"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.
“Seated-by appointment tastings” won’t work for every winery. I’ve experienced outstanding seated tastings at Quintessa and Domaine Chandon, both delivered a quality and memorable experience. However, I have also experienced a seated $25 tasting in a crowded Napa tasting room (which will remain nameless) with no dedicated service, leaving us to sip wine and catch up with our friends. The server routinely appeared at the appropriate time to pour the next wine, murmur something about it before leaving again. What should have been a brand-building experience was squandered and we felt no compulsion to make additional purchases.
For tasting rooms that depend on drive by visitor traffic, you may want to incorporate both a walk-in tasting and a seated tasting by reservation. This will have implications on how you utilize your space and staffing, not only in managing appointments as well as having staff available to host reservations.
Many wine visitors plan their visits to wine country while sitting at their computer. By adding a special experience, such as L’Ecole No. 41′s Friday afternoons Reserve Tastings ($30) or Northstar Winery‘s Blending Experience ($85) — both by reservation only,you can secure a visitor’s firm commitment to visit your venue before they arrive in town. Too often, I hear that visitors didn’t get to a certain winery because they ran out of time.
Many CA wineries are using Vino Visit to manage their reservations – third-party software that can be added for free to your winery website. The advantages are obvious, visitors can make appointments while they are planning their trip, you can offer multiple options and times plus capture their contact information including the always-important email for confirmation and driving directions. Requesting permission to add them to your mailing list is just a check box. By offering a “by-appointment” option, the hard work a winery does to create brand awareness can also drive more advance appointments resulting in increased customer data (CRM), brand engagement and revenue.
Jim, a commenter to Rob’s blog sums it up nicely:
"I am in the midst of designing the tasting room experience for our new tasting room at The Barlow in Sebastopol. We elected to go with a large number of seated tastings. Our focus is on the education of wine (in our case, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from cool weather climates) and the idea is to create a tasting where people are not rushed, will have an very educated staff member talk about the various components of this wine from dirt to glass, and share the “story” of our winery. The bond in the 45 mins to 1 hour tasting we create is not something that can be replicated in a stand at the bar format tasting room. With wines starting at $40 and up, it is very important to cater to those that can afford to buy your wine.
For walk ins or those that are new to our winery, we will have simple options for those that don’t have the time nor inclination to do a seated tasting. They may very well be your future wine buyers. The important thing is to treat everyone with great respect and leave them thinking about their next visit to our tasting room."
Read Rob McMillan’s complete post.