Last month we were in Portland for the Third Annual Oregon Tempranillo Celebration. We drove up a day early and managed to visit six tasting rooms along the way. Oh, the things we were told (by the tasting room staff)! Oh, the things we observed!
- “You can’t get crisp white wines in Oregon.”
- “We don’t have a wine club. Well, we actually we do. The first time someone asks, I say no. The second time, I say yes. We have about 25 members.”
- “I’m a big proponent of spitting.” (Is there such a thing as spit shaming?)
- “I can’t believe that XYZ Winery recommended you come here. Their wines are made in a way that’s blahblahblah—it’s akin to wearing makeup. They are nothing like us.”
- “No, we don’t make Müller-Thurgau. That’s just a cheap German wine. Why would anyone pay more than $15 for something you can just swig?”
- Tasting rooms with no crackers or small bites.
- Staff not wearing name tags.
- Seemingly disinterested tasting room staff—too busy talking with one another to notice when two customers entered for a tasting.
Fortunately, we had a couple of outstanding experiences to cleanse our palate. At our first stop, even though it was toward the end of the day, the tasting room employee took time to understand what we liked, poured some special wines that matched our tastes and suggested other wineries to visit. He even pulled out maps and pamphlets, marking off his local favorite places for us to visit the next day.
At our first stop the following day, we arrived and saw there was some sort of meeting in the tasting room that was delaying their opening. Hanging around on the beautiful grounds for a couple of minutes, we were greeted by the manager, who explained that they were having an education seminar on corks—as he handed us each a nice tasting of their Viognier. When we entered the tasting room, our wine educator was attentive, knowledgeable, interesting and fun! He met us where we were knowledge-wise and didn’t bore us with stories of the Missoula Floods or the Van Duzer Corridor.
We visit close to 100 tasting rooms a year, and these experiences never cease to amaze me. In an industry where customer service and reputation account for about 90% of your success, your frontline staff had better be at the top of their game. They should have good things to say about their neighbors (or say nothing at all) and pay attention to customer needs.
Wear a nametag. Put out some crackers. Smile. And sell some wine. Cheers!
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