Exciting news that Betz Family Winery recently purchased 40 acres of vineyard land in the SeVein project near Seven Hills Vineyard in the Walla Walla AVA.
This notable Washington brand joins a prestigious group of wineries including Doubleback, Figgins, JM Cellars, Middleton and others. Read more about the SeVein Vineyards project here.
While we are preaching to the choir here in Washington, the more exciting news is that California (and others) are taking a long look at other wine-growing regions as the costs of Calfornia vineyard land increase and the ongoing drought continues.
Panelists at the 23rd Wine Industry Financial Symposium held in Napa this September, predicted that the Pacific Northwest is on its way to becoming “a hotbed of wine property sales,” reports Paul Franson in his article for Wines & Vines (09/2014).
Interestingly, (moderators) compared Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Walla Walla and Napa, and those from Walla Walla score slightly higher in Wine Spectator ratings but average about half the price.
This article was originally posted in June 24th, 2011. I have used these stories many times in my marketing classes to underscore how important the experience is to the perception of wine quality.
When you work in the hospitality side of the wine industry, you are always taking unofficial polls. It’s second nature and part of our banter to ask visitors “Which wineries did you visit?” I rarely have to pull teeth for more details and very quickly, I find out which wineries are taking care of their visitors and which ones are just phoning it in. And yes, wineries have off days just like the rest of us. But if the number of off days pile up, pretty soon, you will be scratching your head and asking your tasting room staff, “Where did they go?”
I often hear that wineries with the big reputations and/or fancy tasting rooms disappoint the most. True, the expectation from the visitor is elevated when they visit a storied label. They walk in your door and expect to have a wonderful experience and if it falls short, the harder the fall.
With today’s economic awareness, wine visitors want to be convinced why your wine is worth the $40, $50 or $80 you are asking. What they want to hear from you that the wine itself is worth the price tag and not just the fancy surroundings. Most importantly, they want to hear the passion for the product come through.
This piece was originally posted in July 2010. However, it is an excellent followup to last month's blog posting on customer service.
My winery clients usually give me a list of reasons why it is difficult to compete with their neighbors when it comes to selling wine through their tasting room. I hear that the other guy gets great scores or they have a rock star winemaker or a big fancy tasting room. To which I usually respond, “Balderdash!” or something a bit more colorful. Then I share what I have learned is the secret.
I spend a lot of time with tasting room visitors – not the kind of visitor information you get when you are working in the tasting room, but the real impressions that they leave with and will share with their friends. They are keen to share their candid opinions about the wines they tasted, but more importantly, they want to talk about the experience they had and the aspects they liked and what they didn’t like.
What makes great customer service? Certainly, customers know it when they get it. These are the stories they tell their friends and post on social media. The bad news is that when they don’t get the service they expect, they are telling even more people. And their friends are listening!
Unhappy customers are out the door and on their devices telling their world about your winery. Many times, there are no “do-overs” – you get just one shot to get it right.
If you saw a $10 bill on the floor, would you stop to pick it up? Of course you would. Then, why as a winery owner, are you letting possible future customers walk out of your tasting room without asking them for their email address so you can stay in touch with them? Have you asked them to follow you on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook?
At a dinner party recently, a 50ish well-dressed woman remarked, “When we go to local tasting rooms, the staff tells us all about their wines but no one asks us to make a purchase, nor do they tell us about their wine club.”
With all the challenges we face these days in keeping our businesses vibrant and expanding our market share, tasting room visitors have already shown they have an interest in your wine and are literally standing on your door step. So why are we not inviting our customers to do business with us and to stay in touch with our brand?
If you think that your tasting room needs a reminder on these points, do yourself a favor and record where you are today. On a simple excel spreadsheet, record last month’s visitor traffic and the number of wine club members and email addresses you have. Now each month, update this report. Within a month, you will see a correlation between your number of visitors to your tasting room’s efforts to improve both these stats. We will discuss qualifying visitors in another post.
Why is this important? Without measuring your efforts, you won’t know how diligently your tasting room staff is working on selling your most important product ~ your brand.
Every May, I eagerly look for The Silicon Valley Bank/Wine Business Monthly Tasting Room Survey in WBM’s magazine. Fortunately, they have released some info early as a teaser. Rob McMillan, executive vice president and founder of Silicon Valley Bank’s wine division, writes the Silicon Valley Bank Wine Blog and shares tantalizing insights in his most recent column.
"The average wine purchase in a tasting room that employs a private or formal tasting, is more than double the purchase of that made in a standing Tasting Bar. (see charts below)"
We have a number of “by-appointment” tastings in the Walla Walla Valley. Some wineries offer private sessions while others are small group tastings – both versions often include a tour and barrel sampling, along with the guided tasting. Only a few wineries offer seated tastings, Doubleback and Long Shadows stand out in this area.
In some cases, there may be zoning restrictions that require a “by appointment only” strategy. However, for Long Shadows Vintners ($15 & $30), Reynvaan, Doubleback, Figgins (mailing list is still open) Garrison Creek, Rasa and Corliss Estates, “by appointment only” also coincides with their brand marketing of exclusivity.
As an innkeeper (my other hat), I make these appointments for my guests who unfailingly purchase and report back that these are now the standout wineries of their visit.
January and February have traditionally been the cruelest months for wine club managers. Right after the holidays, the credit card bills arrive and every year, club cancel rates soar for about a six week period.
High club attrition rates after the holidays have become part of the new landscape. In spite of the challenges, wineries need to take proactive steps to curb the drop in their memberships. It is time to remind your tasting room staff how to perfect the save using great customer service and flexibility.
Here are four ways to retain members:
For the past 15 or so years, successful wineries have developed a loyal customer base of Matures (now 68 years-of-age and older) and Baby Boomers (49-67) and have found it fairly easy to engage with their core consumers. After all, these are the generations that adopted wine in their lifestyle early and have had the disposable income to support that consumption.