Monday, October 26, 2009

Your First Impression

My visit to Black Stallion Winery, one of Napa’s newest Oak Knoll district wineries, wasn’t pleasant. Our server was rude and obnoxious – and I loudly barked about it in a blog posting earlier this week. In response, I received a lovely and heartfelt note of apology from Laina Brown, the winery’s President. Although that apology was appreciated and accepted, the first part of our day in Napa was nevertheless ruined. Out of deference to Ms. Brown, who appears to genuinely care about the experience of her customers, and who unfortunately hired a temporary bad apple, I’ve taken down my rant. However, this episode does highlight the critical importance of hiring and training the right staff for the tasting room, especially for a winery like Black Stallion that only sells wine from their property.

For many wineries, the tasting room staff creates the first impression of a winery – before the label and before the wine itself. With over 300 wineries in Napa, the margin of error is quite narrow. What would make me want to buy, return to visit, or recommend the wines of Napa Winery A versus Napa Winery B? Hopefully, the value delivered in the glass is primary, but what is perceived as value tends to derive from the overall experience. So, Wineries listen up! Your first impression is delivered by the tasting room staff. My recommendation is to train them well, treat them well, and retain the good apples. Otherwise, I’m happy to drive right by.

Best, Joe Plonk

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