Where Are All The Good Tasting Rooms?

Is it too late to say “Happy New Year?”  Naahh...Happy New Year everyone!

I hope you all had a restful and joyful holiday season. This year I vowed not to get caught up in the stressed out frenzy associated with Xmas. Instead, Santa sent us on a trip to Mexico where Wilma imbibed on numerous cervezas and a shot or two of tequila. (I find it's always good to cleanse the palate with non-grape based products from time to time.)

All in all, it was a great way to “check out” as the winery was essentially closed. Not a cellar rat was stirring, not even a mouse.

Shortly after, we had family visit for New Years. One of the things they were dying to do was go wine tasting. What a concept! Believe it or not, I rarely get out to do this anymore. It's a crying shame really, to live right dab in the middle of wine country and not take advantage of the many tasting rooms that are open to the public. I had a fascinating day and it gave me plenty of ideas for our own tasting room as well as solidified a few things I already know about Dry Creek Vineyard.


  OUR WINES ARE SO DAMN CHEAP! Honestly, people will NOT find better wines for the money in the surrounding area.  While out wine tasting, the least expensive white I found was $18. And that was for a mediocre Sauvignon Blanc. People can come here and have a FANTASTIC Chenin Blanc for $12. Same is true for the reds. I was on a Pinot mission so many of the wineries I visited specialized in that varietal. Pinot Noir tends to be pricier due to its finicky nature, but still one shouldn't have to get sticker shock to find a good one. On average, I had to pay $45-$50 for a good bottling. Again, and not to toot our horn too much, but we have OUTSTANDING red wines that range from $17-$30. And for the luxury crowd, our $40 Mariner blend and $55 Endeavour Cabernet Sauvignon are unbeatable.



  WE HAVE THE BEST TASTING ROOM STAFF AROUND! Not one place I went passed my “meet and greet” test. In other words, as a visitor, I expect to be greeted warmly with a friendly smile and enthusiastic host. I want to hear the history of the winery, the passion of the owners, the philosophy of the wines, and all the stories that make this industry and our product (wine) so special. I shouldn't have to drag this info out of them.  Yet, with just one exception (Arista Winery), this is exactly what I had to do. Unforgivable, in my opinion. And at one place, the guy behind the bar actually had the nerve to check his cell phone while I was standing right in front of him!!! Where's his pink slip?



WE HAVE ONE OF THE PRETTIEST WINERIES AROUND! Most of the wineries we visited were fairly new. While nice, some felt more like a Pottery Barn than a winery. And, one was stuck in a time warp, as if nothing had changed since 1978. While there are things I want to fine-tune, we really do have a lovely facility.  Thirty-seven years has given us a fine patina. Established shrubs, landscaping and gardens welcome our guests. Our Loire inspired architecture feels welcoming yet impressive. And the entrance proudly showcases all the years of passion and and hard work that have been put into making each and every bottle. I'm sure I sound biased, but after a long day of tasting I was proud to come home.

I can honestly say that Dry Creek Vineyard offers one of the most rewarding tasting room visits around. I always believed this, and now have the first hand experience to back it up. In today's economy, people expect unparalleled quality along with GREAT value. Well I say, bring ‘em on. We are the place to come! Drink Dry Creek! And, if you feel otherwise, I WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IT!

P.S. I'd love to hear your suggestions for other “must visit” tasting rooms. After all, I have a New Year's resolution to uphold - more tasting of course!

| | Comments (13)


becky Author Profile Page said:
January 10, 2009 11:24 AM

One thing is for sure, Dry Creek wines and the tasting room provide for a great experience. As my husband and I have discovered, the tasting experience is made so much better when the person behind the bar, is friendly and knowledgeable. We have found that when we connect, the wine tastes better too! I'm happy to say that when we get home and the Dry Creek wine is opened at our house, we confirm that it wasn't just the tasting room staff, but the wine did really taste good!

We have been to alot of the wineries in Dry Creek as it is one of our favorites. We love the value, experience and the taste that Dry Creek Winery provides. Keep it up!

Kim (aka Wilma) Author Profile Page said:
January 10, 2009 8:11 PM

What great feedback, Becky. Thanks for taking time to comment. (Our tasting room staff will be thrilled to hear this.) I too find the way I'm treated greatly influences my opinion of the winery/wines. And even if the wines are stellar, if I don't have a good time, I'm less likely to buy.

casacaudill said:
January 11, 2009 2:45 PM

When Randy (the winemaker) at Harvest Moon is behind the counter, you'd be hard pressed to have a better wine tasting experience. In fact, we've generally found the folks along Olivet Road to be nice, hospitable and not outlandishly expensive.

We've also had great experiences at Lambert Bridge, meeting knowledgeable, friendly staff to help you pick the best wine. It's been awhile, but we used to also have great experiences at Trentadue. Hop Kiln also has a very friendly staff with non-expensive varietals available.

Kim (aka Wilma) Author Profile Page said:
January 11, 2009 9:49 PM

That's funny as I almost went to Harvest Moon. I will definitely check them out, as well your other suggestions. I haven't been to Lambert Bridge in ages, nor Trentadue. Winemaker Miro got his start here at Dry Creek Vineyard, long before he perfected his English (he came to work harvest from Bulgaria) and it's been great to watch his career. As for Hop Kiln, I remember when my parents were friends with the original owners back in the '70s and we used to go there for weekend picnics. Gotta check them out again!

D. Carson said:
January 11, 2009 11:33 PM

I've read numerous wine blogs looking for good articles, but this one set me on edge. It is extremely transparent. You visited wineries with a negatively biased attitude looking for things to complain about then of course promote your own business. Kind of shallow don't you think? Even though your article was nothing more than a promotion piece for your winery, which is ok, the bit about the tasting rooms and the sarcasm was a bit much. You want to hear about the passion of the wine maker and the philosophy of the wines...oh please! The passion and the philosophy is to make a marketable product that you can sell at a profit! And the guy checking his cell phone? How do you know he wasn't checking the phone due to an emergency, a birth, a death? It is extremely arrogant for you to assume anything! Who are you to judge? Oh and he did it right in front of you!! OH MY, you do think highly of yourself! You should really try to be more professional. On the basis of your attitude in this article I will certainly think twice about recommending your product to fellow wine consumers. Where is your pink slip?????

Kim (aka Wilma) Author Profile Page said:
January 12, 2009 11:44 AM

I'm sorry you feel this way Carson. If you've been reading Wilma for a while, you know that I rarely promote our business. On the contrary, I try to focus on what it's really like to run a winery, what it's really like to work with your family, and what it's really like to be in this crazy competitive constantly changing industry. RARELY, do I blatently brag about our products/services. However in this case, my comments were inspired by putting myself in the customer's shoes firsthand (something I hadn't done in a while) by going wine tasting. And as a consumer of wine, I disagree with you--I DO want to hear the passion of the winemaker, the history of the winery, the philosophy of the owners...essentially whatever I can that will help me learn about the winery that I've chosen to visit. That's called putting "the customer first", a longstanding tradition at our place--by the way. In any event, I'm sorry that this post offended you. If you're openminded, stop on by and give our tasting room experience a try...then let me know what you think.

Your Neighbors said:
January 12, 2009 8:11 PM


So, let me get this straight. You are saying that in your completely unbiased opinion you think that your tasting room is the best around? I can't imagine how the owner of a winery would come to such a conclusion? What are the odds? It almost seems like you might have some ulterior motive other than just honest criticism.

However what is really disturbing is the sheer disdain that you seem to have for the other wineries in your neighborhood. Even in an earlier blog entry you have this look down the nose approach to some young upstart winery that A: dare to have the word “Dry” in their name and B: had a restaurant placement that you didn't have. How dare.

I wonder if it is possible to send a link of this blog article to all the members of the Russian River Wine Road? I am sure that the rest of your friends and neighbors would like to know how they are overpriced, their tasting rooms are too new or out of date and their wines pale in comparison to the $15 grocery store wines at Dry Creek Vineyards. I am sure that they will be bending over backwards to send referrals to your winery. I mean why wouldn't they? Your tasting room is clearly better than theirs… in your opinion.

It has been said that it is a true sign of desperation and weakness when one reduces ones self to tearing down others just to make themselves look better. I suggest that you hold yourself to a higher standard and you won't have to tell people about how great you think you are and let them notice your excellence on their own. Best of luck to you in 2009.


Your Neighbors.

William B-C said:
January 12, 2009 9:47 PM

Winery tasting rooms ARE an extension of the owner's values and integrity. There is NO place for mobile phones in a hospitality work environment when on duty.

There are wine bottle values at all price points; that's what makes the wine world go around.

Without smacking with sarcasm, at the most recent Sonoma County Harvest Fair, the 45+ wine judges collectively awarded Dry Creek Vineyard with the Sweepstakes White Award - no small feat ... a reasonably priced Sauvignon Blanc. Some of the comments presented here seem like "sour grapes" to me.

I believe what bothers Wilma the most is that some wineries are unwilling to invest in their employees with thoughtful hospitality training and the consideration to welcome every customer as their guest. Everyone receiving renumeration for working on the staff of a winery must share the passion, the owner's vision and the enthusiasm of that winery. I have visited Dry Creek Vineyards once, two years ago and found it to be welcoming without snobbery or aloof attitude. I observed this powerful mind-set to all the visitors in the tasting room. If I were local, I would swing by Dry Creek more often with friends from out of town.

Perception is tough to manage, but if one person (guest/visitor) isn't getting it, then the organization, big or small, corporate or family, has failed.

It is no secret that winery tasting rooms have become highly profitable over the years; primarily from bottled wine sales. Selling trivets is outside the "wine experience." The same Pinot that sells for $45 at a winery can be had at BevMo for $36.99 from a friendly sales representative. If someone is going to spend $45 at a winery for one bottle of wine, the bathrooms better be clean and the staff cheerful and knowledgable. That is what makes the winery experience. There is no room for arrogance.

Given the economic state all (Sonoma) wineries are in to a certain extent, it would behoove recalcitrant wineries to improve the "guest experience" to ensure their future/survival.

Wilma gets it!


another Kim said:
March 7, 2009 4:37 PM

whoaaaa! D Carson and "your neighbors" don't get it at all. I would guess that they are not really into wine all that much. Because if they were, they would expect to see some passion in the eyes of the tasting room staff, and like you, they would want to hear the stories from someone who loves what they are doing. I like that word PASSION. I can't understand why everyone doesn't get excited about wine, (but then my family reminds me that it isn't everyone's "thing" like it is for me). If you don't have "Passion for wine in all it's forms" you can't work were I do! And I agree with William on the cell phone,,,if you have an emergency, you shouldn't be at work. What did we do before cell phones? We paid attention to people!

Kim (aka Wilma) Author Profile Page said:
March 9, 2009 10:26 AM

Glad to hear my plea for passion and politeness are shared by others in this industry too!

CoeskFuckmece said:
May 10, 2009 12:52 PM

- This competition was laden in controversy as soon as it was on the walls. 2002 Bordeaux Wine

nenluibeantperhi said:
September 4, 2009 7:30 PM

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Phillis said:
October 5, 2009 9:31 AM

yikes, does this type of "marketing" get people knockin down your door?

I agree, we're all looking for a great TR/wine drinking exp, however I'd use perhaps other avenues to promote than calling out wineries not doing a good job in your opinion.

It just looks and feels bad. Not for anything, see below and notice the comments post post on your tasting room staff...


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