I’ve spent much of my 30-plus year career managing tasting rooms. I’ve worked for small, family owned wineries and large corporate wineries and I’ve worked in the middle of town and way out in the country. Visitor demographics vary widely, depending on the winery, the tasting room’s location and how the wines are marketed. For example, the clientele in a high-end Napa winery on the Silverado Trail tends to be very different from the clientele who walk into a downtown tasting room in Healdsburg. Think Prada vs. Coach, with a little Kirkland and Tommy Bahama thrown in occasionally and there you have it.
Even after all this time, I still love what I do. Although I’m currently a Wine Club Manager (stay tuned for a story on that) and not a Tasting Room Manager, I still work the tasting bar when needed. My goal is to serve, educate and entertain and I’ve been told I do a pretty good job of it. When dealing with the public, I simply cannot have off days, and for me, having fantasies like those listed below has kept me out of trouble all these years. I do get a Mona Lisa smile occasionally…
I’m sure my peers can relate to the following twisted inner workings of my mind and are heartily invited to share their tasting room fantasies with me. Here goes:
1. The hidden trap doors – there are a series of these on the customer’s side of the bar. When a customer (or group) is particularly annoying, I hit a button under the counter and said customer(s) drop gently into a greased chute, which deposits them outside. They are then unable to re-enter the tasting room.
2. The customer mute button – like on a TV remote, when a customer is droning on about Parker scores, what they have in their cellar, etc. I can mute them without them being aware of it.
3. The irresistible sale – that every customer buys a ton of wine from me.
4. The stupid question alert – when a customer asks a particularly lame question, like “sooo, what are all those little trees outside?”(those are grape vines – duh), a casino-jackpot-like light display ensues, complete with loud disco music.
5. The “no-mental-filter” pass – the ability to say exactly what’s on my mind without fear of pissing someone off, a bad Yelp review or losing my job. People would just think I was being funny.
6. That the good-looking guy who just walked in would take me in the back and bend me over a barrel… hey – these are my fantasies, OK?
7. That unannounced Limos and buses hit an invisible barrier at the road and are unable to enter the tasting room grounds.
A sense of humor is a must when working in the wine industry, especially front-line tasting room work. It’s actually not as easy as one would think. Fortunately, I still possess my rather strange sense of humor and still love what I do, even after all these years. I still have lots of fun at work and consider myself very lucky to be working in my much-beloved wine industry.