As you know, I recently returned from the first North American Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa, CA in Sonoma County. This was my first trip out West and only the second wine region I have visited. One of the reasons I was anxious to explore Sonoma was for a new perspective on both the offerings and challenges of our region here in the Finger Lakes AVA. Realizing that one can become jaded by not looking outside of the wine country landscape that has become home, I ventured forward excited and looking for new perspective.
Although a good bit of our time during the conference was spent at the Flamingo Resort and Spa, the opportunities to explore bits of Sonoma were good ones. Saturday included our choice of Zephyr Adventures vineyard walks that I previously posted about. Here’s what I took away after visiting and experiencing Michel-Schlumberger.
Beyond the amazing experience that Zephyr Adventures provided on these vineyard walks, I immediately noticed how down-to-earth and friendly winemaker Michael Brunson and General Manager Judd Wallenbrock are. I felt as if we were old friends invited to spend an afternoon in the vineyard with them. The people I encountered in Sonoma overall reminded me of the friendly, warm folks who make up the Finger Lakes Wine industry. To me, this is one of the reasons I fell in love with our wine country when I first started visiting tasting rooms in the Finger Lakes just two years ago. More than anything, in my mind, the people and the way they make you feel when you visit a new place create a connection to the region that you want to bring home with you (in several bottles!) and tell your friends and family about. And of course return to visit again.
Remember this coming from a wine lover who has a discerning eye for detail and who is looking at the numerous choices of wine to drink and wineries to visit, in hopes of adding a new favorite to my list. What are you and your staff doing to capture your new visitors hearts and create a memorable experience that will assure repeat visits and purchases of your wine? Do you have programs in place to excite your tasting room staff each day and make them feel special so that they in turn can project that feeling to your tasting room visitors? Are they personally consulting on wine purchases for visitors (when possible) or just letting them walk around the tasting room after finishing their tasting, possibly without purchasing any bottles? I’m not suggesting that your staff hard sell anything, but rather take a few extra steps to direct and help select wine that could lead to interest in your wine club down the road and return visits to your winery. Remember, people connect with people and this could make a difference. Visitors will walk out feeling special, more so than at the tasting room where they were not given that bit of personal attention.
Am I missing anything? Feel free to chime in.
More ideas to come…
One of the items on our itinerary for the Wine Bloggers Conference was a Zephyr Adventures vineyard walk. The vineyard walk I chose after a recommendation from my friend, Tom Wark at Fermentation was the vineyard walk at Michel-Schlumberger. I have to admit that this was one of the highlights of the weekend itinerary for me. I was excited to see a vineyard in another wine region, especially one in Sonoma County which has been on my hit list of wine regions I have been dying to visit.
First let me tell you that I was impressed with Allan Wright and team from Zephyr Adventures for our vineyard walk. They kept us on schedule but were unobtrusive during the walk. I appreciated many things about this experience. Of course the beauty of the vineyard, but also the intimate experience of a small group walking and hearing about the winery and vineyard from Michel-Schlumberger’s Sr. VP and General Manager Judd Wallenbrock and winemaker Mike Brunson. Both are down-to-earth and friendly and clearly passionate about the wines of Michel-Schlumberger. We wound through 4 miles of vineyards and ended our afternoon with a true vineyard lunch complete with long table for our group in the most beautiful setting. After watching many episodes of Michael Chiarello’s NapaStyle on Food Network, this setting was Heaven on Earth for me. (I realize that I was in Sonoma and Michael films from Napa) The attention to detail, gorgeous plates of Tuscan-inspired dishes from nearby restaurant Santi’s Chef de Cuisine, Liza Hinman included family style braised pork with fresh greens and farro with a mixed greens salad of fresh figs, grapes, and goat cheese. YUM!
Here’s what made my experience at Michel-Schlumberger so special and one I will remember until I’m a very old lady: it was an intimate experience with Judd and Mike and their entire staff, the setting was absolutely beautiful and we were treated like gold during our visit. I’m impressed with all of the people I met while in Sonoma and will surely return to visit on a leisure trip sometime in the future.
I hope you enjoy this video of our halfway stop and wine tasting with Michel-Schlumeberger’s Mike Brunson. Listen in as he explains the unique qualities of the Cab 6 grape. Enjoy!
For another blogger’s post on our experience at Michel-Schlumberger, see this post from AnotherWineBlog.com.