Tasting Room Perspective: A wine club you don’t want to join

By on January 5, 2022
Wine festivals and tasting rooms can bring out a sense of entitlement in some wine lovers. (Richard Duval Images)

Let’s hope you haven’t joined this club, but there’s a chance you’ve been wine tasting and spotted a member of “The Dime a Dozen Club.”

This club is composed of violators of tasting room etiquette who say and do cringe-worthy things they believe are clever or powerful without realizing they are among the many who have said and/or done the same thing during that week, that day or that hour.

It’s time to explore The Dime a Dozen Club. Let’s start with, “Do you know who I am?” Ah, the question that communicates your elevated sense of importance and says to your tasting room attendant that your ego is going to be the main visitor during the appointment.

If you must ask that question, then the fault is yours. You had a chance to announce yourself by making an appointment or you could have presented a business card at the beginning of your appointment or simply introduced yourself pleasantly and explained who you are (and why you are so important). If you are sure you are an incredibly important person, your best bet at having a positive experience is to give everyone a polite heads-up as early as possible, rather than calling out the winery employee for not knowing who you are.

Another eye roll-inducing statement that makes you the newest member of The Dime a Dozen Club is, “I’m very good friends with the winemaker.” I promise you, the next thought of that member of the winery team you’re talking with will be, “Then call or text them to tell them you are here,” while they brace themselves against your expectations of special treatment based upon your “close association.” 

This is such an awkward topic for the attendant — passive-aggressively communicating that you are deserving of extra attention that is not their responsibility to deliver, and yet they know they’re being set up to take the blame if they fail to meet your expectations.

Let’s be clear: If you once golfed on the team of the winemaker at a fundraiser or sat next to them once during a winemaker dinner, then you aren’t friends. Rather, you have a fond memory of spending time with a high-profile person who you wish you were friends with, and it comes off needy and sad that you are making inflated claims.

Are you hoping the attendant will magically produce the winemaker for you to visit with? Consider how busy the tasting room is or how busy the winemaker is and how unreasonable it is for you to feel entitled to a slice of their day.

Also, please know that you might be the 10th person that week to make such a claim, and while you are hoping this elevates your status, you have joined The Dime a Dozen Club.

Still with me? Is it hot in here? We have one more classic question to cover. Please tell me you’ve never asked, “Isn’t (the manager) here today?” 

Sigh. What you have just communicated by asking about the absent manager is that you are disappointed in your current server. And just like that, your chance for a special pour or two has evaporated. 

Remember, managers need their days off like, well, like you do, and would truly like to know they were missed. An email can communicate your regret at visiting on their weekend, and it might lead to a more detailed conversation than you would have had in person in the busy tasting room.

You can bet the attendant most likely will not pass along your disappointment because with this behavior, you have also joined The Dime a Dozen Club. Many people ask this question, and they may not truly realize how insulting it is for the server.

Please consider making an effort to get to know the server as a person instead of treating them as a substitute for the manager you were hoping to see. If you are fond of the tasting room manager, and if they hired the person pouring wine for you, you will probably like that person also. Give them a try! Chances are they are worthy of your time.

People work in tasting rooms for many reasons. One of them is a love of wine. You already have something in common, and you would have been off to a great start had you not pointed out your preference to speak with their absent boss instead of them. So give the person who is pouring your samples a chance to connect. Often, you will be amazed at what a terrific experience it turns out to be.

Now, if you have joined The Dime a Dozen Club, don’t despair. This is the easiest wine club you’ll ever quit.

Step 1: Stop saying those things. Viola! Fixed.

Step 2: If you find yourself in the company of people who say those things, interrupt them politely. Use humor or the most direct words you can find. The attendant will notice and might show their gratitude with special pours, extra snacks or a surprise experience. 

Step 3: If you witness other tasters in the room who unwittingly join this unfortunate club, say something supportive to the attendant on your way out and leave a generous tip.

Okay, today’s topic was tough to address, but I hope our tasting room environment will be better for it. Next time, we will explore the hot — and disappearing — topic of industry discounts. Make sure you have a glass of wine ready. This could get dicey.

About April Reddout

April Reddout is a professional wine judge and hospitality expert who was the wine program director at the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center in Prosser, Wash., and the guest services manager for Col Solare on Red Mountain. She can be reached at ReddoutWineConsulting.com.

4 Comments

  1. Jane says:

    Wow! You really tell it like it is AND with humor. Congrats.

  2. Max says:

    I’m absolutely in love with the idea of educating the members of this club that they are only introducing their ego as the most important part of the interaction. It’s also very nice to hear that step 1 of quitting the club is so easily achievable!

    It’s important for members of any service industry to clearly communicate an experience. This has definitely been washed down the the idea that ‘the customer is always right,’ which just isn’t true…the customer is NOT always right, and in fact, if they were right all the time, they’d be an employee with extensive knowledge of the selection and program.

    Such a refreshing read!

  3. Cherie Jensen says:

    Hi April,
    Thank you for tackling a tough topic. As a server, it’s hard to put on that smile everyday, and come up with a defense against these type of comments that’s witty but not offensive. Some guests don’t meant speak thoughtlessly, and I believe that your frank reminders might give them pause for thought.
    Cheers to you!

  4. Nick Warner says:

    Thankfully, I’m not a part of this club and thanks for sharing these invaluable tips to help me avoid this club, and help others to avoid it as well, in the future!

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