Swirl n' Spit
By Heather Irwin
I hate bitching about your tasting-room staff. I really do. Because I'd so much rather discuss how spectacular (or crappy) your wine is than tell readers about your indifferent or rude staff. But sometimes, dear wineries, you leave me no choice.
In the last month, I've visited a slew of tasting rooms. Mostly, they were wonderful. Some, like Chateau Souverain and Ridge Vineyards, were even outstanding in both wine and service. But three--Chateau Montelena, Clos du Bois and Alderbrook--had such perfectly unpleasant tasting staff on the days I visited that I found myself wanting to flee in horror rather than spend one more second in the tasting room.
Being a fair-minded person, however, and noting that these offenders are by no means alone, I offer a few suggestions not only for myself, but for the countless other people who have no doubt been subjected to surly tasting-room staffers.
Along with your hand-washing rules and workers' compensation signs, I challenge all wineries to post this list of peeves publicly. You never know who's watching:
Greet guests with a smile. Even though you may be having a wonderful chat with your boyfriend on your cell phone, please take a moment to greet me politely. Don't impatiently ask what I'd want when I'm standing at the tasting bar with my wallet open. I'd like to taste, duh.
If you must ask for my ID, do it politely--even apologetically. As a 34-year-old mother of two, I'm totally flattered that you think I look younger than 21. However, I would appreciate not being treated like I'm a juvenile delinquent who plans to get wasted on your short pours of wine. Demanding to see my ID before you've even welcomed me tends to make me want to throw my subsequent Chardonnay in your eye.
Answer questions politely--and correctly. You may indeed know everything about wine. For those of us who are still learning, however, please talk to us in the guise of a cheerful mentor rather than a taunting bully, even if you have answered that same dumb question about barrel fermenting for the 50th time today. Additionally, if you don't know an answer, don't make something up. Just say you don't know or go ask someone who might. We'll respect you more in the morning.
Save the staff banter for off-hours. I'm thrilled that you got busy with that cool bartender over the weekend. Wait a minute--I couldn't care less. Please leave discussion of your personal problems, issues and sexual conquests for your break. I'm here to talk about wine, and maybe your cool tattoo, but mostly wine.
Keep in mind that tasting rooms are the winery's ambassadors. Regardless of whether I'm young, old, dripping in pearls or just stopping by in my jeans and sandals on a Monday afternoon (and, yeah, I probably am), I expect to be treated like a guest. An invited guest.
Every day is Sunday. Some of the worst treatment I've encountered tends to be on the weekdays, when the tasting rooms are empty. This impatience is a little surprising, considering that I'm the only person there. Pretend every day is Sunday and put on a smile.
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From the April 6-12, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.