Hire Nice and Teach Wine—Case in Point

Last October, I wrote a blog post called “Hire Nice, and Teach Wine,” and last week, I saw this principle work beautifully in action. In a time when every single guest to your tasting room will either help make or break you, it’s even more important to hire nice, teach wine—AND teach hospitality!

In the past, we’ve had three levers to rely on to spur our success:

  1. Average order price
  2. Conversion rate
  3. Traffic

With tasting room traffic severely impacted since March and little sign of recovery soon, we have to focus on increasing average orders and upping the conversion rates. And—I might add—paying extra-special attention to current and past wine club members. They are your secret marketing weapon, and they provide a guaranteed source of regular income.

With most wineries requiring online reservations, we now have a new tool to lean into. We know who’s coming and when! This is especially helpful when serving wine club members. By keeping good notes on wine club members as well as frequent guests, savvy operations will make sure to alert their team that, for example, “Chris Cook and a guest are coming in at 3 pm today. She’s in the industry as well as a member. Last year, she purchased 12 cases of wine in addition to her quarterly three-bottle allocations. Mostly Chardonnay, Grenache Rosé, Pinot Noir, and Syrah.”

Given that knowledge, how will you make sure my tasting room experience surprises and delights me? (And what other information would have been helpful to have collected? City of residence? Spouse? Profession? …)

So, other than having that kind of intelligence to lean into, what are the hallmarks of a great tasting room experience? I’ll use my recent visit to illustrate.

1) A warm welcome & quick connection

We were greeted by name enthusiastically at the door and given a nice splash of a new release of the estate Chardonnay before being led to our table. Within moments, our wine ambassador arrived with water and menus and proceeded to lay out our wine and food options.

2) Effective listening & observation

Upon our ambassador’s timely return, his acute listening skill and generous hospitality kicked in. He seemed to anticipate our needs even before we knew them! He engaged—just enough. He asked questions so he could provide suggestions—just enough. He provided information on the wines—just enough. (And by overhearing him with other guests, it was clear that he remembered that everyone’s “just enough” is different.)

3) Tailoring & telling the story

When it came to telling the brand story—a critical step for every visit—he mostly skipped the basics as we were already wine club members but provided some content around the new vintages and the winemakers’ intentions. Once again, the material was tailored to our current knowledge and interest.

4) Surprise & wow

To our delight, we were checked in on and made to feel special throughout our visit by the owner, the tasting room manager, and even the chef. Guests love that special connection with owners, winemakers, chefs, and others “in the know.” If we had been considering dropping this particular wine club, this recent experience erased that notion.

5) Until next time

Based on our preferences and the ambassador’s recommendations, we left with a mixed case consisting of the three wines we most enjoyed from the new release. We were surprised to find a beautifully produced gift guide tucked inside that featured lovely photography, design, and carefully curated gift packages enticing us to give and get—the holidays are almost here!

Other ideas include:

  • Helping your guests put together a special case of wine for a gift, as a way to remember the visit, or for enjoying in their vacation home.
  • Offering to continue guest engagement via an email where they can choose to opt in to receive communication about upcoming special events (education, culinary, winemaking, etc.). This is your opportunity to thank them for visiting and create offers where they will WANT to opt in to.
  • For guests who were highly engaged, invite them to join the wine club—explaining that the wines offered to the club are not widely available … or are allocated … or special, depending on the situation.
  • For other guests, you can still share the wine club brochure but do so casually with the offer to answer any questions.
  • Always have a special wine to taste at the end of the visit. This makes people feel like they got a little something special and can be the icing on the cake.


We later learned that our wonderful wine ambassador had very little knowledge about wine—or the service industry—prior to being hired. But he had a great personality, loved people, and had the desire to learn about wine and how to provide a memorable guest experience. Kudos to him and the tasting room manager!

What Are Others Doing?

Find out by completing the 20th Annual Silicon Valley Bank Winery Conditions Survey, after which you will receive a report on business conditions sorted by region, average bottle price, time in business, and other filters. This is designed to give participants an accurate read of the current industry—all gratis to participants.

The survey will be open until October 30. It takes about 15 minutes to complete.

As a survey participant, you get the full anonymous results, top-level analysis, and relevant charts. Note that the full results are distributed ONLY to those who complete the survey. Make sure your region is represented and can extrapolate meaningful data.

Below are charts from the early results.

2020 Business Success Results

2020 Business Success Results

Sales Channel Weighting Chart

Sales Channel Weighting

Survey Participation Chart

Survey Participation

For more information, contact me at chris@capiche.wine or 541.601.0114. Let’s find the best ways for YOUR winery to pull levers and increase profits.

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