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  April 5, 2017
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WISE Bites   Tasting Room Forum
Hiring Winners   A Start to the Wine Season

High season is almost here! It’s time to hire a team of all stars to care for the guests who will be arriving soon. Although it’s tempting to simply put out an ad like the one we ran last year, there is a better way to approach the hiring process to be sure we are hiring right. Here are the steps that will help us get the results we want.

Step one: The bottom line: Get off autopilot. Analyze the organization, department and position. When you have an opening, don’t assume you should fill the exact same role in the exact same way. Use this as an opportunity to replace, reorganize or reduce your team if needed. What would your team look like if you started over with a blank sheet of paper? Look ahead. Think beyond what you need today consider future organization and goals.


March was a big month for awakening the 2017 wine business season in North America. From conferences to symposia to wine tasting, I had a lot to report. But my editors are saying I’m too verbose, so let’s get down to the main news below...

Millennials: Everybody is still trying to figure out the wine-buying habits of millennials (those born between 1980 and 1995). This article by Meininger’s Wine Business International relays the thoughts of Silicon Valley Bank’s Rob McMillan.

Unified Wine & Grape Symposium 2017: Out of more than 600 exhibitors at Unified, I counted at least 70 exhibiting companies that offered products and services related to the direct-to-consumer wine business. There are more tools than ever to enhance your department’s return on investment.

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 "WISE Bites" continued.


 "Tasting Room Forum" continued.

Step two: Establish the position requirements by creating a thorough job description. Do this work upfront, not after your new workers are hired. A good job description will attract the right applicants and scare off the wrong ones. Write a job description that screens candidates for the skills, knowledge, behavior fit and cultural fit. The job description can then be used not only for candidates, but also for current employees and eventually as the basis from which performance is reviewed.

Step three: Select the best applicant sources including internal posting, social media such as LinkedIn, online job boards (, craigslist), schools and professional organizations.

Step four: Pre-screen applicants and let the candidates do the heavy lifting for you. First, create a job ad, and make it short and compelling. Use behavior, style and cultural words that will emotionally attract the right candidate. Then develop a questionnaire with three to five thoughtful behavior- / experience-based essay questions that will clarify not only what they can do but how they will do it. For example, “When is the last time you had to change a process or system? Share the process you used to implement the change, and if you had it to do all over again what would you do differently?”

Ask for resumes to be sent by XX date. All applicants should receive an email: “Thank you for your interest in applying for XX job at XX Winery. Please review the attached job description. If you are interested in continuing your application, please complete the attached questionnaire. All resumes and completed questionnaires will be reviewed by XX date.” Most don’t complete the last step, so only 15% to 20% of original applicants are probably still in the pool. Review these resumes and questionnaires to decide whom to interview.

Step five: Design a standard set of interview questions and use them for all candidates. Avoid “canned” and yes/no questions, but include different types of interview questions. Data gathering questions are the “resume questions” to clarify facts. Technical questions will test the candidate’s knowledge in a particular area. Hypothetical or “what if” questions test problem-solving skills, and how well candidates think on their feet, such as, “What would you do if a customer started to yell at you?” Behavioral questions ask the candidate to talk about when a certain situation occurred. They often begin with “Tell me about…” or “Give me an example of how you handled…” Questions should help clarify skills, knowledge, behavior fit and cultural fit.

Step six: Conduct the interview. Create a comfortable climate for the candidate to share information. Beware of the legal pitfalls and don’t ask no-no questions about race, religion, birthplace, marital status, etc. Don’t make any promises that might compromise your company’s “at-will” employment policy.

Step seven: Conduct skills testing and any needed pre-employment physicals or drug screens.

Step eight: Check references. Use outside resources for background checks (including social media sites) as well as others not given as references (most HR departments will only provide dates of employment). Ask references, “If there’s any reason I shouldn’t hire this person, please hang up now.” This is a powerful way to get a negative opinion about the candidate without compromising company policies.

Step nine: Conduct the decision analysis by reviewing all candidates against the criteria selected.

Step 10: Make the offer in writing with a letter—a clear offer, including the job responsibilities.

We’re not done yet… Step 11: Onboard the winner! Next month we’ll explore how to set your new employee up for success.

Source: WISE Academy,



New Healthy Food from Leftover Dried Grapes? This article from the North Bay Business Journal may give you an idea for a new business and the use of leftover grapes from winemaking.

Words to Describe Wines: You can spend a lifetime using different words to describe wines and never mention the same one twice! Matt Kramer from Wine Spectator wrote a short essay about some of his descriptive words here.

New Restaurant Category: Is the “winery restaurant” a new dining category? Each state and county seems to have different laws about establishing a restaurant/winery business, but for those who are doing it, the return on investment can be exceptional.

Here are the Top 10 Winery Restaurants, as chosen by USA Today:

  • Restaurant at Leoness Cellars - Temecula Valley, Calif.

  • Fork and Spoon at Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards - Pittsburg, Texas

  • The Restaurant at King Estate Winery - Eugene, Ore.

  • Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant - Buchanan, Mich.

  • Flower Hill Bistro at Miramonte Winery - Temecula Valley, Calif.

  • Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch - St. Helena, Calif.

  • Gervasi Vineyard Italian Bistro - Canton, Ohio

  • Fiction at J. Bookwalter Winery - Richland, Wash.

  • Cellar Door at Tara Winery - Athens, Texas
  • EdgeWild Restaurant & Winery - Chesterfield, Mo.


DtC Shipments: How about 37% growth for February! Read more here.

Winery Job Index: This month’s numbers were pretty much unchanged....Not bad for the slow period!

U.S. Wine Sales: Domestic wines maintained the upper hand with $2.9 billion in sales this February. Learn more here.
Top five States for Number of Wineries Making Sparkling:

  • 1. California – 358
  • 2. New York – 99
  • 3. Oregon – 65
  • 4. British Columbia – 62
  • 5. Ontario - 56



Tennessee: Middle Tennessee State University announces its new fermentation science bachelor’s degree program.

UC Davis: A four-course certificate program is geared toward sensory science professionals.

Washington State University: A new offering from WSU (Food Science 401) is designed to teach students how to pick up flavors in wine as well as teach them what those different tastes and aromas mean.


Canada: The Canada Vintners Association reports that the economic impact of the Canadian wine industry exceeds $9 billion.

Michigan: Baylen Linnekin is not happy with the way Michigan lawmakers are playing with the 21st Amendment. Read the full story.

Minnesota: It only took 159 years, but as of July 2017 you will be able to buy liquor on Sundays in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Read more here.

New York: In this article, Wines & Vines reports on Sam Filler, the new executive director of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation. The core of NYWGF has been its tourism program and the development of New York’s wine trails (19 at latest count).

Washington: The Washington State Wine Commission announced a record crop of 270,000 tons harvested in 2016. Much of that was Cabernet Sauvignon. Learn more here.

Texas: A new bill is being introduced by Texas Rep. Matt Rinaldi that would allow Texans to buy wine from out-of-state retailers...and more.


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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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