Having grown from public relations stopovers to money-making epicenters, our experts discuss the keys to successful tasting rooms.
My first job in
the wine business was in a tasting room. Of course, when I started in 1978 we were only open Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4pm. The tasting room consisted of a small table in a corner of the winery, and my job was to entertain any brave souls intrepid enough to work their way up the long, winding road to try our wares. We were lucky to have a dozen visitors a day. In winter the tasting room was freezing. I could see the white, frosty breath of the customers, and we had to keep the wines near a space heater so they'd be warm enough to taste. Since then, tasting rooms have certainly changed. Aside from their obvious public relations function, tasting rooms have evolved into big moneymaking machines, selling a range of products that would stun most retail shop owners. Tasting room staff need to be engaging, entertaining and knowledgeable. They need to be conversant with the basics of winemaking and each of the wines offered at the winery, as well as with the various items of logo clothing for sale and the ever-increasing stock of wine paraphernalia on the shelves. And they do all this while earning a pretty small paycheck. [read more]