Simon's Blog: The Tasting Room - Giving Your Wine a Bad Name

January 4th, 2013

I usually spend 40 to 60 hours a week working in the wine business. When I’m not, and I’m on vacation, I often take the time to relax while…touring wine regions! The truth is, it’s a real passion, and I feel like visiting on my own time is just the best way possible to travel, as you meet pretty cool people, and just seize any fun opportunities available, while still having a goal of tasting and getting a hold of the region.

Two weeks ago, I went to Prince Edward County to witness how it has progressed since my last visit two years ago. It’s a really short drive from Montreal, about four hours west, and it’s pretty quiet at this time of the year. The weather was great and people were really welcoming, as they had time to chat about what they are doing.

While simply touring without schedule, I generally don’t mention that I work in the wine business, as I feel it could be a little presumptuous. I also want to enjoy the authentic experience anybody walking in can expect to have.

When touring a remote subregion of PEC, I happened to visit a winery I had heard good things about. On the door, there was a note that read something like, “Welcome! If we’re not in the tasting room at the moment, please ring next door and we’ll be there shortly.” Someone was inside, and the door was unlocked. The owner was there, with an annoyed look on her face. She told us how busy she was and made us feel like we were not welcome. She served us a wine with no label, mentioned she didn’t even know which cuvée it was, then told us how inappropriate it was to come in, taste and then not buy wine. I mean, it's quite hard to make a choice among the different bottlings when you don't even know what you've been tasting...

This kind of experience usually happens to me once or twice per region, and it comes as a really deep disappointment. Nowadays, making good wine, especially in an emerging wine region, is not enough. You need to create a buzz about it; you need sleek and intelligent marketing and communications around your products. And the first and most direct contact you’ll have with your clients is at the winery’s tasting room, where people come to live an exciting experience. Clients become incredible brand ambassadors, as they build memories around your wine and their experience. They trade their time for good moments, and I feel like you should treat them with regards, as wine is all about sharing.


Simon Gaudreault is a sommelier in Montreal and the co-author of a book on Canadian wines: "Vins et vignobles du Canada: Coups de coeur pour des vins d'ici."

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mickgrady

January 4, 2013


At least you had the attention of the owner, yesterday the cellar door of a wniery in the Hunter Valley (NSW, Australia) had two staff members serving to a room of 6 visitors, well 5 visitors. I was left waiting without a tasting list, without a glass and certainly no wine for over 10 minutes. Feeling a little peeved especially with inattention and the inane loudness of the other 7 [eople in the room, I left. I looked at their facebook page to leave a mesage this morning. What a wank, bottles of their wine on a rack sitting with Dom, Veuve, Grand Dame, Krug etal.
Several years ago when the founder of the winery worked the cellar door his energetic approach and hospitality was a joy. Unfortunately, the staff appeared to be there to party yesterday. I must say that the experince at several other wineries yesterday was brilliant.
Cheers,
Mick Grady

Simon Gaudreault

January 4, 2013


Mick, I know what you mean, having encountered the same kind of situation recently. Fortunately, like you mentioned, there are many others doing a great job out there. Cheers!

Caleurogal

January 4, 2013


This past summer in Los Olivos, Ca, we asked the woman who was pouring a few questions. She told us she doesn't drink wine. Really dumb to have a non wine drinker working in a wine tasting room!

themate

January 5, 2013


You should expose them. It might hurt them at first but if they have any common sense, they will learn from this. That way others will not have a disappointing experience as well.

Simon Gaudreault

January 5, 2013


@TheMateI didn't want it to look as a personnal vendetta, as much as discuss how hospitality should not be overlooked. @Caleurogal As for the non-wine drinker, it's pretty sad, but once again, owners should make a special effort while hiring, to get interested people who are able to communicate the passion behind the winemaking process...

howeswine

January 10, 2013


My family has had a house in 'The County' for thirty years, back when there were no vines panted which is hard to believe these days. It's amazing how far many of the wines have come in such a short period of time and the whole region really has done a great job of promoting itself as a foodie destination. I have had a similar experience as you have though, Simon, and I think I know which winery you're talking about which is notorious for poor front of house management. It's such a shame that a fledgling industry in need of positivity and enthusiasm is being let down by such curmudgeons! Let's enjoy the wines and celebrate the winemakers who are setting a higher standard and ignore the silly few. Did you rate any of the wines you tasted?

Simon Gaudreault

January 11, 2013


@Howeswine I have a notebook full of tasting notes for maybe 15 wineries of PEC, but it feels like it would be make a pretty huge blog posts. But your question gave me the idea to make some posts about top 5 wineries in PEC, top 5 wineries in Niagara peninsula, and top 5 wineries in BC, with some tasting notes about favorite wines. I think it could be appropriate as we usually don't hear a lot about canadian wines. For PEC, I feel like Norman Hardie is really at the top, as other wineries make great wines, but everything Norman touches is no-less than delicous... Had his county pinot noir 2010 last week, and it was, once again, a treat...

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