For many small wineries, the tasting room is their public face to the world.  The winery tasting room is their primary means to entice and engage customers – a true, full-on marketing opportunity. The experience of tasting the wine can leave a longer impact on our memory and our pocketbook than the nose of a wine, no matter how enticing.

Wine Club Tasting Room at Alexandria Nicole

Lately, there have been a number of conversations about tasting room experiences and how they impact the prestige and perception of a winery. In early November, Eric Hwang wrote about  5 Easy ways to improve the tasting room experience .  Weeks later John, of Wine Peeps, compared and contrasted exquisite and dismal tasting experiences.

Bean participated in the conversations that those blog posts inspired, and our small group started talking about our own tasting room experiences and how much they influence our connection with and passion for a winery. With so many new wineries in Washington, we wanted to keep this conversation going. It is going to be more difficult for Washington wineries to stand out from the crowd, but creating a great tasting room experience is one way to do so. In Margot  Savell’s Write for Wine post on wineries that she especially enjoyed in 2009 and looked forward to enjoying in 2010, she talks about tasting room experiences as much as the wine. Tasting rooms really do make a difference!

I have had some fantastic wine tasting experiences and some really terrible ones. They both stand out in my memory and my conversations with other wine lovers. I sat down and spent some time thinking about what I think are essential to a winery tasting room and created this short series on winery tasting rooms.

Louie Waggoner in the Icicle Ridge Winery

The Tasting Room – Essentials

  1. Detailed tasting notes that I can take with me in order to remember what I sampled and the myriad details that went into the winemaking, what it costs, and have something onto which I can record my own evaluation.
  2. Please, please, please have crackers so that I can cleanse my palate, especially when I’m tasting red wine!
  3. Water.
  4. Friendly, knowledgeable pourers.
  5. A dump bucket within easy reach.
  6. Seating. I really like to be comfortable and take my time when tasting.
  7. Appropriate (and need I say a sufficient amount) of glassware.
  8. Sufficient space to accommodate any special events that you want to host. If you don’t have the room to host a party, just don’t do it. Doing so will prevent repeat visits from those who didn’t enjoy feeling like a sardine, while all their wine drinking friends will hear about it. If you want to serve the masses, consider participating in a larger event hosted by a third party. Speaking of which, wouldn’t it be nice if the Woodinville Chamber would continue to host the Washington Wine Highway to offer such an opportunity?

What is on your list? What do you think is essential to a great tasting room experience? I really hope that wineries will join us in this conversation as well as wine consumers. I am curious to hear from wineries in terms of what they think is essential in their own tasting rooms.