I had some friends from the Midwest in Northern California over the past week. These are wine savvy people who were looking for some wineries to visit. They wanted a variety of experiences and so they and I chose many different types of wineries in both Napa and Sonoma to visit.
Overall their experiences at the 12 – 15 wineries they visited were good, with the majority of the people in the different hospitality centers being pleasant and cheerful. The one thing they noticed at every winery they went to is that no-one (let me repeat – no-one) tried to sell them anything, not even in the mildest way.
In some wineries, they thoroughly enjoyed their tastings and loved the wine but were given no written information on the wine and by the end of the tasting were not sure which wines they had tasted and which ones they liked the best. It was especially confusing when they were tasting different examples of the same varietal. After you have had five Pinots (for example) it’s hard to remember which one was which. And no one offered to help them choose wines to take home with them.
The other thing that struck them was that it was hard to get some of the hospitality employees off their favorite topic. In more than one case the winery employee started talking about a certain topic (soils, wine & food pairing or something wine or grape related that was close to his/her heart) and it was almost impossible, without being rude, for my friends to ask questions or move onto a different topic. In addition, they were asked very few questions about themselves or their wine tastes, though they were given lots of information, most of which they didn’t remember by the time they got to the car.
As it is early in the year and tasting rooms around North America are slower than usual, now is a great time to get the staff together to talk about customer service, sales and how to treat the customers. I will be sending my Midwest Spies and others out again to do more research, and as they live in the Midwest you don’t know what wine region they might turn up in.