|Ulises Valdez started out growing great grapes. He hired a great winemaker, got advice from great consulting winemakers and opened a small tasting room outside the prime tourist areas of Sonoma County, Calif. Recently Valdez took the business a step further, opening a new tasting room for his Valdez Family Winery in the center of the quaint—and tourist-friendly—wine country town of Healdsburg, Calif. The progression bears the mark of years of hard work and smart decisions. Congratulations to the entire Valdez family.
• Matt from High Peaks Winery in North Lawrence, N.Y., has been selling Vino2Go Wine Sippy Cups. Contact him at email@example.com, or visit the manufacturer’s website.
• Wine Appreciation Guild sells a variety of personalized corkscrews. See the selection in their catalog.
• If you’re interested in pairing French-inspired foods like saucissons and pâtés with your wines, Fabrique Delices of San Francisco, Calif., ships all over the United States and can help you choose the perfect pairing. See their products here.
Sean Tevik, marketing director for Valdez Family Winery, is a knowledgeable host.
Ulises and Adelina Valdez show off their new tasting room in Healdsburg, Calif.
Knowledge is everything
Thanks to the economy and the work of tasting room and wine club managers and employees, the direct-to-consumer wine business is thriving in North America. Read more about DtC sales in the Wall Street Journal and Wines & Vines.
125 years of V. Sattui
V. Sattui Winery is located on the south side of St. Helena and has extensive picnic grounds that seem to be full of visitors no matter the season. The deli qualifies as a first-class store by itself, and the four or six cash registers keep ringing all day long. V. Sattui wines are only served at the tasting room, and the sheer number of them require that visitors stay for a while. The winery’s success comes form making it a destination where you can linger for hours.
V. Sattui's gourmet deli does more business than most high-end grocery stores.
The main tasting room bar goes all the way around to accommodate the maximum number of visitors.
The picnic grounds stay busy all year.
Multi-Winery Tasting Rooms:
Does it pay to share?
The good: Economy of scale is a plus for sellers, and having a multi-wine experience for visitors attracts a larger variety of people. The not as good: It’s tough not to be competitive when your competition is standing right next to you. Tasting room staff may be biased toward one winery vs. the others. And are there too many wines to taste?
• Family Wineries of Dry Creek: One or two tasting room attendants cater to the customers of six wineries under one roof. The set up is nice, and many of the wines are similar and yet different. With so many wines to choose from, managers created a tasting sheet to keep tasters under control. The wines are served in the order prescribed by the staff, and the number of wines to taste is limited to six.
The tasting sheet is filled out, and the wines are already numbered to follow a logical sequence.
• Locals (Geyserville): Ten wineries are represented under one small roof in the tiny northern Sonoma County town of Geyserville.
The tasting room bar at Locals is homey and inviting.
The tasting sheet is organized by varietal and doubles as an order form.
Question answered (hopefully)
John Nunes, owner of Newport Vineyards & Winery asks: “Should the tasting room staff wear nametags? Do most wineries that you visit use nametags for the staff?”
Since the tasting room is the heart of hospitality for a winery’s direct-to-consumer business, a nametag (engraved with first and last name, and the name of the winery) gives a sense of professionalism and continuity that makes visitors feel secure and comfortable. Knowing the name of the person hosting them makes customers feel they are having a more personal—and therefore more memorable—experience. Nametags that are hand-written on paper labels, on the other hand, give the impression that the host could be temporary and less knowledgeable. From the host/winery employee point of view, the professional nametag gives legitimacy to the job and therefore more company pride.
Please send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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.