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Newsletter April 2013

Making the Most of Recommendations


Visit us on the web at or call us at 866.453.9701 Tasting Room News
  A newsletter for managers of tasting rooms, wine clubs and DTC wine sales
  April 1, 2013
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WISE Bites   Tasting Rooms in the Flesh
Making the Most of Recommendations   Varietal Tasting Events

When we think about boosting our tasting room sales, we often imagine increasing the number of individuals coming through our winery doors. But does more traffic equal more sales? Surprisingly, more traffic can actually decrease sales if the tasting room is not properly staffed and customers referred to your winery leave with a bad impression.

  The Zinfandel Advocates and Producers’ Epicuria Food & Zins pairing is an annual event held the Thursday evening before the Grand Tasting in San Francisco. It is an epicurean delight, and Thomas Ulrich wrote a very enlightening article that can be found here.
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"WISE Bites" continued   "Tasting Rooms in the Flesh" continued

One first step is to understand how your customers are hearing about you. (Track this information and attach it to their customer records.) Where do they stay when they visit? What other wineries do they visit? Where are they coming from? If you know where your customers are coming from, you can create marketing programs around these referral sources.

How can we track where guests heard about your winery/tasting room?

Look for (or create) a field asking, “How did you hear about us?” Include this question on your:

• Daily sheet with list of primary referrers
• Wine club enrollment form
• Mailing list enrollment form
• Order form
• Point of service: Ask at check-out and attach to customer record. Train your staff to track this information. It could be as easy as making a checkmark to indicate the source.

So, how can we drive traffic?

Once you find your top referral sources (by tracking which sources send the most customers), you’ll need to educate them as well as build and manage the relationships—especially for your top influencers.

Two of the most popular ways to drive traffic include gatekeeper-relations programs or online outreach programs (website, social media, email marketing, etc.)

(1) Gatekeeper-relations programs might include: thank-you notes, pizza on Friday evenings for front desk staff or limo drivers, VIP tastings for key referrers, unique offers for guests and/or tastings at hotels and B&Bs, trainings at local restaurants, offering a relaxing place for limo drivers to wait for guests, scheduling regular “special events” at the winery for the gatekeepers to sell, etc.

(2) Online Marketing (excluding advertising) might include:
• Your website: enticing description of the experience, wines, hours and location, tour and tasting options, pricing, destination reviews, reservation and/or request form, easy “Visit Us” access and contact information;
• Use Google Analytics to see where referrals are coming from;
• Email marketing: consumers and gatekeepers! Events, special offers available at tasting room with new releases, clear call to action, photos, location, map, phone, email address, etc.; email marketing program for first-time buyers;
• Social media: wine and travel blogs, Yelp!, TripAdvisor, photos on Flickr, videos on YouTube, rewards program for following, referral programs, etc.

Just remember, while it’s important to focus on attracting new customers, you also need to understand the optimal volume of traffic for your space, staff and guest experience. By calculating the ratio of visitors to staff during the days with the highest revenue and order conversions, average order, club conversions and data conversions, you can identify optimal staffing—and types of experiences—for the tasting room each day.


Knowledge is Everything

• Thanks to the economy and the work of tasting room and wine club employees, the direct-to-consumer business is thriving in North America. Go here to find out more.

• Another link that should be of interest to you is the job index for the North American wine industry. See it here

• Wine temperature at serving time makes a big difference. Washington State University published an interesting article about their experiment. You can find the article here.

Paso Robles: Tasting Rooms

Daou Winery: The Monday following Zin Fest and before the WiVi Central Coast Trade Show I visited a few Paso Robles wineries and tasting rooms. Daou Vineyards is a breathtaking example of what architectural vision (and lots of money) can do to create a wine estate work of art at 2,200 feet on the west hills of Paso Robles. Not everyone can have an onyx bar, but it is spectacular and memorable.


Adelaida Cellars: The epitome of professionalism and experience was found at Adelaida Cellars, where Tony Hermann was managing the tasting room. Tony has been a pro in this business for years, and he knows how to enhance the tasting experience by pointing out the vineyard locations, varietals, micro-climates, clones, etc. Do you have a photo/map of your estate vineyards? Can you describe the differences in vineyard microclimate and the effect on grapes?


Turley Wine Cellars: If you are a Zin fan you know Helen Turley. The family of the “queen” of big Zins has a beautiful winery on the west side of Paso Robles. Malani Anderson took over the tasting room when I arrived and did a great job presenting the over-the-top and iconic Turley wines with enthusiasm and friendliness. It was a great experience.


Sextant Wines: Do you want to meet one of the best hospitality directors in the wine business? Then enter the Sextant Wines tasting room and introduce yourself to Amy Griffith. Her experience in the airline industry shows in her smile and attention to what will make the visitor comfortable. The environment was also spectacular, and the special VIP tasting salon (overlooking the crush pad and the expansive view beyond) was filled with deep armchairs and even a self-dispensing wine system. The visit was extremely enjoyable, and when winemaker Steve Martell showed up with a couple of cooperage companies owners, it made the perfect souvenir.


After the Good/Great, the Bad: While not mentioning the name, I was extremely disappointed by the attitude of a winery when I asked if they would give me some kind of industry discount as I wanted to enter three of their wines in a blind tasting event (and send them the results). The extremely kind part-time person, covering from the adjacent Farmstand 46, went to ask someone inside the office and came out and apologetically said: “Sorry, no discount…per the lady in charge of events.” Shame on you for not even coming out in person to explain why.

Rutherford “Dust”

A tasting room experience for an iconic winery: I am not cheap, but paying $75 for a “tasting” is steep. But, I thought, since I would expense it, why not? The reservation was made via the Staglin website for a Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. I admit that I was negatively biased due to the price, but I’ll eat my hat. What a great tour for 90 minutes with a great Chardonnay tasting to start, the history of the winery, a tour of the vineyards, tour of the caves and crush pad, and finish with the Rutherford “Dust” red wines. Becky Bailey, a long-time Napa Valley resident, made the entire experience one of the best I ever had. Even I, with my big mouth, could not add anything to her detailed and anecdotal comments. Thank you Becky for rekindling the “Cult Wine” fire.

Tasting Room market

What’s new to sell: Do you want to share some unusual products that are successfully being sold in your tasting room? Please send ideas to We will send you a free subscription to Wines & Vines monthly magazine in exchange for your published input…

Source: WISE Academy,

Please send suggestions to

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.


Newsletter Archive    
March 2013 February 2013   January 2013 December 2012
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