A New Kind of Tasting Room?


Innovation. It’s synonymous with technology.And like any other industry, wine has latched on to new technologies to bring innovated change to nearly every aspect of the business. The internet has had an impact on just about  ever aspect of the business from sales and marketing to data collation to winemaking and cellar management. Innovation has come to the vineyard through biotechnology.

Yet one place where innovation, or even new ideas, has pretty much been lacking is in the tasting room.

Granted there isn’t much that can be improved in the way wine is poured into a glass, the glass is tipped and the way liquid washes down a throat. Still, I’ve been thinking about the tasting room experience while working with a client on a tasting room experience that, while not new, is certainly the next generation.

Toward the beginning of next month a winery will open a tasting room in Sonoma Valley that has tables, chairs, menus and an executive chef. Each guest, for $20, will taste seven wines paired with seven different food pairings prepared to match the wine. Reservations will be encouraged.

While not revolutionary, this idea has really never been carried out to this extent to our knowledge. Yet it is the logical conclusion of the wine tasting room if we are to believe what all of us in the industry say, that wine is properly understood in the context of food.

This particular client is no newcomer to the Tasting Room experience. This will be the fifth tasting room they have opened in a 15 mile radius over the past 8 years. Four others are still open. The idea is simple: get your wine in front of as many consumers as possible. Sell direct. Constantly increase the size of the wine club. I has and does work quite nicely.

Still, it’s rather difficult to figure why this approach to the tasting room has not been tried. I’ve mentioned before that wine is a conservative industry borne of it’s connection to farming. But that isn’t the right explanation. Neither is the cost of doing this the explanation. There are numerous tasting rooms that could easily create a room next to the bar where a special experience could be produced.

I think the reason we’ve not seen something like this is due to the wine industry’s view of the Tasting Room customer and what they want. Most wineries hold firm to the belief that the tasting room traveler wants to come in, taste something special, then move on. And most do. I’ve not seen the research but I’m sure I would not be too far off in thinking that the average wine tasting visitor to Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino visit an average of 4-5 wineries in a day. When they visit this new concept tasting room they will cut down on the number of wineries they can visit. This will be a much longer experience.

Yet, this approach will work because it is something very unique (of course this assumes their marketing and PR is competent). Perhaps the tasting room is ripe for innovation.

Posted In: Wine Business


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