your tasting room should be included.

—Jane Firstenfeld

Wines & Vines contributing editor Jane Firstenfeld has been writing about the North American wine industry since the 1970s. If there are any questions you would like answered by future Tasting Room Spotlight participants—or if you would like to have your tasting room featured—email her here.

News Briefs 

Brown Estate opens to visitors
in downtown Napa

Napa Valley Zinfandel producer Brown Estate is opening a downtown Napa tasting room in the historic Old Napa Register Building, which was damaged in the 2014 earthquake. The loft-like renovated space includes two tasting bars and room for private events. In addition to its Zinfandels, Brown Estate offers small-lot Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Tempranillo. Learn more at

The bottle abides
Wineovation just launched “Lebowski’s favorite wine bottle opener,” a battery-operated corkscrew modeled on a bowling pin. It’s push-button operated to open a bottle in seconds and retails at $29.99.

Washington tasting room
Pinot Noir producer Hawkins Cellars opened a new tasting room on Underwood Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge AVA across from Hood River, Ore. Hawkins Cellars already operates a tasting room in Dundee, Ore., where the winery’s award-winning wines from the Willamette Valley, Yakima Valley and Red Mountain are sold. Learn more at

Pop-up tasting room
Lexington Wine Co. is drumming up interest in their Bordeaux varietals from the Santa Cruz Mountains through a new tasting room in Saratoga, Calif. But the “pop-up” tasting room has an expiration date: one year from now. Co-owner Tom Fogarty Jr. told The San Jose Mercury News he and Nathan Kandler will close the tasting room when their allocation list is full. According to Wines Vines Analytics, the label (owned by Thomas Fogarty Winery) produces 15,000 cases per year with an average bottle price of $45. Get information at

Opportunity for Lake Michigan students
Students at Lake Michigan College are operating the Lake Michigan Vintners tasting room in Baroda, Mich. Wine East correspondent Linda Jones McKee has the story here.

Hirsch moves into town
After 37 years on the Sonoma Coast, Hirsch Vineyards is opened a tasting room in Healdsburg, Calif. The charming space is open by appointment only and offers private tastings for up to eight guests. In addition to its estate offerings, Hirsch Vineyards provides fruit to Williams-Selyem, Littorai, Kistler and other wineries. To book a tasting, visit

Madrigal hosts ‘Love Stories’
Madrigal Family Winery is launching the 19th installation in its Sausalito Art & Wine Series with a reception at its tasting room in Sausalito, Calif, on Sept. 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibit, “Love Stories,” features the work of Georgette Osserman and was curated by Shiva Pakdel. The event will feature late summer/early fall wine selections from Madrigal Family Winery. To attend, RSVP to

Artesa remodels
Artesa Vineyards & Winery unveiled its remodeled tasting salon at its well-recognized estate in the Los Carneros AVA. The bright white tasting salon includes floor-to-ceiling windows and a circular bar to offer sweeping views from the hilltop site. Learn more at

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