The Wine BizCast, Episode 1: Tasting Room Experience
By Courtney Holmes
The Wine BizCast: Tasting Room Experience
This is our first episode! We hope you enjoy. In this episode we share best practices for growing direct to consumer sales and wine club memberships via your tasting room. We drink wine, talk the dark art of serving to tasters, debate best practices for growing your wine business via the tasting room and gush over our favorite tasting room experiences.
This episode was recorded via Google Hangouts, the technology is still behind at some points, just a slight delay 3 or 4 times. And Augie, my 3 year old mutt makes an appearance as well. We hope to get the kinks out by the 2nd episode - I hereby vow to not talk as loud and to slow down my speech! Again, hope you enjoy the show!
Courtney: So hi and welcome to our first show of The Wine BizCast where w share ideas and learn from each other and just make the wine business community so much better. Today we have a group of panelist and I’m going to go ahead and let Hillarie introduce herself first.
Hillarie: Hi everybody my name is Hilarie Larson and I’m a certified specialist of wine and wine educator specializing in the wine industry. I work out of Temecula in Southern California wine country which is a really busy place right now as harvest is in full swing, always a very exciting time of year. The name of my company is NorthWind Wine Consulting and I’ve been in the wine business for about 10 years now starting out as a tasting room server and come a little bit of a long way since then. What I’m drinking is red which is kind of strange because it's definitely a white or rosé day today but it is one of our small local wineries called Lorenz Estate and its their heritage rent and its merlot cab with a little bit of zinfandel, all from Temecula vineyards. Cheers.
Courtney: And Jeff how about you introduce yourself?
Jeff: good afternoon everyone, my name is Jeff Butler and I’m the director of marketing and sales for Brander Vineyards in Santa Ynez, California. We’ve been here for about 38 years and we specialize primarily into sauvignon blank although we make Bordeaux style reds as well. I personally been in the wine business for about ten years , I have managed vineyards, made for a number of wineries and now I’ve shifted to the sales marketing side and I’m extremely glad to be here. Like you Hilarie we are just starting harvest , we've picked about ten tons of sauvignon blanc today and its about 103 degrees so we are off to the races . It’s going to be a very busy, busy September for us.
I’m drinking the 2011 sauvignon blanc reserved which is 100% sauvignon blanc , receives 24 hours in skin contact and again it’s one of our reserved level sauvignon blanc. So cheers.
Sandra: Thanks Courtney. Sandra Hass, founder of Direct Consumer Wine Workshops. I specialize in helping wineries grow their DTC business. I have a technical and sales marketing background that I combined to write recommendations around best practises in wine sales. Today I’m drinking the 2012 sauvignon Blanc from J Lohr. it’s one of my favourites wines so far this summer and I look forward to participating in today’s call .
Courtney: I am the host and moderator and my company is Talk is Sheep Marketing and we are a design and marketing firm for the wine industry focusing on wine website design , label design and internet marketing . Today we're talking about a topic that I’m not so familiar with, today's talk is about experiences as a taster and I wanted to learn from the experts so I can be more valuable to my clients and wine business community. Today I’m drinking, I don’t know if everybody has heard of this , there’s been a lot of different companies pop up in the industry for this but its Lot 18 which is a website wine club program where it’s like a Pandora for a wine club . They send me wines and I go online and rate them according to my palate and then they send me a new shipment every quarter. Right now I’m drinking this wine from Walla Walla, Washington. It's the Columbia Valley Myth Maker and it looks like it’s a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. I’m going to go I ahead and jump into the first question and again like we said it’s a tasting room experience and I go into wineries all the time and I’m always kind of studying them, seeing what they are doing to convert. So I’m used to the internet world where we are always measuring conversion and one of the conversions that are online that can be a equated for offline is email contact information or any kind of contact information and so I want to talk to the panellist today and see what they have seen has been the most successful ways for collecting contact information from their tasters so that they can remarket to the tasters later on and maybe promote their wine club or future sales and events . I’m going to go backwards now and let Sandra speak first.
Sandra: Thanks Courtney. You know this past year we've seen a lot of growth in the mobile POS technology and some wineries that have been working with have seen some great advantages and being able to have more meaningful conversations in the tasting room and getting outside of that tasting bar and actually sitting down and having a conversation that is very educational and informative with visitors and members and that also allows a lot of opportunities for opt in services , whether it’s a club membership or maybe a shipping incentive. Understanding where visitors are coming from and encouraging those visitors to join a mailing list to receive their first shipment at a promo. That’s something I see working really well and have the ability to stay connected with the customer post visit has increased.
Courtney: What specifically are they doing? You’re saying they’re giving them an incentive? A discount or upsell? What are they doing to really get the contact information? When you say contact information are you saying email, are you saying phone number? What do you constitute as contact information?
Sandra: At the bare minimum email and phone number, shipping state and city. From there the opt in piece is most important, a lot of times traditionally tasting room thinks about going in and converting the taster into a member and instead of making that big leap why don’t just ask them questions first of all to understand where they are coming from , maybe just offer that simple incentive to keep them connected and coming back .
Courtney: It sounds like you're saying to have a closer engagement with them in the tasting room and then an opt in offer you were saying.
Sandra: Opt in offer , just getting them really connected to you by really being able to educate more around your brand, ask them questions that are more important about their taste and preferences. Sometimes you will find out early on that they are already a member of five wine clubs so you don’t want to go so much the wine club route but maybe invite them back for a special event or get the hooked on a shipment promo .
Courtney: I just went to Scribe Winery and to another couple tasting rooms in Sonoma last weekend and it was definitely more an intimate experience that I’m seeing , I don’t know if it’s a trend. Jeff what have you seen as a Brander Vineyard that are really great at capturing contact information to remarket to later to your tasters?
Jeff: Sure, thanks Courtney. We have the benefit of having an intimate tasting room and on a busy weekend, for example we have staffed for somewhere around 115 -200 guests. So we have a very busy tasting room and we've actually gone , we've tried a number of different techniques and methodologies for capturing initial data . By the way we have found that simple name, email address , phone number and zip code allows us to drill down and developed demographic information without being brutally invasive . We have tried lots of different techniques but really our current thinking is that the simplest method is best. So we simply have half a dozen, professionally printed sheet pads on the tasting room bar and they have a field for name, email address, phone number and zip codes. That’s great because it’s easy , its accessible, it doesn’t feel invasive and importantly our staff is so busy on busy weekend days that literally we don’t have time to do real time data entry . What we'll do is Sunday night or Monday morning we'll come back and enter those 50 or 60 or 75 that we have captured and that allows us to take a look at them and make sure they are correct and legible . For us that’s been just a great way to increase the size of our email list in a relatively friction free way.
Courtney: You’re opting for more of a passive approach
Jeff: Precisely. We’ve done a lot of things. We’ve offered incentives to tasting room staff, to request contact form from various guest. Then again that seems to confuse the sales proposition. Someone who comes in to taste they really don’t want to be pitched anything else. We like to focus on the actually tasting experience. for us , it feels like it is , even though is a bit more passive and it may not generate quite the same number of contact per day we feel it’s a little bit in line with overall aesthetic of providing a kind of a high quality relaxed, guest experience.
Courtney: I've heard of different techniques. I’ve heard of making the pourer get a $1 for every email they get I’ve heard people doing that . Like I said I study what different people are doing and I notice when I went to CakeBread Cellars I actually wrote a blog post about it , they pitched it without really pitching . They had their own kind of tasting room process and then they mentioned pick up their brochure they kept saying that , maybe two or three times throughout the 45 minute tasting and then they also had mentioned this is our special vintage, this is only available to wine club members . It’s kind of subtly saying there are these extra incentives for the wine club that you don’t get otherwise. Hilarie what have you seen is successful?
Hilarie: For collecting contact information?
Hilarie: Basically I tend to like that more passive approach especially in that very busy tasting room environment. Just having collateral on the counter. Maybe a postcard that they can fill out , asking for their comments and with their comments you also collect their email address, name , state and whatever information you want to glean from them . That way they can do it at their leisure. Again no pressure. for wine clubs again having that collateral on the counter that the server can just point to or having printing tasting notes so that your web address is on there , drives them to your website and there they can sign up for an email newsletter , special promotions . You really have to give them a reason to give them your information. Having those little special things for those people that goes to your website and sign up for, maybe special shipping discounts or holiday promotions or end of vintage sales things like that really seem to work very well.
Courtney: Thank you Hilarie. I would like to go back to Sandra because I know she worked in the technology side. Do you think there is maybe some certain things that you're seeing doing tasting rooms? Like having an Ipad out there? Maybe having people sign up on Ipads? Have you seen that working better? What are your thoughts?
Sandra: It really depends on the brand and <INAUDIBLE> with a higher end technology and tasting experience. What I’m seeing with that is sitting down being able to set a reservation up, set time with the group to really provide the educational experience and then with the Ipad, the mobile point of sale, with a slide of a card you are able to understand how much they have purchased in the past, their last visit and then offering again those opt in services with a click of a button. I think that luxury brand wine labels are seeing the need to look at other luxury brands outside of the wine space and become a little bit more completive in that arena.
Courtney: You broke up a little bit there but what I think you were saying was with this Ipad applications that the pourer or the taste room staff is able to not just gather information but kind of know more information about the taster that is right there in front of them .
Sandra: correct. They are able to have more meaningful conversations.
Courtney: That’s amazing. I love that. What has been and this goes hand in hand with collecting the information in the tasting room but what have you seen, what has seen as the best, the most successful ways for growing wine club memberships? I’ll go ahead and I’ll go backwards and I want Jeff. What do you see working at different wineries that has been successful or maybe even unsuccessful for growing a wine club?
Jeff: We keep a very large stack of unmarked fifties behind the counters for these people. in all seriousness I think the art of the wine club sale is kind of a black art indeed and I think that anyone who has worked in a tasting room for any length of time , say 3 or 4 months, can pretty quickly ascertain whether a guest is a prospect for joining a wine club . I think first of all it’s incredibly important to train your staff to grow. At least in the context of face to face tasting room sales. Clearly in the context of social media and the digital format is a very different story. In one and one context you should train your staff and make sure you retain very good staff who can differentiate between prospect wine club members and those who are just into buying a glass of wine or bottle wine . I think that’s extremely important. With that said we do a few things, we offer across the board a 20% discount for our wine club members but to sweeten the pot we also offer a 30% discount on all wine sales on the day you sign up. Basically there is a little bit of extra incentive when you sign up, which is nice.
Then again we are fortunate because we have this estate, vineyard property. We host four or five or six times per year for wine club pick up parties, wine club member only parties. For example in two weeks we're going to have the Greek Fall wine club pick up party which has become somewhat legendary. In <INAUDIBLE> we tend to open a bunch <INAUDIBLE> back 1986 or something. We will have music, we will have food and it turns into a half day party basically. That really has become a fairly significant event on a lot of people social calendar. They look out for the spring and fall pick up parties. That’s a real big incentive that a lot of people love.
Finally, although we are primarily focused on serving sauvignon Blanc and a significant portion of our production is our base sauvignon Blanc, we are in the position to do a lot of small wines. For example right now we have a 25 case production <INAUDIBLE> and they were only to our reserved wine club members. Being part of that reserved club gives that member entree to this rich assortment of wines that are literally not available to anyone else, anywhere. Once we have trained our staff to pitch that in a relatively, remind, none pushy way we tend to find that the wine club frequently sells itself to those who are genuinely interested.
Courtney : Right and I told you this show is about agreeing and disagreeing but you’re saying that having good wine club benefits is what grows your wine club but all wine clubs discounts, they all have special wine they give their wine club members, they all have events., not all I’ve seen some wineries that don’t have events and that just shocks me . If I were to nit pick you more are, you saying that you offer a higher discounts or you events that are really amazing?
Jeff: This is a really great question and I’m glad you asked that and I appreciate you pushing me on this because I didn’t really answer the question . I think really if you come down to it wine is about passion , it’s an aspirational beverage , it’s an aspirational purchase , it’s for luxury . Frankly for most folks, most people who become winery club members develop an emotional attachment to a winery for whatever reason. Frankly at this point in 2013 it is really difficult to buy a technically flawed wine made in the state of California. There are now many thousands of wineries here and many of them make serviceable sauvignon Blanc. Why a customer would chose to become a member of a Brander's wine club? Probably it’s because they fell in love with a bottle of wine during a dinner party with a friend , a friend recommended it to them or because they came into the tasting room, they had a great customer service experience with knowledgeable staff , they saw our vineyard and they again developed an emotional attachment which lead them to complete the sales proposition for themselves.
I really think it’s not so much about the specific details and benefits. I think really it’s about overall branding and marketing and allowing guest and customers to develop that emotional attachment in a way that will reinforce directly into wine club sales .
Courtney: Yes you got me right there. Hilarie this is what you do right? So tell us about what you think makes a successful wine club.
Hilarie: I liked the comment about the emotional attachment because and your question where everybody has an event and everybody offers free tasting and discounts and so on so what can you do to set yourself apart. That made me smile inside when I heard you talk about a well-educated staff . It’s not just well educated staff which is incredibly important because if your staff isn’t able to talk about the wines and your brand and your winery story and make that guest feel comfortable and feel part of the family so to speak they’re not going to want to join your wine club , they're going to want to join the wine club down the road or in your next wine growing area. If you educate your staff so that they don’t have to do the hard sale, they don’t have to be a used car sales man. I run into that all the time , I would be doing a seminar on sales and service and people would say I don’t like to sell it makes me feel uncomfortable but really you're just selling something that those people already like to start with otherwise they wouldn’t be there, they wouldn’t be spending their afternoon at your establishment and also educating you're wine club members . That’s a wonderful thing to offer them. having special seminars for wine club members no only about your wines and doing taste comparisons of say sauvignon blanc with sauvignon blanc from Sancerre and another sauvignon blanc from Bordeaux and one from maybe Australia. Really expanding their palettes, expanding their world wine view, it’s a wonderful gift you can give to your wine club members as well as to your staff. It also helps you to retain your members, we are always talking about how do you get people to join your wine club but sometimes it’s a lot harder to keep them in your wine club than it is to get them in there in the first place. All those little personal perks and with the beautiful software that is available nowadays you can be advised when it’s somebody birthday or anniversary and you can send them a little card. You can do personal things that make them realize that they are not just an afterthought that you still care about them after they have got their two shipments of wine. There is lots of thing you can offer to your wine club members in that regard.
Courtney: So you’re saying education, learning about wine in general and not just about the winery's wine, showing that you care. I think it’s kind of a community.
Hilarie: It is and that’s the part of belonging. We get upset if our family member forgets to send you a holiday or Christmas card. When you get on in a nice little token gift from your wine club it’s a really nice feeling, it makes you feel a little bit special and that’s something we all enjoy feeling.
Courtney: We just joined our second wine club. We're new to California so my husband we joined our second wine club and my husband he was the one that was telling me before we got there that he wanted to join and I think it’s mainly about branding and I think that this is funny , we joined Sribe Winery . Scribe Winery is sort of known as the hipster winery and I think we're young, we're 32 and it’s totally what we call crunchy granola’s. It’s up on the hill and it was so nice and even the decor is very minimalist and just has a nice sort of aesthetic to it but also the fact that they have a garden on the property and so when we sit down for the tasting on picnic table the taster comes to us and so she not only serves the wine but she also serves a tasting of different foods from the garden . Just the kind of things that people from my generation and my type of community really care about which is organic, local and straight form the source sort of thing. I just thought my husband wanted to join not because of the wine , he didn’t even taste the wine, he just wanted to be part of that community. Then they had this great story that talked about the history of the land and these original farmers who had the vineyard on their farm 150 years ago and now there's two brothers that own it now and it was just a nicely crafted story that they told though the tasting process and their marketing collateral and on their website. I just thought it as beautiful. So all wineries have a story but I think if they can tell it well and have a taster identify with it they are not all going to identify with it then that’s probably a good part of what’s going to keep somebody to be a part of a wine club and continue to be a part of the wine club
Let’s talk to the expert here, Sandra. What have you seen as one of the most successful ways or growing wine clubs?
Sandra: I really appreciate Jeff’s perspective, Hilarie and also Courtney you nailed it when you talked about the millennial and the age range. With Scribe I think that I’m seeing a lot of diversity when it comes to wine club, I’m seeing the 1.5 million case producer let’s take j Lohr, where they are doing great on the trade side ,they are in every grocery store but you know what they do really well? They take care of their wine club members. Twenty years later they have a phenomenal wine club and they are very loyal fans. So they are upping their game constantly when it comes to their events, they are getting creative and they are looking at how their customers really are now versus 20 years ago and they are constantly re-evaluating and making the event fun.
One other point I want to make about wine club and this goes to understanding your guest before they arrive at an event. One of my clients out in Sonoma they have club members that come every year from outer state for their club event because it’s that awesome and because it’s a reunion. They make it a point to really understand who is showing up for the event and to have their entire family and staff available to have those personal conversations, as many as possible during that event and so it really is a reunion feeling. I think it will really range whether you are an up and coming new winery who is getting creative and offering some really fun new events or if you’re an older brands who is all about maintaining that relationship.
Courtney: I just thought about an idea about this whole reunion thing that is a great way to retain members. You know if you joined us for five years then they are a part of a five year members, that’s smart. Hilarie this one is for you, certain wineries they have reservations required because of permitting issue but some of them have reservations because they want that intimate experience but I also wonder though do reservations, do you think that they create a better experience for the taster or do you think they're detractors sometimes from people visiting the tasting room ?
Hilarie: I don’t think they are a detraction. I think it’s an asset for both sides, for the guest and also for the server. Servers love nothing better than to be actually able to interact and talk about the wine. It really gets monotonous if you just keep pouring and don’t really say too much. So to have people that are having sit down reserve tastings, they're obviously doing that because they really love wine, they are interested, they are engaged, they want to learn about the wines and it makes it a better experience of everybody and especially in tasting rooms where you have crazy, busy days or times of years. The reservations are a wonderful way to encourage people to come even if they don’t like big crowds, if they know they can make a reservation and sit in quieter section and get more one on one service it will encourage them to come to your winery even during high season.
Some people on the other hand love the party atmosphere of a really busy tasting room. For them to walk in and snuggle in, in that contact sport of tasting room antics, is what they are looking for. I think it’s nice to be able to offer both. I know here in Temecula we have a couple of wineries that do it only by reservation and only guided sit down tasting and they have been doing it for years and its worked really, really well.
Courtney: Let’s be real. Let’s talk about those tasting rooms where they are just loud in there, are those customers that really spend the most? That really has the most value for the tasting room? It probably has to be a balance. Maybe the price range of the wine, it might be a balance of what kind of customers they want. Why do you think some wineries make that decision like I want to have the packed tasting room and some make the decision that they want the intimate experience?
Hilarie: As far as the packed tasting room goes, you do get customers that buy but you also get a lot of customers that just come to party. Let’s be honest, but they do buy wine, they buy glasses of wine, they come to events, they look for more of the social side of it , the party side of it rather than the serious education, meet the winemaker, go for a tour aspect. In a lot of wineries I think that’s their bread and butter really. A lot of the times and they do buy wine, not great volumes of it, they may not be wine club members but they do buy .
Courtney : I was going to ask Jeff during the last question but I forgot , how do you know when you said it’s a black art , how do you know who is interested in signing up for the wine club or not? This audience here in the show are people who are in the wine business but how do you know?
Jeff: That is such a good question. I think it’s almost a 6th sense. Very quickly to give you extreme example last week I actually had to ask a couple of folks to leave because they came in not only chewing gum but wielding 32 ounce of cup soda from Hamburger Habits. This was too much, even for me and I had to put down my foot and say folks I really appreciate your interest in wine but really <INAUDIBLE> decided that it’s time to taste wine. Obviously this is an extreme example but closer to the bell curve, the kinds of eye contact you make, the kinds of question people ask, the interest people show in tasting notes, we place a lot of imports on our tasting note here and so if someone is actually reading the tasting note for example rather than immediately drinking wine back and engaging some conversation. All of these are tell-tale signs that you can use to access whether someone in fact is interested in becoming a wine club member.
I would like to go back here and speak to the crowded tasting room dynamic because I’ve done a fair research and looked around in sales figures and for us the days where we generate the most sales per customer and frequently most sales overall are those days where we have between 50-70 customers per day because as Hilarie alluded to tasting room staff love nothing more than to educate customers. The last thing they want to do is to pour our 2012 sauvignon Blanc for the 500th person and not be able to talk about it. The reason these people are here is because they are passionate about wine and they want to show that passion, they want to share their knowledge, they want to share their experience and so for us, it probably would not work to have an appointment only dynamic but certainly we have explored the possibility with ways in which we can limit the number of tasters. Again if you are looking at sales per customer it sky rockets when taste room staff can actually engage the customer on a one and one level.
Sandra: Just one other thought along that line Courtney, paradox. Paraduxx is a great example of a winery in Napa. When you have a chance check out their website, they are doing something different and I love it. They are creating experiences before you even arrive and so you can choose based on your likings your budget, the time that you have and really what you're tasting room goals are, you can choose your experience before you even arrive. They are testing this thing out is a great way to prequalify the tasting room visitor and ensure that you are catering to their needs when it comes to that tasting room experience. Be more customers centric and be more customer focused when it comes to education and sitting down with them by offering different levels of experiences has proven to be really effective. With Jeff's point you can offer those reservations to those folks who want them but don’t make it mandatory. Allow others to come into the tasting room, have that flexible tasting experience and go from there.
Courtney: That’s awesome. I love that with technology I get to check out their website but I imagine them asking what sort of experience do you want and I think you're seeing a lot with the wine club membership and everything is customization, especially now where there is so many wineries you really have to customize yourself, you can’t appeal to everybody.
What are best practises for driving tasting room traffic? Let’s go ahead and let Sandra answer this one. What have you seen? What do you do to keep people coming in the door?
Sandra: Let your customer tell the story. I think that is the best use of marketing dollars that I could ever recommend. allow new members, allow visitors who have been wowed to tell their story online through social media, everybody likes to live a great experience and they love to tweet about it, they love to tell their friends about it so empower those to tell the story online and make sure you are monitoring those online conversations and thanking them. It goes down to our basic manners of please and thanks you. So thanking your biggest fans for their kinds words and making sure they are part of the online conversations that I think is the biggest way to drive tasting room traffic right now.
Courtney: Yes and with social media it’s very easy especially with VinTank or even Google Alerts. Just put an alert out on your winery, search for Google alerts, type in your business name and then you will get updates anytime anyone mentions your winery. With VinTank you can go ahead and put alert out anytime your winery is mentioned or even your region, its free and then you can hear what people are saying . They could be saying that they are going to be tasting in the area and you can tweet them back and say you're going to be in Sonoma why don’t you go ahead and visit us , we have a 2 po’clock slot open. It seems like a lot of work but it’s actually not with technology now.
Sandra: Absolutely Courtney.
Courtney: Hilarie, what have you seen with your clients? What are they say is really getting people in the door.
Hilarie: Just one thing to hop on to Sandra’s comment about social media. I think it’s really , really important for tasting rooms to have wifi and then you get that immediate response when people are there they can just get right on to Twitter, right on Facebook, tell their friends, use foursquare "here I am this is fantastic winery, you should come and join me." A winery we worked with we did a promotion where if you checked in on Twitter and Foursquare while you were visiting the winery you got an extra tasting for free. Those are really good ways to get the word out using social media having and inviting set up for you tasting room. You mentioned that the winery you visited with your husband and how welcoming the decor was and appealing. Whether it is classical Tuscan or ultra-modern, just having it appealing and that really easy thing of just making sure you make eye contact with your guest when they walk in the door and say hi. It doesn’t matter how busy you are just a little wave across the room, “hi, welcome" it makes a huge difference.
That goes back to having a really well trained staff and then the education and the service and as Jeff said how to read the customers. Just basic manners. You read all these horror stories on Yelp and things about people who were just basically ignored or had someone said “we’re going to be closing half an hour, you can’t taste”. Those things are not going to be inviting and they certainly won’t get good feedback on social media. Just little things, be dog friendly, think green, have a cork recycling box in your tasting room. all these tiny things will really make people remember your tasting room, make them feel comfortable, make them feel welcomed and they will spread the word and like Sandra said people are your best advertising .
Courtney : Yes and I think this is something me and Jeff had talked about too is Yelp, Yelp is now taking that word of mouth marketing, people saying good things and saying bad things and putting it out there. Now word of mouth marketing has literally gone viral. I know Jeff you monitor your Yelp account closely, Google Local has reviews also. Have you seen that effect your tasting room traffic at all?
Jeff: Absolutely. I think this comes back again to having a great tasting room staff and inviting environment. It takes very little as all of us know for someone to feel uncared for because let's face it, when you visit a tasting room, for most people, for us for example being in northern Orange County a lot of our traffic comes from folks who live in Los Angeles and Orange County who come up for the weekend. This really represents a mini vacation and when you go on vacation you want it have an experience and you want it be catered and frankly you want to be pampered. So it is our goal to ensure that they receive that kind of care and treatment. Most people frankly in my experience don’t actually go wine tasting for the wine, they go wine tasting for the experience. I think this is absolutely of paramount importance for everyone who comes in the wine industry and sales. It’s not really about selling wine; it’s of course selling the experience. For us we strive, we endeavour mightily to ensure that every guest is well taken care of. I appreciate Hilarie’s point that even if it’s extremely busy we are very careful to make eye contact and at least say “hello. Welcome to Brander" with every guest within 10-15 seconds of them waling in the door. Otherwise they are very quickly going it lose interest, they're not going it feel disrespected and they're going to walk right out.
I think it’s really a holistic, comprehensive guest experience. To bring that back to social media in the context of well we really don’t want it give any guest the opportunity to give us a one star review on Yelp. Our goal is to make it easy for the guest to give us a 4 or 5 star review on Yelp, that’s the goal. People who come to a wine tasting are going to be in a good mood. Everyone who comes wine tasting is probably going to be predisposed to be in a party mood and we just want to facilitate that and let them like us. The last thing we want to do put them into that mood and bring them down and have them leave here and give us a one star on Yelp because someone didn’t pour the wine quickly enough.
Frankly I feel that our job is to simply sustain and support and facilitate that good mood experience.
Courtney: Last thing I am going to ask , we all go tasting room shopping, what are the coolest experience you’ve seen that wineries are doing right now and let me see, Hilarie go ahead .
Hilarie: I just think taking that extra step in customer service
Courtney: Name a winery and something they are doing.
Hilarie : Tablas Creek, we were in Paso Robles, we were up there a few months ago and they just give that extra service, " oh you might not see this one on the list but you really seem to enjoy red so let me go and get this" and pouring you extra wines that aren’t on the list because they are interacting with you , taking the time to understand your palate . I think they are again building that experience. I remembered it. They are another winery that’s really good I think with their wine club as well, and sending little things on the holidays and remembering anniversaries and that sort of thing, that personal touch and building that experience.
Courtney: What are they doing during those anniversaries and birthdays? Do they send a card, what kind of things are they doing?
Sandra: They send fun little things. One year they sent a wonderful linen tea towel from the south of France and another year a great Tablas Creek apron which I wear everytime I pour, it’s my work apron now so Tablas Creek is getting all of this free advertising . They sent canvas tote bags which I use every time I go grocery shopping. Again they are getting all of these free advertising and they are getting more right now. That to me is something that’s memorable and didn’t happen at other wineries that I have been to.
When I use to work at MaryHill Winery up in Washington state on the Columbia River Gorge and when you sign up for the wine club you got a little gift . It wasn’t anything outrageous it was two logo wine glasses and a cork screw in a nice little gift pack. Again it was a thoughtful gesture. It made you feel part of the family.
Courtney: <INAUDIBLE> given those gifts actually renew the annual , the anniversary of their wine club membership , giving them something small because you have to mail it, something like a stopper or a logo that says you’re thinking about them. Sandra can you name a specific winery and something that you thought was really cool, really different.
Sandra: Since Hilarie brought up Pasa Robles I would love to bring up another great, tasting experience there. Castoro Cellars, my husband has been a part of a winery in the Paso area for about 20 years and we had the opportunity to do a stop in and do a tasting on the west side and we stopped in Castora and we just had such a great conversation with one of the tasting room staff members and he found it was our anniversary and they had just done a big wedding the weekend before and he pulled out, there was limited production sparkling, poured us both a glass of champagne and toasted. It’s those little touches that are so thoughtful and so meaningful and leave you talking about those to your friends.
Courtney: Jeff what about you?
Jeff:I was up in Sonoma back in February and on a whim I called Pride and asked I we can stop by in five minutes and they said "sure come on in." Without identifying myself as a member of the wine industry they immediately took great care of us and engaged in quite a serious conversation, a very knowledgeable conversation about wines which I was deeply impressed by and then went ahead and took us back for a barrel tasting and they completely won me over. It ended up being three hours at Pride. I did buy a bunch a wine and became a wine club member and it was really an extraordinary experience, the wines were remarkable and tasting the 12 barrel samples at the property is pretty amazing as well. Frankly it was that someone that I was deeply passionate, matched my level of passion and went ahead and acknowledged me and frankly honoured me . It was a really amazing experience.
Courtney: You know what’s really cool about everything you guys have said is that it wasn’t some sort of special technology or beautiful architecture. It was actually that they showed that they cared and listened.
Hilarie: Precisely it’s that human touch and although we love the technology and it’s a fantastic aid in social media , I think it’s so interesting that it basically all comes down to that human element, that human interaction and it doesn’t matter. You can have all the technology in the world but if you don’t have that, I think you aren't going to be that successful.
Sandra: Just along that line that as we look to the future of improving our tasting room traffic and improving customer interactions and having more meaningful conversation , it’s more important than ever that tasting room managers take the time to plan ahead and really make the tasting room experience memorable and so giving the tasting room staff the tools that they need to have those meaningfully conversations is important but also making sure that they are planning ahead wisely as far as timing. The worst feeling is to get into a tasting room and you just shoved through like you are part of an assembly line. I think it’s really important that if a tasting room manager has those aggressive goals to really increase traffic, plan ahead then and make sure that you are doing the right thing with the reservations piece versus the walk in traffic.
Courtney: I think it’s a very good point. We're saying "Oh it’s so great to really have this great experiences" but you have to have the opportunity to have these really great experience. So it’s a really good point Sandra. Thanks for pointing that out, that’s really important.
By the way for our first show I think this has gone excellent. I think its great dialogue. So Sandra as we wrap up the show what are you doing, what are you working on, what are you excited about?
Sandra: I have a couple of fun projects. I’m doing some social media projects that are really interesting. I have an event centre that’s opening that is a really exciting opportunity to expand a brand in many different ways , catering to different types of customers ranging from a luxury brand customer to a first time brand. Also I’m presenting at <INAUDIBLE> state university here in a few weeks to 15 members of their wine marketing program who are just gang busters about getting going . Those are some things I have coming up this next month.
Courtney: awesome, thanks Sandra. Jeff what are you excited about?
Jeff: As you are well aware we are in deep , creating a brand new website with the help of you and Cole for which we are grateful and we are tremendously exciting about that. Kind of on the brinks of our more personal touch side we have been taking a look at developing a <INAUDIBLE> tasting program so that for those who are really interested they can come in , they can schedule a special tour in tasting maybe a hour or hour and half and we will actually give them a sense of walking through the vineyard giving them a sense of what we're doing on production side and then l sit them down on our barrel room and take them through a number of wines, probably some barrel, vintages , cheese and really give them a sense of our overall philosophy and aesthetic and dynamic. We are organic and biodynamic and I think that for a lot of folks that kind of gets lost and so we're looking at this as a way to really give those folks who are deeply committed and focus on wine the opportunity to really explore Brander at a more comprehensive level. So we're excited about that.
Courtney: Looking forward to learning more about that too. We have to promote that on your new website. Hilarie what are you excited about?
Hilarie: Quite a few things. I’m having a busy fall as well. I’m getting ready to do some recruiting and some higher tasting room staff for a brand new tasting room opening here in Temecula in October . I’ll be hiring staff and training and looking forward to that and setting up their tasting room and get that going. I am also a contributing writer for a wonderful blog site called Wine Folly. I don’t know if any one of you is familiar with or not, it’s Madeline Puckette out of Seattle and I have done my second article. My first one was A Simple Guide to Burgundy , my last one was on Provence and I’m getting ready to write my next one which would be on the Rhone Valley. It’s a great site because it makes wine really accessible and it makes it simple but it’s also is interesting for people who have a little bit more depth of knowledge on wine as well. Next week I’m doing a presentation on the Rhone Valley for one of our larger wineries for their tasting room staff and their directors and owners because Rhone Varietals are really big here in Temecula. Getting a grasps of the origins of those great varietal and tasting Rhone wines will be very interesting for them and fun for me because I just love to talk about wine. That’s what I got going.
Courtney: I'm really excited about, in three weeks , September 22nd I will be speaking in Wente Vineyards for the Vin65 Road tour and I’m talking about something that I’m very excited about. It’s about online reviews on Yelp and Google and really how to respond to them and manage them gracefully. So I’m excited about that and presenting on that and I’m really excited honestly about this show. I’m so excited about this. I’m so excited to learn from all of you guys, you guys are so brilliant with years of knowledge that I can’t wait to learn from and I’m really excited to get the show going and educating myself and educating the wine business. To end the show lets al go ahead and cheers.