Please join us in welcoming Dr. Molly Kelly as our new Penn State Enology Extension Educator. In this role, Molly will support the technical needs of the Pennsylvania wine industry and lead educational programming focusing on wine quality. She has lead workshops, including winery sanitation, filtration, microscopy, wine analysis and berry sensory analysis. Molly’s research has focused on the effect of nitrogen and sulfur applications on Petit Manseng wine aroma and flavor. Her current research includes a pre-harvest, on-the-vine dehydration study in collaboration with Virginia Tech University.
Prior to this position, Molly was the Enology Extension Specialist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. She also held the position of enology instructor at Surry Community College in Dobson, N.C., where she developed the enology curriculum and managed all aspects of the college’s 1,000-case bonded winery. Under her direction, Surry produced numerous international award-winning wines. Prior to her position at Surry, she was a biodefense team microbiologist with the New York State Department of Health.
Last week Denise wrote a blog post about her time at Penn State as our state’s extension enologist. This week, a few of us who worked closely with Denise wanted to share our thoughts and wish her well in her new endeavor.
Denise established this blog and she has worked incredibly hard to provide the industry with information that was both timely and critical to the success of any winery. Denise was an excellent team player and she understood that the industry would also benefit from posts that also focused on viticulture, entomology, marketing, and business management issues. Hense, several of us have contributed to the blog by writing posts, and we will continue to do so to maintain our an online presence. We will post at least once a month (on the last Friday of each month) and we hope to return to a weekly posting schedule at some point.
Until then, we hope that you will join us in wishing Denise, “Good luck and best wishes!”
From Bryan Hed, Jody Timer, and Any Muza
On behalf of the folks at the Lake Erie Regional Grape Research and Extension Center, we wish Denise success in her future venture ‘Denise Gardner Winemaking’. Her passion for improving the wine grape industry in Pennsylvania has made her an essential part of our grape team for 6 years and she will be sorely missed. However, we’re glad she’ll still be around actively working with Pennsylvania winemakers and we hope to be able to continue to interact with her in some capacity during the years to come. She has been, and will always be, an excellent source of knowledge, professionalism, enthusiasm, team work…and good humor. Cheers, Denise!
From Michela Centinari
Since I started my tenure at Penn State, about three and a half years ago, Denise has always been there to help, no matter how numerous and annoying were my questions and requests. I learned a lot from her, not only about the Pennsylvania wine industry but also how to navigate what was for me a completely new world – “Extension.” I have fun memories of every extension visit/trip we had together over the last three years and she will always be, in my opinion, the best-dressed person doing vineyard visits (a joke between viticulture and enology people).
Denise has been the pillar of our extension grape team, always keeping us organized and on track to meet our blog post deadlines, and that was not an easy job!
Likely, many of you know Denise for her extension activities and efforts, but you may not know that throughout her tenure at Penn State she dedicated a lot of her time teaching winemaking to graduate and undergraduate students, spending long days in the ‘cellar’ with them. Because of her dedication, several Penn State undergraduate students were able to find jobs in the Pennsylvania wine industry as well as in other states. Without her hard work and assistance, we would not have been able to include winemaking in several of our viticulture-based research studies.
She has been a great colleague but most important she is a great friend. I will tell her the rest in person while drinking a glass of wine together.
Cheers Denise to your new endeavor!
From Jen Zelinskie
Best of luck to you, Denise! As a young student, you inspired me to explore the wine industry through our time working on the winemaking projects in the Food Science lab way back during my freshman and sophomore year. As I continued to grow in my education, you impacted me on my decision to further my studies in pursuing a Master’s degree with a focus on wine marketing. Thank you for being an encouragement and inspiration throughout my undergraduate and graduate career. I am beyond excited for your next step in starting your own consulting business and wish you the best of luck! I believe you will achieve great things and make many more differences in the wine industry in the future!
From Laura Homich
I can say with certainty that I would not be where I am today if I had not met you. There are not enough words or thank yous to express my gratitude for all that you have done for me.
When I stopped by your office junior year eager to begin enology research, I could not have dreamed of the number of opportunities and rich experiences that were in store. You spent countless hours teaching me the ins and outs of winemaking and analysis, working alongside me through many long days of grape processing and fermentation and explaining the methodology of each laboratory test and its importance to the winemaking process. You also coached me through the processes of conducting scientific research, showing me how to plan and perform a research study, interpret and represent the data, and construct and present a scientific paper. These experiences not only equipped me with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to take ownership of my graduate work, but they are also proving to be invaluable as I continue my career in the wine industry. For that – I am forever grateful.
You are surely someone whom I admire – ambitious, innovative, and bold! You have been an amazing mentor to me both professionally and personally, and your passion for enology and viticulture is undeniable. I always enjoyed observing you in your element, sharing your immense knowledge and experience with industry members and students whether through workshops, seminars, conferences, or social media posts. It is exciting to see you continuing to grow in your career, and I cannot wait to see all that you accomplish in the years to come.
Penn State Extension and the PA wine industry have been so lucky to have you serving in the role of Enologist for the past six and a half years. I am incredibly excited for you as you launch your new consulting business and wish you all the best as you begin this next chapter in your career.
From Abby Miller
I remember meeting Denise for the first time; I was a Sophomore working with a Dr. Alter in the College of Ag & the generously set up a meeting because I had expressed interest in the wine industry. She was extremely knowledgeable, energetic & allowed me to pick her brain on all things wine. At first, I recall I was intimidated by her accomplishments & thought I was out of my league, but Denise always opened her door to any & all questions I had with welcoming arms.
Fast forward two years to when I began Graduate School; she, fortunately, agreed to be on my graduate committee. Throughout my two years in Grad School, Denise was not only a tremendous teacher & mentor but also a great friend & confidant. She was a brilliant instructor of all things relating to wine, of course, but was also there for any other setback I came across, including the traumatizing public speaking engagements I had to endure. I was always inspired by her poise, expansive knowledge & humor and am thankful to have had her as a part of my time at Penn State & beyond.
I wish you all the best, Denise, as you embark on your next adventure with Denise Gardner Winemaking & cannot wait to watch you flourish in your next endeavor. Saluté!
From Mark Chien
Gosh, I hardly know where to begin with Denise, we have a long and fun history together, but here goes…
We first met when she was a sophomore at Conrad Weiser HS in Berks County. I’m not sure who introduced us, but there was this really bright and nerdy (in the best way) kid who had an unusual interest in grapevines and wines. She told me that she was visiting Adams County Winery with her parents and looked at a book about wine and she was hooked. The next thing I know, we are stomping Chambourcin grapes together with her classmates in the science lab and making wine (much to the chagrin of school administrators). We planted a small teaching vineyard at the school and then she started to use tissue culture to propagate grapevines and consulting with university professors, which is very advanced for a high school student. She not only took the initiative and educated herself, but she got other students interested in grapes and wine as well. She came to Penn State extension meetings and worked with Joanne Levengood at Manatawny Creek Vineyards. That is how the Denise and her wine story got started.
What followed was pretty typical for a college student, but atypical for a student in the east, the pursuit of enology as a discipline and career. It’s hard to know exactly what to think about a young person who follows her dream and instincts into such a rare career. Agriculture was strange enough, but wine and enology were truly off the beaten path. Fortunately, she had a very supportive family and some great mentors along the way.
She began with food science at Penn State and then enology at Virginia Tech. She nailed both and then moved to Napa Valley to work with Vinquiry, but the move itself was a challenge and maybe living in Napa was not the best place for someone from Berks County, so when Stephen Menke left for Colorado and the enology extension position opened up, she was the obvious and perfect choice!
It was a bit of an odd and delightful coincidence that Denise ended up at Penn State so we could work together for a few years before I departed for Oregon. Our relationship kind of went in a full circle. It was neat to see her grow into extension, especially her devotion to students and helping to prepare them for a career in wine, not something your average FST undergrad does at Penn State. Her interest in enology pegged her as a bit of an outlaw, and she always has had a feisty and independent attitude, going her own way and reaching her goals through sheer determination and preparation. She undertook the rigorous WSET course because she wanted to understand the people on the other side of the wine fence in the retail world.
Now she is off on yet another adventure, starting her own consulting business. I am certain that she will be very successful and hopefully happy working on her own and using her knowledge and skills to assist wine makers across the region. She’s lucky to have Josh as her partner and booster, to help bump up her confidence and nudge her forward. This is a great partnership that should flourish as they build their lives together.
I learned a lot from Denise over the years. Mainly that you can be very determined and reach your goals, but also have fun and enjoy the people who you meet along the way. Denise loves good food, wine, and people, so I hope everyone in the wine world will take advantage of her love of wine and life.
I have absolutely no doubt that Denise will continue to serve the wine industry in the Mid-Atlantic and help to improve the quality and reputation of the wines in the region. Denise has a really good attitude and spirit that has and will continue to serve her very well. We are delighted with the union between Denise and Josh and looking forward to the next chapter of their lives as it unfolds.
From Kathy Kelley
It is often said that having friends at work makes the job/tasks more enjoyable. I find that this is true and that working with Denise has made my job more enjoyable. Denise has an incredible work ethic and tons of energy and drive. In the six years that she has been with Penn State Extension, she has helped numerous businesses, established this blog, and worked with several undergraduate and graduate students who consider her a mentor/friend (as demonstrated in the messages above). Though she will no longer have a psu.edu email address – I look forward to opportunities when Denise and I can work on industry issues.
Good luck, Denise, there is no doubt that you will continue to be successful and that the industry will benefit from your knowledge, expertise, and that you truly care about their well-being.
By: Denise M. Gardner
The Pennsylvania Wine Marketing and Research Board (PA WMRB) annually awards researchers and graduate students grants to explore pertinent topics to the Pennsylvania wine industry. For the 2016 – 2017 fiscal year, four projects were awarded industry-funded grants. Results from these four projects will be presented at the 2017 Symposium, co-hosted by the PA WMRB, Penn State Extension, and the Pennsylvania Winery Association (PWA).
Registration is being organized through the PWA, and can be found here:
This year’s Symposium, held on Wednesday, March 29th at the Nittany Lion Inn (University Park, PA) will only run in the morning and is packed with 5 sessions of information pertinent to both the enology and viticulture fields in Pennsylvania. At the close of the Symposium a lunch will be provided for all attendees.
Guest Speaker has Enology and Tannin Focus
The WMRB Symposium key guest speaker is Dr. Catherine Peyrot des Gachons, Winemaker Consultant at Chouette Collective. Dr. Peyrot des Gachons has assisted Pennsylvania wineries with enhancing their quality production for several years. She will be speaking towards her tannin and wine aroma matrix research that she has been working on at the Viticulture and Enology Department through the University of Montpellier (France).
Tannins: Modulation of wine structure and aroma
From environmental factors on tannin biosynthesis to human interventions to modulate tannin content in wine what do we know and what can we do to modulate wine structure. Can this tannin content impact wine aroma? The presentation will focus on few main points of interest with practical applications.
An additional enology-based presentation will feature Laurel Vernarelli, a graduate student in Dr. Ryan Elias’s lab within the Penn State Department of Food Science. Laurel’s presentation will be an extension from Dr. Gal Kreitman’s work that was presented last year on predicting reductive off-odors in wines. Laurel will explore the use of copper fining in wine production and the potential impact it may have on wine quality. Given the prevalence of reductive off-odors, including hydrogen sulfide, and heavy reliance on copper fining, this topic should be of considerable interest to most wineries.
Reconsidering copper fining in wine
This presentation will include a brief overview of copper fining, along with the impact of reductive thiols and recent findings describing the effect that copper has in wine. A method for using immobilized copper materials in place of copper fining is described. Depending on the result obtained, winemakers can make informed decisions for use of alternative fining techniques when dealing with reductive issues.
For those with an interest in viticulture, this year’s program promises to deliver some key updates. Bryan Hed, Research Technologist for the Department of Plant Pathology, will present his annual updates regarding disease management for Pennsylvania vineyards. For those that are frequent blog followers, Bryan is a lead contributor to the important seasonal reviews. These tend to be very popular posts for growers and his presentations are always informative and practical. If you missed the 2016 seasonal reviews, you can find them here:
- Looking back at the 2016 season
- Late summer/early fall disease control, 2016
- 2016 Post-bloom disease management review
- 2016 Pre-bloom disease management review
Bryan’s talk at this year’s Symposium is a continued study with results collected over 2 years, which helps initiate trends and suggestions useful towards growers.
Updates on Grape Disease Management Research
Fruit zone leaf removal can be a very beneficial practice in the management of harvest season bunch rot. Bryan will start his presentation by briefly reviewing the pros and cons of different timings of this practice. In addition, leaf removal by hand is very expensive and labor intensive, and with the increasing scarcity and rising cost of hand labor, mechanization is crucial to increasing cost effectiveness and adoption of this practice, no matter what the timing. Bryan will follow up with an in depth discussion of the progress made toward mechanizing an early, pre-bloom leaf removal and comparing its effectiveness over a variety of wine grape cultivars and training systems during the past two seasons.
Maria Smith, Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Michela Centinari’s lab, will discuss her research regarding early leaf removal in Gruner Veltliner vines. Maria and Dr. Centinari have previously written a blog post pertaining to leaf removal strategies for Mid-Atlantic vineyards, which could act as an excellent primer to Maria’s presentation in March. Her presentation will deliver two-years (2015, 2016) of data regarding the effects of early leaf removal and cluster thinning techniques on Gruner Veltliner vines.
Vine response and management costs of early leaf removal for yield regulation in V. vinifera L. Gruner Veltliner
Early leaf removal (ELR) and cluster thinning (CT) were applied and compared for yield regulation in Grüner Veltliner over the 2015 and 2016 growing seasons. Early leaf removal was performed at two different times, trace-bloom and fruit-set. We compared the effects of ELR and CT on grape quality, vine health, and economic costs to un-thinned vines.
Finally, Dr. Michela Centinari will follow up with further results regarding sprayable products to reduce frost damage in wine grape vineyards. Michela’s frost research has been a prominent topic at previous Symposiums, and is often featured here on the blog site. While the updated results that will be presented at the 2017 Symposium have not yet been reported through Penn State Extension, please see some of her past blog posts pertaining to frost control and freeze damage in the vineyard:
- Understanding and Preventing Spring Frost/Freeze Damage – Spring 2016 Updates | Wine & Grapes U.
- Updates on Freeze Injury in Grapevines
- Evaluate cost-effective methods to decrease crop losses due to frost injury
- An update to studies on frost injury, by Maria Smith
Spray-on materials: can they reduce frost damage to grapevines?
Dr. Centinari will present results of studies conducted to test the efficacy of sprayable products as a low-cost frost protection strategy. Two materials Potassium-Dextrose-Lac (KDL) and a seaweed extract of Ascophyllum nodosum, were tested for their cryo-protective activity using a controlled-freezing technique on several grapevine cultivars.
We hope to see you there!
By: Denise M. Gardner
Early in 2016, I was asked to create a “behind the scenes” event in late October to feature our research winemaking program and share this with alumni to introduce them to some of the things that Penn State offers in the fields of viticulture and enology. This was, by far, one of the most interesting events I have organized during my time with Penn State, and it ended up being a very rewarding experience, personally, to see the pride and talent that contributed to make the event a success.
The challenge: teach a group of adults about wine production… most of whom have probably very little knowledge about or experience in actual wine production.
As many of us know, making wine is not really the romantic ideal that is often portrayed and associated with the wine industry. We all know that we aren’t overlooking our vineyards with a glass of wine in hand 24-7.
It’s hard work. It’s dedication. And it’s farming.
When I introduced this event idea to the Extension Enology Advisory Committee – a group composed of 13 volunteers from Pennsylvania’s wine industry and several representatives from various academic communities – they all jumped on the idea of showcasing the Penn State Extension Enology presence and the impact it has had on the local industry in addition to Penn State’s research programs.
Starting in April 2016, I went to work on developing a short [film] script to organize and develop a small video that highlighted our research initiatives and student involvement around winemaking at Penn State. The hope was that this video would feature how students, faculty, and staff are getting involved with industry members via Penn State Extension’s programs while also explaining how wine is generally produced.
With this video, I ended up interviewing two faculty members from our research team, Dr. Michela Centinari from the Dept. of Plant Sciences and Dr. Ryan Elias from the Dept. of Food Science. We collected their perspectives and opinions on various activities that they have been involved in and related it back to the growth and development associated with Penn State offering educational and research experiences in viticulture, enology, and wine marketing.
Luckily, one of the media specialists within the College of Agricultural Sciences, Jon Cofer, had a collection of footage that we had shot during wine processing days just in case we ever needed video footage for anything. As luck would have it, we did need the media footage! Jon sifted through hours of film to find the best footage, which we then tied back into the explanation on how research wines are generally processed at Penn State.
During our travels around the state, whether it was to check in on research trials or visit with industry members during Regional Winery Visits, Michela, a group of dedicated graduate students, and I collected video footage in commercial vineyards in an attempt to highlight what goes on during the growing season. And finally, I met with some recent graduates that experienced educational opportunities through Penn State and Extension, and who both work in Pennsylvania’s wine industry today. I have to admit, one of the most awarding experiences in being Penn State’s Extension Enologist is that I have watched several “students” graduate and find full-time job placement within our state’s wine industry. It is an absolute joy to see these young adults exceed in a growing industry.
The result of this event couldn’t have been better received. Instead of making wine with a group of non-winemakers, we set up three educational stations to teach about:
- wine grape properties and vineyard management by highlighting how to conduct a berry sensory analysis, explaining berry physiological differences, and teaching how to read a refractometer.
- the chemistry behind fermentation and sensory training associated with wine tasting through analytical demonstrations and “aroma guessing” with aroma standards.
- and evaluating the end result (finished wine!) of some of our best research wines and commercial winery collaborators.
The educational portion of this program was a big success. Attendees learned about native and wine grape varieties grown in Pennsylvania, and how those grapes compare to table grapes that people see in grocery stores. At the fermentation booth, participants learned how to measure Brix to determine potential alcohol and how a temperature-controlled stainless steel tank can be useful in wine production. Additionally, our graduate students put guests’ nose-sniffing skills to the greatest test in seeing if they could guess various wine aromas without peaking at the answers! It was enlightening to see our students teach the importance of these skills to develop a career in the wine industry.
The Penn State research wines that are made at University Park were also a big hit. Explaining the purpose of research wines can be a slight challenge, as most of our wines are never finished. This means that in order to emphasize a vineyard or winemaking treatment, fining, stabilizing, and finishing treatments (like oak aging) are kept to an absolute minimum or completely avoided. In many cases, bottled wines will never see any oak or fining other than getting racked off of their lees.
Our primary display was on the Noiret wines, which was a project funded by the PA Wine Marketing and Research Board to determine if vineyard management treatments affected the concentration and perception of rotundone, the primary aroma compound associated with the Noiret variety that exudes a black pepper aroma. The rosé wine, also made from Noiret, was an excellent contrast to the red wines produced from the same variety. Pairing the wines with various cheeses produced by Berkey Creamery was an excellent way to also talk about wine styles produced in Pennsylvania and the importance of food and wine pairing with many of the local wines.
If you are interested in tasting many of our wine trials, please join us at the annual PA Wine Marketing and Research Board Symposium. The 2017 Symposium will be held in University Park on March 29th! (More details on this conference will be released soon!)
But what happened to that video?! If you are still interested in evaluating our winemaking program, curious about what we have been up to for the past few years, please feel free to enjoy our short 12 minute video that highlights a small portion of our efforts to work with industry and participate in viticulture and enology research. While the program is young, we have truly been fortunate to work with some pretty amazing people: commercial growers and producers that are interested in research, students developing expertise, and other academic colleagues that have been willing to collaborate with us as we build our programs.
We truly hope that you have seen or experienced some of the benefits of our programs, but if you would like to know more about what we do, please do not hesitate to contact us! Our email addresses are readily available and we also try to document our regular activities on Facebook. We honestly couldn’t do it without the support of people like YOU!
Enjoy the video! We think it is fairly entertaining, a lot of work went into it, and it showcases a small fraction of the things we are trying to do at Penn State to help progress and educate the local wine industry:
(If you do not have a dropbox account, simply hit “No Thanks” when the pop up window is displayed. You can also do this if you would like to avoid logging into dropbox.)
By: Dr. Kathy Kelley
With just a few weeks until Valentine’s Day and March and April tasting room trail events being planned, you are probably giving some thought to the customer service your staff provides, whether your tasting room sheets might need to be updated, and what constitutes overall customer satisfaction. What I have included in this blog post are highlights of a few marketing studies and some strategies that focus on various tasting room components.
Does your tasting room sheet need a “make under?”
Your tasting room sheet is meant to inform consumers about what to expect from the wine before they sample it, but how much information is too much?
Tomas et al. (2014) conducted a study with seven New York State wineries (two had two tasting room locations) to determine if removing sensory descriptors, defined as “any adjective used to describe the flavor or aroma of the finished wine, both subjective and objective,” would have an impact on tasting room sales (http://bit.ly/1WPpqen).
The researchers provided an example in their article that included the descriptions of the climate where the grapes were grown and what the wine paired with, but eliminated the sensory descriptor: “Dry and full-bodied with decadent flavors of pink grapefruit, honeysuckle and lemon meringue.”
Data from the study indicated that both bottle sales and dollar sales were higher when the modified tasting room sheets were used. The researchers concluded that sensory descriptors “may be intimidating to the inexperienced consumers, who may face further frustration if they try a wine based on its sensory description but cannot recognize the same attributes, or if their expectations are not met” (Tomas et al., 2014). For visitors who have more experience with wine, and “may have existing sensory expectations,” such descriptions may have a reduced “effect…on their choice” of wine.
To charge or not to charge
Now, what about the tasting fee you might charge. Do consumers avoid tasting rooms that charge a fee?
Of the consumers who participated in a 2012 survey conducted in Michigan, 29% indicated that they do “avoid tasting rooms that charge a fee” (http://bit.ly/1KS85eT). The remainder (71%) who did not avoid tasting rooms that charge a fee to taste the wines “purchased an average of 7.68 bottles of wine” with a total of $135.78 spent “over the course of their trip.” Those who avoided tasting rooms that charge a fee reported that they “purchased an average of 6.58 bottles of wine” and spent a total of $97.82 “over the course of their trip.”
Customer service – why it needs to be good
As you well know, poor customer service can cause customers to flee a tasting room quite quickly, but how are consumers’ actions influenced by “good customer service?”
Byrd et al. (2016) surveyed North Carolina winery tasting room visitors about what prompted their visit and how important, on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = very unimportant and 5 = very important), winery and regional attributes were in the decision to visit a wine region. Eighty-six percent of survey participants rated “good customer service” a 4.39 and “winery staff are knowledgeable about wine” a 4.36, both a which were between “important” and “very important.”
When asked about future actions based on their tasting room experience, 91.2% of those who rated “good customer service” as “very important” responded that they would “likely:” 1) revisit the winery, 2) recommend the winery/vineyard to others, 3) visit any winery in the state in the future, and 4) purchase North Carolina wines. The likelihood of “engaging further with NC wine and wineries” was lower for those who assigned a lower rating to the importance of “good customer service” at the winery.
Is your tasting room experience “all that?”
Have you ever wondered which aspects of a consumer’s tasting room experience contributes to his or her “overall customer satisfaction?”
In this study, conducted by researchers at Cornell University, tasting room visitors rated 24 attributes related to their tasting room experience (e.g. sounds in the tasting room, friendliness of pourer, availability of non-wine gift items) and their overall satisfaction with the visit on a scale from 1 to 5 (1 = poor and 5 = excellent) (Shapiro and Gomez, 2014).
The 24 attributes were combined (based on similarities) into five categories:
1) Ambience (e.g. tasting room cleanliness, lighting, sounds, view)
2) Service (e.g. pourer knowledge, friendliness, appearance)
3) Tasting protocol (e.g. number and variety of wines offered, tasting fee)
4) Tasting experience (e.g. customer’s ability to select wines tasted, waiting time)
5) Retail execution (e.g. wines and merchandise available for purchase, wine quality and price perceptions)
According to the researchers, “ambience” followed by “service” and “tasting protocol” contributed “to overall customer satisfaction” in the tasting room and that “level of customer satisfaction influences the decision to buy, the amount of dollars spent and the number of bottles purchased in a shopping occasion” (Shapiro and Gomez, 2014).
In addition, while their participants’ mean ratings for each of the five categories (e.g. ambience, service, tasting protocol) were between “very good” (a rating of 4 out of 5) and “excellent” (a rating of 5 out of 5), a one-point increase in the “ambience” score (for example, an increase from 4 to 5) increased overall customer satisfaction by 0.25 points.
A one-point decrease in “ambience” (for example, a decreased from 4 to 3) also had an impact as the overall customer satisfaction then decreased by 0.25 points (Shapiro and Gomez, 2014). A one-point increase (decrease) in the ratings for the other four categories resulted in a small increase (decrease) in customer satisfaction.
“Welcome to X Winery. We offer a free winery tour in addition to having some wonderful wines available for you to taste…”
When you visit some big box stores or warehouse clubs you are often greeted by an employee who is checking your membership card, rolling a cart your way, directing you to a department, etc. Part of the strategy is to deter theft, but in 2015, after a three-year hiatus, Wal-Mart brought the greeters back to a select number of store entrances to also “improve the profitability of its U.S. operations by making the stores friendlier…” (http://on.wsj.com/1Jet4MU).
According to a winery consultant, Patty Held, her experience at a winery on a busy Saturday was enhanced by the greeter who informed her about the tasting fee, the gift shop, and other activities she could participate in during her visit. Ms. Held stated in her blog post that when the tasting room is busy, staff are most likely focusing their attention on pouring wines, ringing up sales, etc., consumers who just walked through the door could be “ignored by tasting room staff because they are busy taking care of the other guests” (http://bit.ly/1T8ESDR).
In an upcoming blog, Jen will provide more information on suggested do’s and don’ts for making customers feel welcome – especially during those busy periods.
Sit down and take a load off
Could the addition of seating in your tasting room increase sales?
Based on data collected form wineries that responded to the 2015 Wine Business Monthly/Silicon Valley Bank Tasting Room Survey, “average wine purchases” where higher for those who were seated at a table or area other than at the bar when participating in a wine tasting. If this seated tasting was “private or formal” the average wine purchase was $392, while the average purchase was $107 for consumers who participated in a “casual or group” seated tasting. The average wine purchase for a customer standing at the tasting room bar was $75, while this dollar amount was $65 if the customer was seated at the tasting room bar. In addition, “Seated customers are more likely to join the wine club than if they are standing at the tasting bar” (Penn. 2015).
According to the May 13, 2015 broadcast, 70.79% of visitors purchased wine from the tasting room if they were seated and the tasting was “private or formal” (http://bit.ly/1nbXzdp).
Why is the seated arrangement a benefit compared to standing? The researchers believe that seating allows for personalization, “art of service,” one-on-one conversations, and relationship building between the customer and the tasting room staff (http://bit.ly/1nbXzdp).
Welcome Jen Zelinskie
I would like to introduce Jennifer Zelinskie, the graduate student who is continuing the consumer research funded by the USDA Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program: “Developing Wine Marketing Strategies for the Mid-Atlantic Region” (Grant 11091317). Jen graduated from Penn State in May 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition Dietetics. She has also assisted Denise in previous NE-1020 vintages, in which wines were made at Penn State using several wine grape varieties produced at the North East and Biglerville, PA research vineyards. You can read more information regarding the NE-1020 variety trials here, and the Penn State student winemaking experiences here.
Jen’s interest in wine marketing, and hence some of the questions she will ask survey participants, does include understanding consumer attitudes about wine in relation to their nutritional intake and subsequent consumption and purchasing behaviors. Jen has worked in the past for a winery in the vineyard and in the tasting room. Currently, she is behind the tasting bar at a local cidery and assisting with building the business’s social media presence. In the coming months we will publish blogs that describe outcomes from her recent consumer survey. Welcome Jen!
Byrd, E.T., B. Canziani, Y.C. Hsieh, K. Debbage, and S. Sonmez. 2016. Wine tourism: Motivating visitors through core and supplementary services. Tourism Management 52: 19-29. doi:10.1016/j.tourman.2015.06.009
Penn, C. 2015. 2015 WBM/SVB tasting room survey report. Wine business Monthly. 22(7):50-58
Shapiro, M. and M. Gomez. 2014. Customer satisfaction and sales performance in wine tasting rooms. International Journal of Wine Business Research. 26(1):45-60.
Thomas, L., M.I. Gomez, C.J. Gerling, and A.K. Mansfield. 2014. The effect of tasting sheet sensory descriptors on tasting room sales. International Journal of Wine Business Research. 26(1):61-72.
By: Denise M. Gardner
I can officially say that I have now been involved with 5 harvests here at Penn State, with my first harvest in 2011. Returning to Pennsylvania from California in 2011 could not have been a greater challenge to an incoming newbie, and I think it will forever be one of the most difficult vintages I have had the experience to deal with to date. Not only did I manage to lose an entire lot of finished wine down the drain (long story…), but I recognized the need to bring PA-produced research wines to Pennsylvania’s growing wine industry during a daunting season from a weather perspective. Additionally, I saw an opportunity to educate students on how to make wine while they helped me process fruit from the research vineyards. In that first year, 5 lucky college seniors helped me process about 8 different varieties from the NE-1020 “multi-state evaluation of wine grape cultivars and clones” project, which was being financially supported by a multi-state SCRI grant.
Looking back today, I now see that the 2011 vintage provided me with a starting point to work with students and a series of winemaking lessons for future vintages that I continue to recall even today.
I was actually one of those bright-eyed students back in my younger days. I stumbled upon Penn State Extension and Mark Chien by pestering local Extension educators on how to grow grapevines. I still recall the many opportunities Mark, specifically, provided for me despite my age or lack of wine knowledge. Mark taught me how to plant a vineyard, from site selection to digging holes for a trellis, how to monitor vine growth through proper pruning techniques, how to ferment grapes into wine, and the various stages involved in production that went beyond the basic texts on how to make wine. I connected with industry members and was awarded an experience to intern at Lallemand in Toulouse, France before I reached my freshman year in college.
When I arrived to Penn State in 2011, I had a memory of the opportunities Extension awarded me and a goal of working with students that may have an interest in wine production. I still laugh when I recall a number of students that experienced a harvest at a local winery, only to tell me it was “the hardest thing they have ever had to do.”
While many may not make the connection, food science offers an incredible foundation of knowledge that is beneficial for winemakers and those whom wish to go into fermented beverage production. Students engage in a series of classes to develop a foundation in chemistry, microbiology, and biotechnology. Additionally, they learn important processing parameters that are affiliated with winemaking: sanitation, quality control practices, safety when processing, proper sampling techniques, and experimental practices to improve food/beverage products.
For that reason, the annual harvest and production of wine with use of undergraduate and graduate students’ support has blossomed into many positive ventures:
- Since 2010, Penn State Food Science and several Pennsylvania wineries have sponsored student co-ops at wineries during vintage seasons. These experiences educate students in wine production, and specifically provided venues for “real world” experiences in the wine industry.
- Undergraduate students have embarked on undergraduate research experiences pertaining to wine research within the College of Agricultural Sciences. Several of these projects have benefited the local wine industry.
- Graduates from Food Science have started to “harvest hop” to the southern hemisphere for winemaking and production experiences internationally. Virginia (Smith) Mitchell, head winemaker at Galer Estate Winery, traveled to Australia in the winter months of 2013 while Allie Miller will travel to New Zealand for the 2016 harvest. These experiences bring a global perspective and education that facilitate innovative changes to the growing Pennsylvania wine industry.
- Several students have benefited from permanent placement in the wine and fermented beverage industries upon graduation, and many have committed to Pennsylvania operations. The experience gained through research winemaking here at Penn State is invaluable and leaves them with base knowledge in wine production.
- Many students volunteer for Extension programming, which gives them the opportunity to present research and educational experiences to industry members as well as network with potential employers (you!).
- Graduate research has flourished. Both Dr. Ryan Elias and Dr. Michela Centinari have several graduate students that are working on applied research projects which address winemaker and grower needs reflected in previous industry needs assessments.
- Since 2011, the number of research wines being made has more than quadrupled. Today, we have outgrown the equipment I used in 2011 and outgrown our storage capacity for research wines. The wines produced at Penn State are annually evaluated at regional Extension events.
With such a positive focus on student development and interaction with Pennsylvania’s grape and wine industry, the 2015 vintage was expected to be our best vintage yet!
The 2015 growing season did not leave much hope for Pennsylvania grape growers and winemakers, and I can recall a series of summer meetings in which winemakers from across the state asked me if I was prepared to deal with a lack of fruit and a bunch of rot in our research winemaking curriculum. Luckily, as Michela will reflect upon next week, the season shaped up to be one of the best I have experienced in my time here at Penn State.
For 2015, we recruited 10 interested undergraduate students for the 2015 harvest season to assist with the research harvests and wine production. This is double the quantity of students that typically enroll in an independent study experience associated with enology.
Students participate in regular wine processing operations, which can be seen in Figures 2 – 7: crushing, pressing, monitoring fermentation, and completing wines through malolactic fermentation. Additionally, at the end of the semester, each enrolled student presents on a wine grape variety of interest.
Many students arrive with a genuine interest in fermentation science, or would like to get more experience in food production. Many of them leave the fall semester with future undergraduate research opportunities, internships/co-ops at wineries, or develop an expectation to graduate with permanent placement in the fermented beverage industry.I can’t wait to share some of the 2015 wines with the local industry at the March 2016 PA Wine Marketing & Research Board Symposium or at future Extension Enology events.
As a general reminder, many of these projects are financially supported through the multi-state Grape Wine Quality Eastern U.S. Initiative SCRI grant (which partially funds the NE-1020 variety trial research program), the PA Wine Marketing and Research Board, and the Crouch Fellowship, among other grant agencies.
Here are just a few snap shots that depict everything that we are currently working on for the 2015 harvest season:
To follow all of our annual research harvest activities, please ‘Like’ us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/PennStateExtensionEnology