Last night Dad and I attended the Niagara Wine and Beer Fest at the Kenan Center in Lockport. Having been forewarned that nearly 1000 tickets had been sold to the 4 hour event, we came prepared to work- but we had hoped to have a couple laughs along the way, it’s always a good time when good wine is involved!
The event was an overall success. The staff at the Kenan Center was so helpful and accommodating- the event coordinaters did an excellent job organizing and making things run smoothly…that way we could focus on our job: bringing you the best from Long Cliff wines!
Being a “newer” winery, it was a great opportunity for local exposure. We handed out a lot of rack cards, and those coveted tasting corks (if you know what I’m talking about, you’re one of the lucky few! Stop in soon to redeem yours!) and we were able to sell a couple bottles too- which is always great!
However, (and I don’t usually do this, but something struck a nerve last night and after thinking about it all morning,) I felt the need to share exactly what goes in to these kind of events from the wineries standpoint…..
At least one invitation a week comes across my desk asking us to pour at a local benefit, gala or fundraiser. For $25 or even up to $100 a ticket (or whatever it may be), guests enjoy an evening of wine tasting and snacking and laughing with friends. This is why we look forward coming to work everyday- we are passionate about our wines, and we enjoy sharing that passion with smiling faces. Everyone who goes wine tasting is out to have a good time. That’s why I can honestly say, I couldn’t have a better job. I love what I do!
That being said, as the tasting room manager, these events add a lot of extra prep work and paperwork to my never-ending to do list. For each event I have to get a vote of approval from our three owners, choose which wines we will bring based on the crowd and their preferences, pull extra cases from inventory, and keep meticulous notes the day of the event so I can track how many bottles left the building and how many are returning (every bottle must be accounted for either as an empty tasting bottle, or on a sales receipt).
The day before the event I spend about an hour and a half gathering supplies and loading them into the truck. In general, we are expected to arrive to events an hour and a half to two hours before doors open- we spend a half hour unloading, unpacking and setting up, and then we hold our breath for the next hour or so while we wait for things to get started. At the end of the night, we still have to repack up and load the unused cases of wine back onto our truck, which means paperwork the next day as we return them to inventory.
When people start coming in, the wine starts flowing, and it doesn’t stop from beginning to end. We usually pour through at least two and a half cases (to put things in perspective, that’s about $500 worth of wine… $492 to be exact.) Mind you, this was a donation. We are not paid to come to these events, nor are we paid for the wine we pour. We eat up this cost, and we still have to pay staff for their time. In fact, for some events, we even have to pay for our table and booth. An event is considered a success if the amount of bottles we sell matches at least half the amount of bottles we emptied.
At an event with over 900 people, you wouldn’t think this would be a problem, we should easily be able to sell two cases of wine (some event organizers even worry that we won’t have ENOUGH wine to meet demands), but they are forgetting how many people come to these events without any intentions of buying. They purchased their ticket to enjoy an evening out of the house. This isn’t a quick run to the local liquor and wine outlet. They didn’t come to shop. We as vendors understand this. Money is tight all around- and as I start repaying my college loans, I know better than anyone that sometimes after putting out money for a ticket, I have a hard time reaching back into my wallet for the extras- it’s no different than those souvenir shirts at your favorite concert. And further, we aren’t always provided with an outlet for our credit card machine, and I don’t know about you, but I NEVER carry cash on me, I mean, who does anymore, any way?
These events are not money makers for us. We come to them for the plain and simple fact that we love making people happy (and let’s be honest, wine ALWAYS makes people happy!) Our biggest hope is that something we say, a friendly smile or our customer service sticks with somebody enough to make “Long Cliff” a name that stands out in their mind. We want them to remember us, and someday, come back to visit at the winery. We are a small, family owned business, and we have bills to pay just like you do. So nothing breaks my heart more, than pouring a taste of wine and having the customer shove their glass back in my face and tell me they “expect a larger pour than that.”
I understand you paid for a ticket, I understand you came to drink… but this is not an open bar, and pour sizes are regulated by New York State law! We use measured pourers on our bottles that automatically stop at the allotted amount. Everyone gets the same size tasting- one measured pour per tasting ticket. This is how it works in our tasting room and this is how it works at offsite events.
One of my favorite things is working the tasting room and having a customer come in and tell me they tried our wines at an offsite event and they had to come back to our winery to give us another try. This is what it’s all about, building a faithful customer base. A lot of energy and effort and planning goes into making sure these events are a success and you have a great evening! We want to please you, and while we know we can’t please everyone, we sure do try!!
For our sake, and for the sake of your fellow guests, please remember this while you enjoy your night. Hearing “thank you” never gets old, and I mean every “you’re so very welcome” from the bottom of my heart. I go home with a good feeling knowing I could have potentially made someone’s day.
Manners go such a very long way, and there is definitely an etiquette that goes with wine tasting.
I’m not complaining about these events, let me make that clear. They are most definitely one of the highlights of my job (and many a rock-paper-scissors has been played in our tasting room to decide who will work each one- we all want to go!) But I do take it to heart when I think I have left someone dissatisfied. I’m a people pleaser- which is both one of my biggest strengths and one of my biggest weaknesses.
This Thursday, Dad and Sara will be at Hotel Lafayette for The 2013 Chocolate Affair! If you’re going to be there, definitely stop by and say hi! (We’re bringing our Pinot Noir- it pairs amazingly with dark chocolate if you were wondering!!) And if you think of it, thank them for being there. I know they’ll be working their butts off! It might be a fun job, but it’s not always easy, and it’s nice to know sometimes that it’s appreciated.
Thanks for reading! Please think of me next time you’re out wine tasting? (: