Drink Magazine

Have Winery Visits Lost Their Personal Touch?

By Hvwinegoddess
Have Winery Visits Lost Their Personal Touch?Turning 30 twice is a reason to celebrate in style, and I told myself, this year I was going to explore some of New York's wine regions I haven’t been to in a while and venture down to Loudoun County, Virginia’s wine region. I embarked on a mid-week wine-tasting journey, expecting to experience the warmth and knowledge that has always accompanied such excursions. However, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, I noticed a significant change in the wine-tasting experience, particularly during my visit to Loudoun County, Virginia.Have Winery Visits Lost Their Personal Touch?

A Shift in Wine Tasting Experience

While touring the Long Island, Finger Lakes, and Hudson Valley wine regions in New York, I enjoyed wine tastings that were not only delicious but also informative. The tasting room staff engaged with customers, visited our table at least twice to check on us, answer questions, and created a relaxed atmosphere for tasting and discussion. This personal touch enhanced the overall experience, allowing me and my husband to taste each wine and discuss without feeling rushed. We did visit during the less crowded mid-week days.

Have Winery Visits Lost Their Personal Touch?

However, my recent visit to Loudoun County, Virginia (mid week as well), revealed a different story. Although the wineries were dog-friendly (a bonus for us traveling with our Boykin Spaniel, Gigi), the wine-tasting experience lacked the personal touch that had previously been so integral to our wine adventures. Only two flight options were available, red or white, and the opportunity to explore unique grape varieties like Tannat and Petit Manseng was limited. The biggest issue, however, was the absence of the engaging, knowledgeable staff we had come to appreciate. Instead, we were handed our flights, took them outside to taste, returned them, and left with a simple "Thank You."

Have Winery Visits Lost Their Personal Touch?

What's Missing and Why It Matters

The heart of wine tasting lies in more than just the wine itself; it's about the experience. The personal touch, the hospitality, and the connection with the winery and its history elevate wine tasting from a mere here you go, hope you like it, to a memorable journey. In Virginia, I longed for someone to explain the wines, share the winery's story, delve into the soils and growing conditions, what grows well, and transport me into the world of each vineyard's unique terroir. These connections are not just niceties; they are the essence of the wine-tasting experience, enriching our understanding of the wines we taste and creating a connection and lasting memories. Perhaps even a wine club membership.

Bringing Back the Personal Touch

As a restaurant owner, I understand the value of personal touches in creating memorable guest experiences. As my servers get to know customers and make their dining experience special, wineries can do the same. Here are some simple solutions to bring back the personal touch to wine tasting:

  1. Engage with Guests: Tasting room staff should engage with customers, ask about their preferences, and share insights about the wines tasted. Stop by the table at least twice to check on them. See what they like and if they have questions.
  2. Tell the Story: Wineries should take the opportunity to share their history, the journey of winemaking, and the unique characteristics of their wines and vineyards.
  3. Offer Variety: Providing a broader range of flight options if available, especially unique or regional varieties, can pique customers' interest and enhance their experience.
  4. Educate and Connect: Offer information about the grapes, growing conditions, and winemaking processes. Establish a connection between the wine and its origin.

In my recent wine-tasting adventure, the absence of a personal touch left me yearning for the days when wine-tasting was not just about the wine but also about the stories, the knowledge, and the connections. I know staff is hard to find. Educate and train the ones you have, find out what the customer likes, and see if they want to join a wine club. We were never asked those questions.

Let's bring back the personal touch, one pour at a time. It only takes a few minutes to make someone feel special and make that connection and sale.

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