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  August 7, 2018
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WISE Bites   Tasting Room Spotlight
Join our String-Bean-of-the-Month Club   Elevated Wine Tasting at Burgess Cellars

Name a product and there is a now club for it: razors, socks, meal kits, and on and on. Just about anything can be delivered regularly to our door via a club or subscription plan, which can save time and money. As a result, we've become a bit jaded about selling our own wine clubs. There's push back from our Tasting Room hosts who complain that no one is joining wine clubs anymore, or that everyone is pitching at every winery and guests are tired of hearing about it.

Our current mystery shopping reports show that our wine club is being presented less than 40% of the time. That's means that 60% of the time visitors aren't being effectively presented the wine club and invited to join. We let opportunities pass us by because we've convinced ourselves that people don't want to join our wine club. But we must remember the Platinum Rule - to treat customers the way THEY want to be treated. It's all about our guests and their preferences and we are not even in the picture.

 Continued below.


In May, Burgess Cellars launched its new tasting experience, "Mountainside Tasting." A seated, elevated tasting experience - literally: The new Mountainside Tasting Room is perched 1,000 feet on the winery's Howell Mountain estate in Napa Valley.

Elizabeth Miller, director of hospitality for Burgess Cellars, said the original "hospitality team," back when the winery first offered tastings, was founder Tom Burgess. Guests would squeeze into one of Burgess's barrel rooms, where Burgess himself would pour a selection of current releases. "As Napa Valley wine tourism and Burgess Cellars grew, a few others joined Tom on the hospitality front through the years, but our tasting experience charmingly remained in that active barrel room," Miller said.


Continued below.

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 "WISE Bites" continued.


 "Tasting Room Spotlight" continued.

We can't sell anything that we don't believe in. Let's remind ourselves what our guests find valuable about our wine clubs. Discount benefits are less important than bragging rights, exclusivity, events, and belonging to something cool.

Pacing, not pouncing
If done correctly, selling wine clubs should NOT be a hustle. The people who are most successful at selling wine clubs have mastered the art of hanging with the sale. They focus on showing the customer what's in it for them by explaining features and benefits throughout the guests' experience. It's all about pacing instead of pouncing, so that we invite our customer to join AFTER we've explained what's in it for them and weave those benefits during the conversation and not just at the end of the experience.

What's in it for the customer?
  • Bring up one club benefit: exclusivity - receive wines not available anywhere else - then let it go.
  • Serve others or ask open-ended questions to learn their preferences.
  • Then describe another club benefit mention - it maybe the next club event, or other invitations to private, special events, then let it go.
  • Serve others or go back to more open-ended questions.
  • Later, bring up another club benefit - savings, then let it go.
  • Free Tasting - use a concrete example: For a party of four - If one of you becomes a wine club member, your first savings will be $XX (the cost of a tasting for four).
  • Club members receive 20% off on purchases, which means on a $200 purchase, you save $40.
Other benefits for our club members that are worthy of mention include:
  • Convenience - top-quality wines delivered right to your door - it's like Christmas every quarter, or however often the club is shipped.
  • Special Members-Only Lounge/ Tasting location.
  • Memories and a connection to the brand.
  • A gift they can give to themselves that keeps on giving.

If they are still not biting, back off. We should strive to be persistent, but not be a club shark.

What's in it for the winery?
Let's face it: revenue from club members provides steady, high margin, profitable income. Our CFOs love clubs! And it's great, on-going PR, with the opportunity to develop brand ambassadors, which leads to positive word of mouth - the most precious advertising there is. These folks are paying us to be reminded about the winery. They also share their wine - and stories about their club experiences with friends and relatives, which again is unbeatable word of mouth.

What's in it for the staff?
When we sell a club membership, there's typically a bonus, right? And it's an emotional high - helping the customer treat him or herself to great wine on a recurring basis. Also, club members tend to buy much more than non-club buyers and some love nothing better than to help sell memberships to others.

So, let's get out of our own heads (and wallets) and remember that we have something our customers want - our wine clubs! It's up to us to invite everyone to join with a thoughtfully paced, passionate presentation of features and benefits.

Source: WISE Academy,

Winery Job Index
DtC Job Subcategory

Direct-To-Consumer Job Subcategory 

Direct-to-consumer positions, including tasting room and retail staff, saw demand fall 3% in June. The index reading of 703 was the highest of any subcategory, however. Demand in the first six months of 2018 was 11% higher than a year ago.

Winemaking Job Subcategory

Direct-To-Consumer Shipments

Demand for winemaking positions fell 10% in June to an index level of 626, but demand in the first six months of the year was up 12% from a year ago.


It's just within the last two years that the winery began focusing on creating better guest experiences. The "active barrel room" transformed into the Cellar Tasting Room (though still, indeed, an active barrel room used by the winemaking team), offering intimate by-appointment tastings that last about an hour.

"Recently, it became clear to us that Napa Valley and its visitors have evolved," Miller said. "Gone are the days of 10 belly-up-to-the-bar tastings in a day…Experiential and immersive-based wine tourism is the name of the game now - here in Napa and globally."

The "Mountainside Tasting" now joins the "Tasting in the Cellar" as an appointment-based hospitality offering. The new 90-minute experience puts guests in full view of the Burgess estate vineyards. The extended time, Miller said, allows hospitality staff to have a real conversation with guests, immerse them in the winery's story and "indulge the most curious of guests and the most wine-geeky questions."

Miller said direct-to-consumer (DtC) sales make up less than 50% of Burgess's sales, and the new tasting experiences are intended to boost those sales. She said that the successes that the winery has seen through distribution has served as a stable financial anchor, allowing for investment in the more innovative DtC approach.

Burgess staffs a small team, and Miller said she takes hiring and managing this team quite seriously. "As our experiences are intimate, and often nearly private, the wine educator is a crucial part of visiting Burgess Cellars," she said. Winemaker and general manager, Kelly Woods, often conducts what Miller refers to as "out of the box" staff training, taking team members on vineyard walks, barrel tastings and educating them about the estate's Howell Mountain fruit. "Kelly gives of herself constantly to the team, and this has allowed our team to really live what we do up here, and best share that with our guests," said Miller.

What sets Burgess Cellars apart from other wineries in the area, Miller said, is the effort the hospitality team puts into communicating with their wine club members. "We are communicative with our members every step of the way," she said, "from always informing them in advance of important dates, calling them throughout the year to check in and always being a very friendly and helpful voice on the other side of the phone."

Tools of the Trade
The Burgess hospitality team uses WineDirect to manage their POS/CRM, email and wine club. The glassware is Andrea Robinson's "The One," which Miller calls the perfect stemware that caters to the wide range of grape varieties Burgess produces, from Chardonnay to Petit Verdot to Cabernet blends. To keep that stemware clean, the tasting room team uses the Jackson Avenger glasswasher.

When asked about any standout design features in the new venue, Miller called out three educational artwork pieces located inside the tasting room. "Each piece highlights the defining aspects of our terroir and viticulture," said Miller. "We use these eye-catching pieces as visuals with guests, so they can clearly what's happening on our mountainside grapevines from root to berry."

—Stacy Briscoe

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