A collaborative class sponsored by Friends of Open Space and Vineyards (FOV) with Las Positas College’s Community Education program is the first step in turning community wine enthusiasts into tasting room sales stars.
Winery tasting room Sales and Service, held in March over four Saturdays, will be offered again in May and September.
FOV and David Everett, director of Las Positas college’s Viticulture and Winery Tech program, created the community course to raise Livermore Valley’s level of service and wine knowledge found behind the bar.
Rodrigue Molyneaux Winery, Cedar Mountain Winery, Rubino Estates Winery and Darcie Kent Vineyards were the pilot lab “classrooms” for the first session.
From boutique wineries producing 1,000 cases to Livermore Valley’s nationally known destination tasting rooms, all of the Valley’s wineries should provide the same level of excellence, the class emphasized.
“We were taught a great deal about the marketing aspects of small wineries, how Livermore wineries can grow their businesses, and how tasting room workers can help,” said Holly Sears, a first session participant.
Winery tasting room Sales and Service focuses on:
The Practical: Students see the tasting room for what it really is – a stage to sell wine. Those who have always been in front of the wine bar now understand how the tasting room operates from behind – from opening and closing procedures to following state and county rules and laws. In the first class, participants had to identify traps in the tasting room, and then role play on how to handle an accident, an inebriated guest, and the surprise arrival of a 12-person bridal shower party via limo. While students were encouraged to shoot from the hip about what to do, they also receive Everett’s professional coaching.
The Technical: Many students in the first class had never used a waiter’s corkscrew, so mastering this art was practiced in every class, along with beginning wine sensory. Also, few understand, as Everett calls it, “the theater” behind wine – from always presenting the bottle label first to decanting a young wine as a special treat. Students learned how to pour a two-ounce pour “freehand,” and how to tactfully taste a new bottle before guests to check quality. With grace they were taught how to handle sticky situations, such as customers saying “this wine is flawed” when it actually isn’t.
“Say: ‘Let’s switch directions then,” Everett advised.
For someone who does not have tasting room experience, Linda Ault, owner of Cedar Mountain Vineyard, believes the technical and practical are important so tasting room pourers can communicate about wines a winery has to offer.
“Our winery offers about 25 wines and the customer gets to choose any 6 to taste. Our staff helps the customer choose which wines they think the customer would like to try - and buy. And they recommend other wineries to the customer depending on his or her tastes,” said Linda Ault, owner of Cedar Mountain Vineyards Winery.
The Emotional: From the vibe of tasting room music, to merchandising and to greeting guests within seconds, the class hits home that how a guest feels when they go winetasting. And how that feeling translates into bottle and Club sales.
“It's all about the experience for the guests,” said Maureen Nokes, a first session student. “You can't just know the mechanics of pouring the wine. You have to gather and learn as much information about the particular wines you are serving and also as many stories and history of the winery you are representing. The 'story' sells the wine.”
An additional session anticipated for early fall. To register, contact the Community Education department at Las Positas College at 925-424-1467.