A Few Notes On Tasting Rooms

Ξ April 5th, 2009 | → 3 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, Interviews, Wine News |

While at a group of wineries in Santa Cruz this Sunday I asked a number of randomly selected folks the single question: What was your worst tasting room experience? Nothing was particularly ’scientific’ about my method, obviously, or definitive about the responses I received. What was remarkable, however, was that the stories offered were spoken immediately, without hesitation. The names of the wineries were not solicited, though they were often volunteered, such was the sting of recollection. Customers develop very strong opinions and they hold onto them long after the poor experience has passed. They might not be able to recall their best experience but their worst is very near the surface.
Surprisingly, the first series of people spoke of tasting room difficulties in an equal number of California wine regions.
 
Below is a representative sample of complaints. It is important to note that two couples had no discouraging words at all.
 
Jennifer said, “About a year ago, a little more, late fall, it was a crowded tasting room. And we walked in and immediately felt we were the red-headed step-child. We felt looked at, treated like we didn’t count. We were pretty much ignored. The tasting room was not particularly fancy. It was awful being treated like dirt. (laughs) The wine was ok. We were dressed like everybody else. We might have looked a little younger than some of the other people who were there. It felt like we weren’t important. I would have walked out of there with a couple of bottles more. We did end up buying one or two only because we couldn’t help ourselves. But I would have walked out with more had they treated me better. And they didn’t! (laughs)”
 
Jeremy said, “It was our very first time. We were in Napa for our first anniversary. We decided to do a cycling tour of Napa and wine tasting along the way. So we pull up to the very first place. Of course, we were in lycra. It was a fancy smancy place and we were very intimidated, very inappropriately dressed, I think, for them. So we go in. I was so afraid that I don’t remember what the wines tasted like at all! And when we left I forgot, for whatever reason, to hook up my wife’s brakes on her bike. And so as we were going down the hill from the top of the winery to the road all of a sudden a shriek lets out. I realized what I had neglected to do. (laughs) Luckily she was able to stop! The rest of the trip went fabulously well. A very rough beginning!”
 
Monica said, “What I don’t like is a cold, blank, deserted, unfriendly room. It is not enjoyable at all. I like a place that’s fun, has a good atmosphere, good vibes, a lot of fun people, that makes all the difference. Obviously their wines should be of a certain potential and a certain temperature. The whites shouldn’t be too cold. You need people who pour to be knowledgeable, they have to be interested in the wine. When they tell you about the food the wine pairs with, it makes you happy. If they say they have recipes they can provide you with that go well with a wine, that makes people want to buy the wine.”
 
Laina said, “No names? O.K. The staff was just extremely rude. We walked out without even tasting anything. We had been there plenty of times, [...] up in Apple Hill, past Placerville. We go up there every Fall, every Thanksgiving weekend and we cut down our Christmas tree there. We walked in. We stood around. We waited and waited and waited. They looked at us a couple times and then just went on with the people already there. So we, after 10 minutes, we turned around and walked out. We’ve only been back once to show a friend. That’s about the only bad thing… and we don’t care for the Napa area. They’re all so snooty.”
 
Kira said, “A big winery in Napa that began with a ‘B’. (laughs) I didn’t care for the attitude. It was a little too much for me. So I walked out. Here and Paso Robles is great.”
 
Terry said, “Paso Robles is very enjoyable, to go down there and taste wine. It’s very laid back. But in the Santa Inez Valley things have changed since “The Movie”. Now you have to pay for tastings. We never paid for tastings before Sideways. Now you have to, especially at the wineries that were in the movie. [One winery] charges $8 to $10 a person! And only in some of them do you get your money back if you buy something. I don’t think that’s right.”
 
Diana said, “Being at a winery where they would not let us purchase the wine they were having us taste because we were not members of the wine club. We asked if they would ship it to us, so they asked us for our zip code. They said that since we were local so they would ship it, but had we been from a place they couldn’t ship to they would sell us a bottle. It was a little frustrating!”
 
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3 Responses to ' A Few Notes On Tasting Rooms '

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  1. Ed Zeigler said,

    on April 7th, 2009 at 6:14 am

    On September 10,2008 I submitted a
    book query to The Wine Appreciation
    Guild covering such snobbery and how
    to handle it. At first they were
    interested but eventually tradition
    snobbery won out and they decided
    they shouldn’t print it. Ed Zeigler

  2. Louis said,

    on April 8th, 2009 at 9:59 am

    There is a hard and fast rule in the restaurant business: If someone LOVES your restaurant, they may tell one or two people if asked about it. If someone HATES your restaurant, they will freely volunteer the information to anyone who will listen.

  3. Irene King said,

    on April 19th, 2009 at 7:06 am

    I’m linking this article to my site because it is rich in information. What a wonderful, if unofficial, survey! Love it!

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