Held Hostage in the Tasting Room

Seriously. That’s how it felt. Maybe it’s because it was our first stop on what we hoped would be a fairly quick series of tasting room visits. We had five wineries on our list and limited time. This would have to be well-orchestrated. Best-laid plans …

As we entered the tasting room, the owner was just getting set up. He was reopening and putting pour spouts on each of the five wines available. Small talk for five minutes as he prepared the tasting room. No wine in our glass.

He asked us if we had been to xyz wine region in Europe, and when we said “Not yet,” he shamed us, telling us all the reasons why we must visit. Then, he proceeded to tell us the story about his winery—for about 10 minutes. No wine in our glass.

Then, he quizzed and chastised us for not knowing the answer to one of his quiz questions. Still no wine in our glass.

When he finally poured the first taste, we noted that the wine was from another winery. Five minutes later with a story about why he was pouring an out-of-state wine that he didn’t make, he asked us to try the next wine for him. He wasn’t sure how it would taste since it had been opened four days previously. Not good. So, we waited five more minutes while he went to the storage room to procure another bottle. And open it. And insert the pouring spout. Get the picture?

Now we’re at about 30 minutes and two of five pours. And another group came in that got his attention.


Fortunately (for us), he joined the new group at a table outside while another employee helped us limp through the final three tastes. As the wines were not wowing us, we noted that two of the three wines had been open over three days (the open date plainly marked on the label with a bold permanent marker).

As we were leaving, we heard him droning on about the winery’s story to the other group and noticed there were only empty glasses … and glazed-over looks.

What can we learn from this hostage situation?

  1. Get the wine in the glass within a minute or two of the guest’s arrival. You can pace the tastes as you go, but get them started right away.
  2. Tell your story as a part of the tasting experience—not as a monologue while you’re holding customers hostage for that next sip of wine.
  3. Don’t shame your customers—for anything—including liking sweet wines, not having visited specific wine regions or wineries, or not knowing the answer to your quiz questions.
  4. Be ready for prime time. When the doors open, it should be all systems go. This includes making sure your wines are still tasting well. If necessary, open fresh bottles before your customers arrive.

Will we ever return? No.

Will we recommend this tasting room to anyone? No.

Will we warn our friends? Yes. Friends don’t let friends be taken hostage.

Get the wine in the glass within a minute or two of the guest’s arrival. Share on X

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