Archive | Tasting Room Events RSS for this section

Tasting Rooms and COVID-19

By Dr. Kathy Kelley, Professor of Horticultural Marketing and Business Management

Recently, several industry sources have published articles with predictions as to how consumers may buy goods and services in a post-COVID-19 environment, and how to prepare now. Below is a list of some of these insights and ways you could incorporate them into your marketing strategy.  

  1.  Doing good for the greater good

Not too long ago, we published a blog post that described the importance of developing a cause marketing program ( ), since then it has become apparent that consumers are responding positively to businesses that “‘do the right thing’ during this crisis” (Gonsior and Chidley, 2020). And, after the crisis ends, consumers may be more likely to purchase from businesses that reached out and helped their community during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Not every alcoholic beverage business has an inventory of gloves or masks that they can donate, nor the ability to shift operations to make hand sanitizer. Some have used their purchasing power to buy items in greatest need in their community (e.g., hand sanitizer, reusable bags) from their suppliers and either sold them or created COVID-19 survival care packages along with a bottle of wine.    

Other ways to “do good” could include posting the following on your website:

2. Connecting with consumers

Not surprisingly, consumers have increased their Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as messaging apps, usage since the outbreak (Hanson, 2020). For example, 17% of U.S. consumers, age 16-64, were “spending longer [amounts of time] on messaging services” apps, 32% on social media, and other online activities between March 16 to 20, 2020 (Watson, 2020). Thus, it only makes sense to go where potential customers are spending their time and create content that will distract them and occupy their time. 

The number of virtual tastings and happy hours that have occurred since the COVID-19 outbreak is quite impressive, with events hosted by individual wineries, regional winery associations, and even an “open that local bottle of wine” event held on March 28, 2020. For wineries and tasting rooms interested in hosting an event, Wine Business Monthly hosted a webinar, that is available on-demand, that describes best practices:

There are several different types of sessions that you could host live on Instagram, Facebook, Zoom, etc., and then post for on-demand viewing:

  • How your wines pair with trending flavors. 
  • Ask consumers to post questions about wine topics on your social media sites and then answer them during a live session. 
  • Provide updates about your business and demonstrate the steps customers should follow to place a wine order and how the pick-up and delivery process works at your winery.  

Cohost a session using Zoom or another videoconferencing program that allows multiple presenters (a list of some Zoom alternatives: with:

  • Local restaurants that are offering menu takeout and delivery items that pair with your wines.
  • Cooking schools that can demonstrate food safety handling tips, how consumers can make delicious meals in their own homes that can pair with your wines.
  • Bartenders and mixologists who can talk about the cocktail trend and create a couple of wine cocktails with your wines.  

According to one source, “most of us switch off [of a presentation] at around the 10-18 minute mark,” thus the optimal length for a presentation is 18 minutes. This amount of time “is short enough to hold people’s attention, including on the Internet and precise enough to be taken seriously” (Wong, 2018). Anything longer and you risk consumers tuning out or switching to another task.

Once the session has ended, not only post the full-length video but consider how you can divide up the video into shorter segments to appear to those of us who might find 18 minutes to be too long of a session. For example, divide up the session with the cooking school chef into three videos: one on food safety handling tips, another on easy to prepare meals, and the third on which of your wines pairs with the dish and optimum temperature for serving the wine.  

3. “Heightened sensitivity” to cleanliness and crowds 

Even after the COVID-19 outbreak is over, “we may have a different sense of our personal space…[and how] we feel about crowds and tight space” (Gonsior and Chidley, 2020). Distancing may lead tasting rooms, bars, and restaurant owners and operators to rethink the layout of these spaces. Evaluate your interior and exterior spaces and how you might rearrange them to accommodate those who may be uncomfortable seated at tightly packed tables and standing at tasting bars where consumers are two to three people deep.  

Rethinking your floorplan and increasing the space you allocate to seating is a good strategy even during times when we are not in a crisis. Based on data collected from wineries that responded to the 2015 Wine Business Monthly/Silicon Valley Bank Tasting Room Survey, “average wine purchases” were 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. Also, according to the source, “Seated customers are more likely to join the wine club than if they are standing at the tasting bar” (Penn, 2015). 

4. Continued reliance on delivery and takeout

Right now, those essential businesses that can and can provide goods via delivery, pick-up, and contactless transfer of products can meet some consumers’ needs. And while these businesses may think that these processes will only appeal to consumers during this period, we may find that consumers will continue to want the convenience of takeout and delivery after businesses reopen (Gonsior and Chidley, 2020). During this time and the recovery period, consumer expectations may likely increase from a stance of just having an order filled to one that provides a pleasing experience. Right now, with your main interface being your website, be sure to ask customers if the website and ordering process is “straightforward and enjoyable” and that they “can still purchase and engage in a frictionless, easy way” (Mottl, 2020). 

Create a short survey that gages the ease of the ordering process, or send a follow-up email thanking them for their purchase along with a link to a survey that asks them to evaluate the ordering and pick-up/delivery processes and how it can be improved.  


Gonsior, L. and B. Chidley. March 27, 2020. Expert insight: Four long-term retail trends in post-COVID-10 world. Chain Store Age.

Hanson, A. March 27, 2020. How social networks are surging and changing during the COVID-19 outbreak. ACH Communications.

Mottl, J. March 31, 2020. COVID-19: How retailers can overcome the challenges of a pandemic. Retail Customer Experience.

Penn, C. 2015. 2015 WBM/SVB tasting room survey report. Wine Business Monthly.  22(7):50-58

Watson, A. March 30, 2020. Consuming media at home due to the coronavirus worldwide 2020, by country.

Wong, W. January 10, 2018. The ideal length for every online content. SEOPressor

Festival and Event Trends

By Kathy Kelley, Professor of Horticultural Marketing and Business Management, Department of Plant Science, and Claudia Schmidt, Assistant Professor of Agricultural Economics, Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education

While we realize that there are varying opinions about wine festivals and whether they provide a desirable return on investment, it is important to be aware of consumer interest in such activities.  This blog post describes who attends festivals, why they attend these events, and what to offer that will result in a memorable experience.  

What is the true benefit of attending festivals and events?

Among the services they offer, White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group conducts research and publishes articles and blog posts about how, why, and where consumers spend their leisure time.  A number of their publications focus on how consumers of all ages desire experiences and that they are less likely to “[define] themselves based upon what they own…[but] upon the experience they have in their free time” (

An experience is “more than just entertainment…in fact, many times, the entertainment is not the largest part of their equation or the main motivation,” instead, when consumers “go out” with family and friends, “they often are primarily looking for a social experience, an opportunity to talk and be together.  The entertainment might only be the excuse to get together” ( To offer customers a festival experience that leads to loyalty, provide both entertainment and an ecstatically pleasing environment (Mason and Nassivera, 2013).  Thus, the theme, visuals, and overall festival design needs to be well executed. 

Increased interest in attending festivals and events

In 2015, survey participants were asked about the food, wine, and beer events (ranging from tastings to “special events and pop-ups” to “wine and beer festivals of all shapes and sizes”) they attended in the past 12 months.  Based on results, 

  • a majority (80%) of Millennial participants responded that they attended three or more of these events and 
  • 44% responded that they attended five or more within the past year.  

These events are “something they look forward to and get excited about,” (89% of Millennial participants selected the response) and that the events are among “their favorite things to do” (67%) (

According to the source, Millennials are “yearning for live experiences. Instead of sitting down to a one-course meal at a restaurant with expensive drinks… [they are] seeking tasting experiences with a variety of times served.” Also, 61% would feel “they’ve missed out if they see photos of friends at a festival nearby that they didn’t attend,” and 64% “love to talk about the event with family and friends.”

Types of festivals that appeal

What types of festivals do consumers prefer?  When asked to indicate which festivals appealed, of the options presented, 

  • more Millennials (47%) ranked beer festivals as their most preferred event compared to 43% of Gen Xers and 32% of Baby Boomers and 
  • 21% of Baby Boomers and 17% of Gen Xers preferred wine festivals compared to 11% of Millennials. 

Hence, it is critical, for the longevity of established and new wine festivals, to identify whether this difference in participation is due to alcoholic beverage of choice, or the structure and entertainment provided during these events.  

It may be necessary to capitalize on these data and incorporate other alcoholic beverage vendors for a greater appeal to increase Millennial participation at traditionally wine-focused festivals. Gathering data from attendees will result in a more accurate assessment of what appeals and would encourage repeat festival participation.  This is because understanding the experience consumers have at a festival can be an important predictor of future behavior (Manthiou et al., 2012).  While sales data collected from vendors is one indicator of a festival’s success, other measures, such as after-festival brand recall and product purchases also need to be considered.  

For the foreseeable future, it appears that festivals, in general, will remain a relevant form of entertainment and appeal to experiencing seeking consumers.  According to their research, we are less likely to feel guilty spending money on experiences than on material goods, “feel more connected to other people, the community, and the world,” by attending live events, would rather be “known for [our] experiences than [our] possessions” (    Other research indicates that more Millennials (73%) believe that “attending a live event is a form of self-expression” compared to other generations (48%) (  

Being strategic

Because there is a need to “make the most of their time,” consumers may desire or require shorter experiences to fit within their schedule.  And, because they want to use their time efficiently, there may be an interest in planning and scheduling activities to fit within the prescribed time (  This could be an advantage for tasting rooms that host festivals and events that require attendees to register and perhaps pay a deposit to attend.  It is a great advantage in terms of knowing how many staff members are needed for an activity and/or how much space would be required if planners know the approximate number of attendees.  

If their time is so precious, then it may make sense to offering experiences that “check more than one box.” According to White Hutchinson, several “new” offerings combine entertainment with another aspect.  For example, dinner cinemas (movies + meals), provides couples and groups with food, entertainment, and the ability to socialize.  Perhaps, in addition to more informal food offerings, attendees can participate in a full meal with wine pairings for each course. 

How much might attendees pay to attend?

According to one study, 74% of U.S. survey respondents “would prioritize spending spare change on experiences rather than products” (  All generations, not just Millennials, are focusing less on “accumulating stuff” and searching for experiences (  

When asked how much they would be willing to pay for a festival ticket,

  • 83% of Millennials would pay between $36 and $50 for a ticket to a wine festival, 
  • 85% would pay this amount for a food festival ticket, and 
  • 89% would pay the amount for a beer festival ticket.  

Only 3% of survey participants indicated that their motivation to attend was because admission was free.    

Offer exclusive opportunities

In addition to the entrance fee, 40% of Millennials surveyed were willing to pay an additional fee for a once-in-a-lifetime festival experience (e.g., VIP tent, ability to meet special guests/headliners) (  Such optional experiences may increase attendance and possibly increase the amount spent at the festival.  

Helping attendees share their experience

Consumers like to share their experiences as they happen with their friends and social media followers.  While they can easily share a photo online, consider creating a Facebook event frame, Instagram Geotag, and/or Snapchat filter (  Or rent a smart photo booth so attendees can take and post photos, videos, and create GIFs ( that could further their reach and promote you event.      

Eventbrite also suggests encouraging potential attendees to “retweet to win” free tickets and use branded hashtags on Twitter and/or Instagram and Snapchat snaps throughout and after the event to select and award attendees prizes (  

Attendance alone should not be the only quantifiable factor used to determine a festival’s success; what is offered and experienced at the event should be analyzed as well.  Survey attendees during and after the event. If participants have to register to attend or their information is gathered during the event, develop a short questionnaire to ask them about their experience, what could be improved, and what would encourage them to attend future festivals and events.  


Michela Cesarina Mason & Federico Nassivera (2013) A Conceptualization of the Relationships Between Quality, Satisfaction, Behavioral Intention, and Awareness of a Festival, Journal of Hospitality Marketing & Management, 22:2, 162-182, DOI:10.1080/19368623.2011.643449

Manthiou, Aikaterini & Lee, Seonjeong (Ally) & Tang, Liang & Chiang, Lanlung. (2014). The Experience Economy Approach to Festival Marketing: Vivid Memory and Attendee Loyalty. Journal of Services Marketing. 28. 22-35. 10.1108/JSM-06-2012-0105.

Summary of the Silicon Valley Bank’s Wine Division Direct-to Consumer Wine Sales videocast, Part 1

By Dr. Kathy Kelley, Professor of Horticultural Marketing and Business Management

Each year, The Silicon Valley Bank’s Wine Division releases a State of the Wine Industry Report. This is followed by a videocast overview in January, and then a videocast focusing on Direct-to-Consumer Wine Sales in May.  For more information about these products and events click on this link:  On Wednesday, I watched Part 1 of the Silicon Valley Bank “Insights for Successful Consumer Wine Sales” videocast.  If you missed the live videocast, you can watch the recording and/or sign up for Part 2, which will air on May 29, 2019, via this link:  Both videocasts will be the subject of Cryril Penn’s July 1 Wine Business Monthly article. Until then, I decided to write a blog post to give you an idea of some of the main themes discussed during videocast, as well as examples of how you can utilize the information at your own winery and tasting rooms.  

In-home Experiences/Tasting Opportunities: Personalization and Convenience 

The panel discussed the fact that subscription boxes are popular – in fact, the industry was estimated to be worth at least $10 billion in 2018 ( Subscription boxes are offered based on “who” the box is for (e.g., age range, gender, pet owner), interests (e.g., food, wine, fitness, environmentally friendly products), usage (e.g., beauty and clothing, education, cleaning), and are often “mass customized.”  As with one specific wine-based subscription box, new subscribers answer survey questions, after which each package is semi-personalized with products that are most likely to appeal.  

Perhaps you are wondering how you can take advantage of this trend.  Whether you have an existing club/loyalty program or if you have considered doing so, you can implement the “best practices” that make subscription clubs so popular.  A couple of these include:

1)    Incorporate user-generated content (UGC)

UGCs are customer reviews that include photos and/or video, in addition to text, that describes the user’s experience (think Amazon reviews), which companies then repost on their own social media accounts.  

Why is this type of review valuable?  As reported by Michale Ugino, co-founder & CMO of Sellbrite, the following are reasons why you should repost UGC on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, etc. (

  • a majority of adults in the U.S. use social media,
  • customers trust what other viewers say about the product – even if they are strangers – more than they trust “brand-created content,”
  • video and photos are more engaging compared to text-only posts,
  • with the need for brands to post frequently to remain relevant on social media – such content can help keep your tasting room front and center on followers’ feeds, and
  • aside from the time needed to locate and repost the content – it is free. 

This makes sense – if your customers are “on” Instagram, for example, why not use this outlet to showcase “real people” as they talk about how much they enjoy your wine or the great time they had in your tasting room (  

While you can use a tool like Google Alerts to receive email notifications when something is posted about your brand online, you will need to develop a hashtag, use it consistently in your posts, encourage others to use the hashtag in what they post, and monitor its use.  You can read about how several bands have used UGC successfully by accessing Ugino’s article:  

2)    Elements of surprise  

If your current club allows members to select the exact number bottles and varietals of wine they receive in a shipment, you might find that other customers look forward to “surprise” packages that they receive, and that part of the excitement is in the “reveal.” Excitement builds throughout the process – starting from the date when the customer expects the box to arrive, to when the box is delivered to the mailbox/doorstep, and peaks when the customer beaks open the package and inspects each item.  

Even if a particular item does not exactly appeal – most likely the recipient will give it a try and/or pass it on to a friend/family member, which further extends the brand’s reach and potential clientele base.   Perhaps you have seen the commercials for certain subscription boxes that air before the shipment – giving a “sneak peek” as to what the subscriber will receive – and then after all boxes have been shipped – when additional videos provide subscribers with information on how to use the product (even if a detailed card or booklet is included in the box with photos and usage instructions).  

Think about the impact you could have with creating short videos and posting them on social media sites that 1) provide a sneak peek as to what is in the subscription box and 2) a longer video (or series of videos) that provide descriptions of the wine, what to pair them with, how long they can be stored, how to store them, etc. 

While you may feel more comfortable recording and editing a video before it is posted – having a live event will give you the opportunity to ask and answer viewer question.  You may have already produced videos that describe these elements for some of your wines, but if the videos are released in tandem with the delivery – there might be a stronger connection, interest in the content, and viewership.   Just another strategy for developing content to stay relevant and on your followers’ screens.  

What are other ways that you can provide a level of convenience and personalization?  Think about how you can enhance the online shopping experience with delivery and in-store pickup.  Do you and your tasting room staff suggest tie-in products that complete the main purchase, or recommending purchase based on past behaviors?  There is at least one way that winery tasting rooms can offer convenience and potentially increase transaction size. 


The panelists not only had experience in the wine industry but in other “traditional” industries that are also seeing a maturing customer base and searching for ways to appeal to Gen Y (born between 1977 and 1994; and Gen Z (born between 1995 and 2012) consumers.  

One of the issues that arose during the discussion was how these generations behave differently from more mature consumers in tasting rooms, restaurants, and similar.  Past blog posts have described how important experiences are to these young consumers and that the value received needs to be justified by the price paid.   Price is certainly a consideration for these young consumers who likely have less discretionary income than older generations, and these young wine drinkers may be choosing tasting rooms based on the fee they will pay, but they are also selecting them based on the value of the overall experience.  

Videocast host Rob McMillan, EVP and Founder, Premium Wine Division, Silicon Valley Bank, provided an example as to how his step-daughter selected a tasting room based on the tasting room fee, outdoor lounging area, and activities offered (cornhole game area). This particular group was looking for a tasting experience during which they did not feel rushed and where they could “linger” or hang out and have a good time.  

I have shared the image below of a winery tasting room in Australia that had a driving range guests could use to practice their golf swing while consuming wine, beer, and cider. As I observed the group using the driving range (which was available for a fee), they were relaxed, socialized, and spent more on food and beverages than visitors who were participating in an informal tasting – and the demand on the staffs’ time was very minimal.  

Driving range at Sidewood Estate, South Australia

Lisa H. Kislak, Chief Markering Officer, Crimson Wine Group, discussed the value of “soft seating” and that it is a concept recognized in the restaurant industry – flexibility in space (like many modern hotel lobbies).  Such spaces will allow for lingering and create an atmosphere that encourages this type of behavior.  

The inclination may be to create a large space for visitors to chillax; however, first create a small area and evaluate the response (as with any changes that you make to your wine, selection, etc.) to determine if response is positive, how positive the response was, and then make the decision to increase the offering based on these data. The area you create could be as simple as a few picnic benches and tables or a bit more stylish like the example below.  

Outdoor recreation and seating area at Jacob’s Creek Winery, South Australia

Tastings by Reservation

While many of your tasting room visitors enjoy the freedom to walk in without having to plan too much in advance, others may enjoy the ability to make reservations for a more involved tasting – which may include a number of benefits: 1) time-stressed individuals know they will not have to wait long for staff to pour samples, 2) assurance that staff will be available and able to answer questions, and 3) access to reserved wines.  

I witnessed this several times at several Australian wineries where a dedicated tasting bar area was set aside for this purpose.  A “premium” fee was charged for the tasting and the staff member who oversaw the tasting was one of their seasoned employees who could answer any questions guests asked.  These factors elevated the tasting room experience and even though visitors paid more for a tasting – the value they received was well worth it.  Perhaps, as a result of the heightened level of satisfaction during their experience, they had an increased interest in the wines, willingness to follow the tasting room on social media, and likelihood of writing a positive online review.  

Collect Data from all Customers

I often write about data collection and analysis in my blog posts, as there is great power in knowing what appeals to tasting room visitors.  Though it is fairly easy to collect data, track purchases, and communicate with club/loyalty program members, if you are not learning about who is visiting your trashing room/purchasing online and who are not members of your club – you are missing out.  

So, how might you collect data from visitors who (for one reason or another) have not/chose not to join the loyalty program?  If you offer a tasting that requires a reservation, customers should provide the minimum: name, city/state (to learn from how far visitors travel, if there are “pockets” of households where visitors live and that could be the basis for targeting), email (to send a confirmation email and make it easier for the recipient to signup for an email newsletter), cell phone number (additional way to send the confirmation for the tasting and for him/her to signup to receive texts about upcoming events).  

However, there is also the opportunity to ask about preferences (to tailor the tasting to their interests, select the appropriate person to oversee the tasting, etc.), consumption frequency (to suggest club membership type/level that might fit their needs), how they learned about the tasting room (for future promotional efforts), etc.  The reservation form/system should also provide links to Facebook, Instagram, etc. and encourage recipients to follow the tasting room and key staff.  

Tammy Boatright, President of VingDirect, encouraged viewers to evaluate customers based on how frequently they purchase, when the most recent purchase was made, and how much consumers spend on each occasion and annually.  This will allow you to segment customers and identify who purchases your wines online vs in the tasting room, who purchases more frequently, and/or spends more per transaction.  From there you can develop promotions or events that would appeal to groups that exhibit similar interests.  Perhaps, if you find that a certain group of visitors only visit your tasting room or make an online purchase around the holidays, you could develop a targeted promotion to entice them to visit during periods in between.  

Mid-Atlantic Wine Consumer Participation in Wine Trails and Wine Clubs

By: Jen Zelinskie and Dr. Kathy Kelley

While wine routes have existed since 1935, beginning with Germany’s first tourist wine route in Weinstrasse (;, it is hard not to be impressed with the number and sophistication of routes and trails that have become established across the globe.

Whether a wine tourist is sipping exceptional Chardonnay in Napa and Sonoma California, riding the wine tram in Franschhoek, South Africa, or biking through the trails in Mendoza, Argentina, and tasting famous Malbecs along the way, each of these wine trails provide a unique experience with different, exceptional wines, and cultural experiences (


Certainly, consumers could travel great distances to participate in one of the trails highlighted, above, but with wine trails established in most U.S. states  they need only travel a short distance from their home to have such an experience.

For the business, “by adding complimentary visitor-oriented services, wine businesses build brand loyalty, improve customer awareness and knowledge, create a positive image of the wine product and develop strong consumer relationships through planned on-site experiences” (

This blog will discuss the value of wine trails and present some of our research findings that describe participation and interest in wine trails and wine clubs.

What Benefits do Consumers and Tasting Rooms Enjoy when they Participate in a Wine Trail?

The Pennsylvania Winery Association describes some of the benefits consumers may experience if they participate in a wine trail versus just visiting an individual winery:

  • A broader, more diverse wine experience,
  • being able to spend time at multiple wineries throughout the day,
  • the ability to compare and contrast wines sampled at each location, and
  • learning about different techniques and styles each winemaker uses (

For the winery, the benefits of being part of a wine trail vary.  Based on responses to a survey conducted by Fraser and Alonso, a majority of the 79 New Zealand winery trail participants did so:

  • as “a means to selling more wine” (95%),
  • because of “economic benefits” (81%),
  • meet an “imperative business need” (32.9%), and
  • “means of diversifying business” (17.7%) (

Are Mid-Atlantic Wine Consumers Familiar with and Participating in Wine Trails?

Our March 2016 internet survey participants, all of whom drank and purchased wine at least once the previous year, were given a general definition of the term “wine trail” and asked if they were familiar with the term, if they had ever participated in a wine trail, and, if they had not, their interest in doing so in the future.

While an equal percent of super core (those who consumed wine daily to a few times a week) and core (consumed wine about once a week) wine consumers were familiar with the term “wine trail” (59.4 and 54.8%, respectively), fewer marginal wine drinkers (consumed wine less frequently) were familiar with the term (41.7%) (Figure 1).

screenshot-2016-09-20-10-35-24Participants were then asked if they had ever followed/participated in a wine trail. As might be expected, more super core participants (36.1%) responded that they had followed/participated in a wine trail compared to core (26.9%) and marginal (15.0%) wine consumers (Figure 2).


Those who had not followed/participated in a wine trail were then directed to a question that asked them to indicate their interest in doing so in the future.  More than half of these participants were interested in doing so, regardless of wine consumption frequency: 70.5% of super core (Figure 3), 73.5% of core, and 63.3% of marginal.


Might Wine Trail Promotional Programs Encourage Wine Consumers to Visit Multiple Tasting Rooms?  

There are several strategies that can be implemented to encourage consumers to travel to a wine region, one of which is developing a program that includes incentives for visiting multiple tasting rooms.  Some examples include:

  • Wine Trail Passport: holders have access to free wine tastings, discounts on bottles of wine, and other benefits that are offered by participating winery tasting rooms for a certain period of time.
  • Wine Trail Event Pass: event pass holders will not need to pay admission at any event offered by participating winery tasting rooms for a certain period of time.
  • Wine Trail Ticket: ticket holders will receive a “giveaway” (for example, a wine glass, free additional wine sample, cloth tote) and those who visit all winery tasting rooms are entered into a drawing to win prizes.


An article published by the MidWest Wine Press described the success of wine passport programs for Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario wineries.  According to Patty Aubry, Coyote’s Run Estate Winery, “Consumers don’t come to just one winery, they come to visit groups of wineries… these promotions give them a reason to visit the wine trail and also makes the winery selection process easier.” Ms. Aubry also mentioned that “the tasting pass program has proven to increase business in the slower winter months” (

In our survey, participants were asked to indicate their level of interest (not at all interested to extremely interested) in participating in each of the three programs, listed above, that a wine trail could offer (Table 1).  Participants were told that the fee to participate would be the same for each option.


As shown in Table 1, approximately a third of all participants were “very interested” in each of the three programs, and an additional 19% were “extremely interested.”   With our data showing that no one program was more appealing than the others, tasting room and trail organizers, who are exploring whether a particular program will entice their customers, should evaluate their participants’ reaction and interest in the three different programs.

Wine clubs

Wine clubs have evolved over the years and now serve as a way to attract wine drinkers by offering diverse programs that offer a fair amount of flexibility in order to cater to many tastes.  Wine clubs can serve as the winery’s “loyalty programs” and increase customer loyalty and business profitability. Benefits of implementing a wine club can include:

  • increased customer spending,
  • higher profit margins,
  • engaging customers for an extended amount of time, and
  • improve client retention (

Our survey participants were asked to indicate if they subscribed to or were a member of a wine club where they received wine and possibly other benefits on a scheduled basis (Figure 4). As you can see, the majority of participants were not wine club members or subscribers (12.4%); however, of the members/subscribers, a majority were of super core wine consumers (77.4%).


As seen above, while 87.6% of survey participants were not currently members or subscribers, between 40 and 60% of these participants were interested in joining a wine club.   Based on these data, winery tasting rooms should explore this opportunity as it could be a way to encourage frequent visits and purchases.

Since wine club benefits, and how participants earn incentives, vary greatly, it is up to each tasting room to learn what potential and current members may value.  You can learn more about various wine clubs by reading past Wine & Grape U. posts: and

Participants were also asked to indicate their level of interest (not at all interested to extremely interested) in joining a wine club by evaluating 12 variations of the following benefits:

  • shipments of wine (frequency and number of bottles shipped at one time),
  • discounts, and
  • other benefits such as event invitations and access to specialty wines.screenshot-2016-09-20-10-43-43

As you can see in the table, above, the wine club membership benefit that received the highest percent of “very interested” or “extremely interested” responses was “membership discounts on all winery tasting room purchases.” Pertaining to frequency of shipments, “quarterly receipt of one to three bottles of wine” was also rated higher than others tested:  one to three bottles shipped monthly, more than three or more bottles shipped each month, and more than three bottles shipped each quarter.

Less favorable options, in terms of percent of participants who rated them “very interested” and “extremely interested” were:

  • a subscription to a regional and/or wine newsletter or wine journal (included in the membership fee), 21.4% of participants were “very interested” 13.2% were “extremely interested,” and
  • monthly receipt of more than three bottles of wine (either shipped to your home or picked up at the winery; no fee charged other than price of wine), 21.4% of participants were “very interested” and 14.3% were “extremely interested.”

Being a Wine Trail Member and offering a Wine Club – Final Thoughts

Winery tasting room owners and operators should constantly be looking at new programs, products, and offerings to encourage tasting room visits.  Being a tasting trail participant or offering a wine club are two options to consider.  Our data shows that over half of the super core and core wine participants were familiar with the term “wine trail.” Although 62.9% of super core consumers had not participated in a wine trail, 70.5% of these “non-participants” were interested in doing so in the future.

As a winery, participating in a wine trail is a way to drive business and increase customers. According to an Iowa study, “wine trails drive about 25 percent of the business to the wine shops, and wine trail visitors are desired customers as they tend to travel in groups and make larger purchases,” which has encourage more and more wineries to want to become members of wine trails in the state (Grybovych et al., 2013).

Pertaining to wine trail programs, about half of all participants were “very interested” and “extremely interested” in the three wine trail programs listed: wine trail passports, wine trail event passes, and wine trail tickets. Again, with our data showing that no one program was more appealing than the others, it would be advisable for tasting rooms/trails to evaluate visitors’ reaction and interest in these options.

Wine clubs are another option that could increase customer spending and customer loyalty. When designing a wine club program, consider options that were of greater interest to our survey respondents (e.g. member discounts, free shipping on online purchases $75 or more) and then get feedback from your tasting room visitors as to their likelihood of joining your program.

Wine trails and wine clubs not only have the potential to encouraging wine tourist to visit more frequently and make more purchases, but they also allow tasting rooms to offer these visitors a variety of fun, relaxing, and memorable experiences.


Grybovych, O., J. Lankford, and S. Lankford. 2013. Motivations of wine travelers in rural northeast Iowa. International Journal of Wine Business Research, 25(4):285-309. DOI 10.1108/IJWBR-07-2012-0023

Other Researchers & Jennifer Zelinskie’s Thesis Advisory Team:

  • Jeffrey Hyde, Professor, Agricultural Economics, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Denise Gardner, Extension Enologist, Department of Food Science, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Brad Rickard, Assistant Professor, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University
  • Ramu Govindasamy, Professor, Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, Rutgers University
  • Karl Storchmann, Clinical Professor, Economics Department, New York University; Managing Editor, Journal of Wine Economics
  • Michela Centinari, Assistant Professor of Viticulture, Departemnt of Plant Science, The Pennsylvania State University

The project “Developing Wine Marketing Strategies for the Mid-Atlantic Region” (GRANT 11091317) is being funded by a USDA Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program grant, whose goal is “to assist in exploring new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving the efficiency and performance of the marketing system.”  For more information about the program, visit


Offering Tasting Room Visitors an Experience

By Dr. Kathy Kelley

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog on creating a winery tasting room experience based on the book “The Experience Economy: Work is Theater & Every Business a Stage,” written by Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore.  In that blog, I provided examples from several businesses that incorporated components of the four “E’s” of an experience: education, esthetic/aesthetic, escapism, and entertainment (

Today, I want to provide you with even more examples based on a recent trip to Oslo, Norway, where I visited Himkok, a micro distillery that has received quite a bit of praise from both bloggers and customers.  From the exterior/entrances to the bartenders’ apparel, the concept incorporates all of the four E’s of an experience.

It is all necessary because if a customer does not respond as expected, one component (e.g. employee buy-in and participation, promotions, social media messages) does not support the main concept, or if the level of product quality or customer service is disappointing then the whole experience will likely fail.


HIMKOK: A Complete Tasting Room Experience

Consider the following: you are visiting a city for the first time and you read about Himkok and that they offer several of their own ciders and distilled spirits, and you have seen a few reviews online that convince you to stop in for a drink.  You have the address (and you can locate it on a map app using your smartphone’s GPS) but there are no obvious markings nor is there a sign with the name of the establishment you are trying to find.

After a couple of passes in front of the building, you decided to ask the barista at the coffee chop across the street for help – and she confirms that you are in the right place and that you’ll find the tasting room right behind the wood door at 27 Storgata Street.

I’ll have to admit that this was a little bit puzzling.  Even their website is void of any information other than the address and a contact form (   Most businesses want their customers to find them easily and without any degree of frustration.  So, why would this barely a year-old business be so elusive?  It all has to do with the “theme” of the business: a modern day speakeasy.

Why a theme?  Because a theme can help create a “distinct shopping experience” ( and several wineries, cideries, and distilleries in our region work off a theme to differential themselves from their competition.  Keep in mind that for a theme to be believable and engage consumers, all components need to reinforce it – even those that you feel the customer won’t even notice.  “Every detail of your store should maximize appeal for customers…retail fixtures actually play a large role” (

Whether you enter through the door at 27 Storgata or you enter through the “other” entrance, you are introduced to the theme through the décor, fixtures, lighting, etc.  While both entrances are a “cover” for what is inside – one entrance mimics a small grocery store with jars of food while the other is a full-service barber shop, PelsPels (, with a crew of barbers selected by Lord Jack Knife, “one of the best barbers in the world.”

Screenshot 2016-06-13 14.31.32

Screenshot 2016-06-13 14.32.27

We were not the only first-time visitors to be confused by the lack of signage – rather one of the bartenders told us that some customers just walk in because they either mistake it for another type of business or they are just intrigued by the amount of traffic entering and exiting the establishment.

Thus, our experience had just begun.

Whatta ya have to drink?

Aside from gin, rum, vodka, and other distilled spirits, Himkok offers customers drinks made with aquavit.  What is aquavit?  The spirit, which dates back to the 1500s, is Scandinavian and is distilled from grain with caraway seed being “the primary flavor, through fennel, dill, and anise are also common” (  According to one aficionado, it “is much more rounded and approachable to sip straight than vodka” (  There are differences between aquavit that you’ll find in Norway (which is aged in sherry oak cases) compared to what you might drink in Denmark or Sweden.

Screenshot 2016-06-13 14.33.03

Spirits, cider, and other offerings are priced at a premium. The cider I purchased for the evening cost me about $11.00 (cocktails average $14.60 each), but I was willing to pay it considering my surroundings and how the experience made me “feel.”  Charging a price premium for these handcrafted concoctions is not a bad thing – rather lower priced drinks and bottles would work against what is designed to be the best-kept secret in the city.

There is no need for Himkok to compete on price – consumers are willing to pay for quality alcoholic beverages (  In 2015, consumers traded up in terms of prices they were willing to pay for bottles of spirits.  Sales of “High End” spirits (priced between $20 and $30 a bottle) grew 7.1% in volume and “Super Premium” spirits (priced $30 or more) grew 6.5% in volume in 2015.

As you may recall, consumers are also trading up pertaining to the wine they purchase.  Retail prices were up 3.3% in January 2016 and “instead of buying a bottle of wine for $10 [consumers are] buying a bottle of wine for $12; instead of buying it for $15, [they are] buying it for $20” (

Himkok cocktails are on point with 2016 cocktail trends, namely a spin on the classic cocktails (  With “variations on the classic Moscow mule [being] huge right now,” Himkok offers the Oslo mule, for example, and “disco era cocktails,” such as the Old Fashioned and martinis, which are expected to remain popular through 2016 (

They also offer a few signature cocktails (having a signature cocktail on the menu “gives the guest an impression of a ‘complete’ experience” such as the “Beta Cocktail” (made with vodka, carrot, ginger, and ginseng) and “Monkey Butter” (made with bourbon, banana, peanut better, and citrus).  I tried them both and they were surprisingly good.

Screenshot 2016-06-13 14.31.21

Wine cocktails are another trend that deserves attention.  Such cocktails appeal to younger drinkers, according to a Gallo Consumer Wine Trends Survey:

  • 66% of younger drinkers responded that they “mix wine with fruit or fruit juice,”
  • “mix wine with other cocktail mixers like club soda” (

Sangria and mimosa, two more well know wine cocktails, have been on bar and restaurant beverage menus for a number of years, but with a slight change in the fruit, fruit juice, or liquor used – these classic can become something of a signature drink.

Though it may not be feasible for many who read this blog to offer wine cocktails in their establishment, consider:

  • posting wine cocktail recipes on your website and through social media,
  • distributing copies to customers who purchase bottles of corresponding wine, that are the base of the cocktail,
  • hold contests for tasting room customers and offer a prize for the most creative cocktail, most tasty cocktail that uses trendy ingredients (you will find seaweed as an ingredient for Himkok’s “In the Weeds” cocktail,, etc.

But there is more…

While not without a financial investment or the possibility of a wine on tap system having issues that affect the quality of the pour, having wines on tap is a trend that has yet to “peak” as a result of demand.  In fact, it is expected that in 2016 wine on tap will account for “around 1% of total U.S. on-premise wine consumption…[and] will have risen to 5%” by 2020 (

“Wine on tap offers a bit of fun and theatre to the traditional serve” ( and demand has “steadily increased around 7%” because of its appeal among Millennial consumers “over the last four to five years” (  Twenty-eight percent of these consumers seek an “on premise… ‘unique drink experience,’” followed by 19% of members of Generation X and 13% of Baby Boomers (

Screenshot 2016-06-14 20.21.20

Rotating wines available on tap and offering only certain wines are important to keeping the offering “fresh.”  Limiting availability and offering seasonal wines on tap changes the tasting room offering enough to encourage consumers to visit and try the wine only available during the next x weeks or the late fall months.  When you change a portion of the tasting room layout or product offering, you give customer a reason to visit and have a “new” experience.

To learn more about Himkok, access an article written by Hanne Stensvold by clicking this link:

Next month’s blog

I’m sure that by now you have heard or read about La Cité du Vin (City of Wine), located in Bordeaux, and called “a wine theme park for adults” (  I will be visiting the museum in a couple of week and will share my experience when I return.

Lights, Camera, Action! Is your Winery Ready for Periscope?

By: Kathy Kelley and Jeff Hyde, professor of agricultural economics

For a number of years, we have worked on various research projects together, including how consumers use social media to connect with agri businesses.  To help us with this work, we often “try out” and “test” new social medial tools to better understand the mechanics and “best uses.”

For example, in April 2012, when businesses started using Pinterest to host contests, a few of us in Extension created a Pinterest strawberry recipe contest (  We learned a fair bit about using Pinterest in this manner, especially how important it is inform customers, followers, Facebook friends, etc. that you have begun to use a new social media tool and the benefits it provides.

This past week, we, along with the help of our videographer, senior extension associate, Sarah Cornelisse, tested out a newer app called Periscope (, which was launched in March 2015.   For 10-minutes, we talked about “Driving traffic to winery tasting rooms,” during which 35 Periscope users watched our live segment, and we had at least three Periscope users who replayed the broadcast.

The intent of the tool, according to the blog, is to “let people discover the world through someone else’s eyes” ( by allowing them to witness live events and experiences – anywhere in the world.  The videos you shoot can be:

  • shared via Twitter, Facebook, or accessed through a link you can copy, for 24 hours – then they are automatically deleted
  • saved to your smartphone, tablet, or other device’s camera roll, which can then be uploaded to social media accounts and/or your tasting room’s website.

Sep_Kathy_image 1

In addition to the Periscope help center (, the following site provides information on how to use the tool along with several screenshots:

Why might you consider using Periscope in your business?

There are already so many different social media tools, and a few are well established with substantial followings, so why would you want to use Periscope? Here are a few ways that Periscope could offer a potential advantage over a few other social media tools:

  • Video can be posted on YouTube, but viewers can only post questions in textboxes, then it is up to the presenter to type a response, or create another video that answers the question, and the viewer must then revisit the site to learn their answer. Periscope allows broadcasters to respond to questions viewers post during the live broadcast.
  • As of July 28, 2015, there were “1.49 billion monthly active” Facebook users (, while in the beginning of August 2015 there were only 10 million Periscope accounts, some of which “are not necessarily ‘active’” ( The number of accounts is certainly something to be aware of; however, Twitter acquired Periscope in March, before its launch, and, according to one industry person, “Twitter owns real-time and there is nothing more real-time and engaging than live video” (

What will you need for a Periscope broadcast?

  • A smartphone, tablet, or iPod. As of today, there are some third-party websites that allow you to view live and post-recorded videos on your computer (for example:, and other Periscope users have posted instructions on how to download the tool to a PC, but there is not designated Mac/PC app or program.
  • The free app, which you can download either from iTunes or Google Play, depending on whether your device is an Android or iOS.
  • A Periscope account, which you can create by either signing up through Twitter or by using your phone number. If you signup using your Twitter account, Periscope will “suggest people to follow based on your Twitter social graph” (  After we signed up using our Twitter accounts, we were alerted to all those who we follow on Twitter and who also had a Periscope account.  With just a click, we were able to “follow” each other.  We were also notified of Periscope users who were the “most loved,” meaning that viewers had given the most “hearts,” which is similar to Facebook “likes” and are awarded by viewers during live public broadcasts and replays (

Sep_Kathy_image 2

  • A dependable WiFi connection – if one is not available, then a good 3G/4G connection can be used; however, you will need to watch your data usage. According to one source, a three-minute Periscope broadcast used 20-megabytes (MB) of data (, which is only 1/100 of a 2-gigabyte (GB) plan.  However, based on this usage, a 10-minute broadcast may use 200 MB (1/10 of a 2GB plan), which, along with other usage, cold put you near or over your monthly data plan.
  • A tripod or stand for your device that will position it perpendicular to the ground. Some smartphone and tablet cases allow the device to be propped up at a 90-degree angle, which is what you want for a broadcast.  Otherwise you may need to look down at the device’s camera.  Or, if you want to walk through your vineyard and shoot footage, make sure that either you or your videographer are able to hold the camera as steady as possible.

An outline of what you will talk about.   This can help you with staying on track and serve as a prompt if you forget what you intended to discuss.  We planned for a four-question interview, in addition to a brief introduction, to fill the 10-minute segment.   The four questions were:

  • Why did you feel it was so important to focus on the winery tasting room?
  • You’ve done a lot of research on how wineries can effectively use social media.  Can you give us some examples of how social media tools can be used to inform consumers about the tasting room?
  • What activities or events might a tasting room offer to attract consumers?
  • With all the possible options you’ve discussed today, how can a tasting room manager decide which tools might work best for them?

As you can see, they were quite conversational in nature, which helped keep the mood light, put us at ease, and hopefully made it more enjoyable for our viewers.

Some tips we feel might be helpful for others who use the tool for the first time:

  • When setting up your Periscope account, and before you shoot your first video, enable “autosave broadcasts” so that your video will save directly to your device’s camera roll. By turning this feature on, you will save yourself from being disappointed if your videographer does not click “save to camera roll” right after you end the broadcast.  Otherwise your broadcast will only be available for 24 hours.   If you forget to do either, you can use Quicktime on a Mac computer to record a replay on your iPhone/iPad/iPod (

Sep_Kathy_image 3

  • We only planned for a 10-minute broadcast. This time went very quickly, and our videographer did a countdown and signaled us when we had four and then two minutes left.  However, it would have been very helpful to have had a timer or clock that we could have looked at to better help us with our timing.
  • Though both of us were holding papers, Jeff’s with the questions he was going to ask and Kathy’s with key items to include in responses, it would have been easier to have positioned a flipchart with this information behind the videographer. It was a bit awkward looking down at the paper and looking for the information/question to read.
  • Decide how you will handle questions that viewers may post or tweet during your broadcast. This might be something that your videographer could handle.  Either they could read the question, check to make sure that their voice can be heard or rephrase the question for viewers, or position your device’s screen so that you can see the questions “stream” from the bottom of the screen.
  • Consider your backdrop. It might make sense that some of your broadcasts would take place in the tasting room, barrel room, or vineyard, so consider how you could incorporate your logo, your website address, twitter handle, etc. into the broadcast.  If you are shooting in the barrel room, for example, pan to a barrel engraved with your business’s name.  If you are in a vineyard and there isn’t a sign with your business’s name among the vines, create a temporary sign that also includes your contact information that you can either holdup or that can be the closing image.

Sep_Kathy_image 4

  • Pre-event campaigns, promoted through social media and other channels, will help inform potential viewers about the broadcast, but a post-event promotional plan will also be useful. Save the recording and then refer to it on your website or via social media posts with a teaser, such as “What is the best way to store wine?  Watch this video to learn more.”  What wine consumer wouldn’t want to view this information?
  • At the end of the broadcast, restate the main points discussed during the broadcast. Viewers may find this to be very useful, especially if the broadcaster covers a variety of topics, is lengthy, or if the information presented is only shared verbally.

Overall, our experience was positive.  Though Periscope is a new tool and consumers are still learning about its usefulness, we plan to continue to explore how businesses can use the app to engage and build relationships with audiences.  Stay tuned for our next broadcast – we’ll announce our next event through Penn State Enology and Viticulture social media and email outlets.

What Activities and Events Might Drive Customers to Your Tasting Room?

By: Kathy Kelley, Abigail Miller, and Dana Ollendyke (Penn State Extension Associate)

As we have done in the past, we are taking this opportunity to share results from our wine marketing research study, an effort involving researchers at Penn State, Rutgers, Cornell, and New York University. With approximately “81% of [Pennsylvania wine] sold directly from wineries” (Dombrosky and Gajanan, 2013;, one of the issues we investigated in last year’s survey was what a winery could offer to encourage winery tasting room visits, and increase the frequency of these visits.

While, in some cases, we investigated broad categories and factors, we have plans to delve deeper in our upcoming survey into what could motivate consumers to visit a winery tasting room and barriers survey participants feel prevents them from visiting.

Just as a reminder, data were collected through a 15-minute Internet survey (22-24 October 2014).  Participants residing in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania were screened for not being a member of the wine industry, being at least 21 years old, and for having purchased and drank wine at least once within the previous year. A total of 977 participants qualified and completed the survey.

Interest in winery activities and events

Today’s visitors do much more than just taste the wine at a tasting room; rather, there are opportunities to tour the vineyard and the wine-making facility, participate in classes, attend festivals, and much more (

But should a winery go through the process of planning, implementing, and evaluating an event or activity?

Data from a study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University and Sam Houston University showed that, for Texas wineries, there was “a positive correlation between wineries that offer services such as tasting rooms and tours and gross sales… [thus] the more tourism services a winery offers, the higher their potential for gross sales” (2008;

OK, so, with all that could be offered – what activities and/or events might garner the greatest consumer interest? 

Though not an exhaustive list, we focused on activities and events that were more commonly found when we investigated wineries online and also based on popular press articles.  As an example, an event that has been offered at some wineries and restaurants is a “Paint Nite,” during which attendees paint a certain picture by following an instructor while enjoying wine or other alcoholic beverages (  We were interested in learning if this activity appealed to our participants, and, if so, how much.  Below is a table with data pertaining to the level of interest our participants expressed based on the seven activities/events that we tested.

Aug 2015_Kathy_Table 1

As you can see, “tasting events,” “tour of the winery and vineyard,” and “food vendors from local restaurants,” were the three activities that had the highest level of interest (86.3, 83.0, and 78.9%, respectively), and are often interdependent of each other.

It makes sense that if someone is going to visit a winery tasting room that they would be interested in tasting the wine, but there are opportunities to offer “tasting events” that go a beyond the norm – perhaps they could be based on a theme, focus on your new release, be an exclusive tasting with limited seating, or your winery tasting room could be one of the stops on a local food tour.

And, although separate categories in our survey, winery tastings and tours are a natural pairing. Most likely you already offer a tour, and subsequent tasting, but can you take your standard tour and split it up into several?  The goal of this strategy would be to encourage even more frequent visits.

Château Élan Winery & Resort, located in Atlanta, offers six different tour options, five are private and one is offered on a regular basis.  While all six tours end in a tasting, each is unique with a different focus (  The private tours focuses on each of the following: 1) the vat room, 2) the wine making process, 3) the vineyard, 4) an experience with the wine maker, and 5) a session on other Georgia food products.

Aug 2015_Kathy_Fig 1

In addition to what is described above, there are other opportunities to make connections with local restaurants, cheese mongers, bakeries, chocolatiers, etc.  For example, might one (or more) of these businesses create a small tasting plate that could be included in your “premier tasting option?”  Or, could it be purchased separately for visitors to enjoy along with a glass of wine they purchase and consume at your tasting room?   I’m sure that some of your visitors would appreciate the opportunity to try a regional cheese with your wine.

Aug 2015_Kathy_Fig 2

Or, you could substitute the crackers you provided each taster with a few slices of bread from a local bakery.  This is another great way to cross promote with other local business.   While in Paris, this last May, I participated in two separate tasting events at O-Chateau Wine Tasting & Wine Bar (  Along with a breakdown of what my tasting fee would include (five still French wines and one Champagne, a two-hour session with an English speaking sommelier, and a private tasting room for no more than 12 participants), the description also alerted me that not only would bread be included, but that I would be tasting baguettes from the bakery that supplies items for the president of France.  Though some participants might not consider this as being a benefit or anything special, others might find it appealing.

Aug 2015_Kathy_Fig 3

With 70.2% of our participants responding that they would be interested in visiting a winery that offered “holiday events,” consider occasions that might be a good fit with your wine.  Commonly celebrated holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, New Years, and religious holidays might come to mind quite easily, but don’t forget local events that may appeal to your tasting room visitors.  For example, the neighborhood of Bloomfield (in Pittsburgh, PA) holds an annual Italian heritage festival called “Little Italy Days” (  A winery tasting room could partner with a local Italian bakery to pair wines with Italian pastries.

While a “painting party/class” and “book clubs” were of less interest to our participants, it is possible that such events and activities might still be of great interest to your visitors.  As with any new marketing idea or change you make, it is essential to make sure that “it” is a good fit for your business, then trial “it,” and finally evaluate “it.”

Just a few things to think about as you plan your future winery tasting room activities and events.  You may want to even consider planning an event to celebrate Wine Tourism Day on November 7th (  In its third year, the day is planned to encourage wine tourism businesses, including hotels and restaurants, to offer events as a way “to celebrate the importance (and fun) of wine tourism.”  Another opportunity to raise your glass and celebrate!


Additional Research & Thesis Advisory Team Members:

  • Jeffrey Hyde, Professor, Agricultural Economics, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Denise Gardner, Extension Enologist, Department of Food Science, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Brad Rickard, Assistant Professor, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University
  • Ramu Govindasamy, Professor, Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, Rutgers University
  • Karl Storchmann, Clinical Professor, Economics Department, New York University; Managing Editor, Journal of Wine Economics
  • Rob Crassweller, Professor, Professor of Tree Fruit, The Pennsylvania State University

The project “Developing Wine Marketing Strategies for the Mid-Atlantic Region” (GRANT 11091317) is being funded by a USDA Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program grant, whose goal is “to assist in exploring new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving the efficiency and performance of the marketing system.” For more information about the program, visit

Wine Tasting Room Inspirations

By: Kathy Kelley

Even when on vacation, I’m sure that you make it a point to visit tasting rooms to get an idea of the local “winescape.” I do this as well and I thought I would share some images from a few wineries I’ve been lucky to visit, as well as a few things that attracted my attention. Some of the images and ideas might appeal to you and be applicable for your tasting room. For now, I’ve focused on four different wineries, with more images and examples to come in future blog posts.

Schlumberger, Vienna, Austria

I just returned from a trip to Austria. While in Vienna I made it a point to visit the Schlumberger tasting room ( where I was able to sample a variety of sparkling wines (at 3 euro for each three ounce pour) produced using the “traditional method” since 1842. The tasting room provides a true educational experience by offering formal cellar tours as well as a free smartphone app (if the visitor doesn’t have a smartphone they can obtain a “player” that they can listen to) that leads visitors through several stations where they learn about the history of the winery, what is involved in making a sparkling wine, how the brand has evolved, etc., followed by a tasting.

Blog_Kathy_Image 1There was a true theme throughout the tasting room. Though the space of the sales area (where bottles and gift items, a small tasting bar, and the cash register were located) was rather “cozy,” the décor was well coordinated with the overall “fairy” theme. Why a fairy? Because, as I was told, sparkling wine has bubbles that are light and airy – and there lies the connection.

Blog_Kathy_Image 2

From the color of the flooring/walls/ceiling as well as the furniture, lighting, music, wine label design, accessories (lots and lots of wine bottle gift packaging options, jellies made from their wine, and fairy shaped cookie cutters), etc., they all supported the concept of opulence and luxury with a hint of whimsy.

The Brotte Wine Museum, Chateauneuf du Pape, France

This entire museum is devoted to helping consumers learn about viticulture and enology. After the 45-minute audio guided tour, which leads visitors through 30+ stations, visitors can sample three wines. But, before reaching the tasting room, there is quite a lot to learn: 1) which grapes are grown in the region; 2) the history of the Valley of the Rhone appellation; 3) terroir (including a discussion of the rocks and pebbles that contribute to this phenomenon); 4) harvest and bottling processes; and much, much more (

Blog_Kathy_Image 3Instead of just providing text that explains that Grenache is the primary grape grown in the region, that Mourvedre is the second most commonly grown grape, followed by Syrah and Counoise, a visual illustrates this point, with the size of the “grape cluster” correlating with the amount of acreage devoted to growing the variety.

Blog_Kathy_Image 4

An entire history is presented, including how the industry in the region has developed overtime and how bottles and labels have evolved. At first glance one display gives the impression that the bottle is quite old – due to the “dusty” appearance and the misshaped glass bottle – but the shape and appearance were purposely developed by Charles Brotte in 1952 for a local contest. Whether it is the perceived “age” of the bottle or the actual story, most likely all who see the display (and, hopefully, taste the wine) will remember it well after they return home. A bonus for the winery as the bottle can be easily picked out from the massive lineup that crowd liquor store shelves.

Blog_Kathy_Image 5

Scarborough Wine Co., Hunter Valley, Australia

From the time arrived at the property, until I departed, I noticed a great bit of attention to detail and thought given to guest comfort at Scarborough. Well before guests step into the tasting room they are surrounded by well planned gardens and entryways – pretty much setting the stage for the experience that awaits in the tasting room. With individual seats placed around several tables in the (rather large) tasting room, we were able to have our own space, taste at a leisurely pace, and discuss the wines privately. While they do have the advantage of a fair amount of square footage to place tables and chairs, a smaller space could include a few “two top” or “four top” tables (seating for two and four visitors, respectively) and a more “space efficient” tasting bar (without chairs in order to maximize the number of visitors that can be served).

Blog_Kathy_Image 6

During my tasting at Scarborough Wine Co., I was provided with five wine samples at once (three Chardonnays, 2007, 2008, and 2010 vintage, and two different Semillons). This system could very well be cumbersome for the tasting room staff; however, it was well managed. After they seated us they provided the schematic (in the image below), a written description of the wines, all five samples, and a complementary tray of cheese, meats, crackers, and dried fruits. The tasting room staff stopped by frequently to answer questions and assist us in selecting the wine that we subsequently purchased. While some tasting room visitors might like each sample to arrive individually and have a continuous conversation with the tasting room staff, others might prefer the pace and “freedom” of this tasting.

Blog_Kathy_Image 7

Gibbston Valley Winery, Queenstown, New Zealand

With three different tour options (wine cave tour, $15.00 per person; cave tour select, $30.00 per person: and prestige wine tour, $175.00 per person), two different wine making experiences ($225 per person and the other based on participant experience), a full service restaurant, chees shop, wine shop with a variety of accessories, and more (, there are quite a few things to encourage consumers to visit Gibbston Valley Winery and keep them on the property for more than a quick tasting.

The basic wine cave tour took place mostly in the vineyard (with a three sample tasting in the wine cave afterwards) and focused quite a bit on how and what grapes are gown in the region, the use of yards and yards of netting to minimize bird damage, a bit of history about phytophthora in the region, and the importance of terroir.

Blog_Kathy_Image 8

Though the discussion included a description of what to expect from each glass and appropriate food pairings, a great deal of effort was made to educate visitors about the actual production process in order to convey that what we were tasting was truly unique. Even between samples we were reminded that what we were tasting was influenced by the “200 million year old landscape,” as noted on the plaque on one of the walls.

Blog_Kathy_Image 9

While each of these tasting rooms are unique and may have some advantages that your tasting room might not have (e.g. ample space for several individual tables, authentic wine cave) it is possible to enhance your visitors’ experiences by implementing some of these ideas.

While you may not have the budget to purchase museum quality displays, you probably know an artist who could take text that explains a process or wine component (e.g. residual sugar) and create an engaging and informative image to hang on the wall (e.g. a drawing of a scale that helps explain residual sugar and how the concentration differs between dry, off-dry, and dessert wines). You may not have an overall theme for your winery, but if developed could this enhance the overall “sensation” that a visitor gets when at your tasting room? Perhaps fairies are not appropriate for your winery and tasting room, but another object, destination, or feeling might serve as the basis for your planning and tie all the tasting room components together. The possibilities are endless.

Events, Part 2: Evaluating the Event

By: Kathy Kelley

As with every promotional or business-related activity, it is necessary to properly plan events, have clear objectives of what you hope to accomplish (or the benefits you desire), and measure the outcomes. This information will be essential to determine whether or not the energy used to promote and implement the event justified the time and money spent.

Though an event’s ultimate measure of success is profitability, it is also important to understand:

  • How responsive consumers were to the type of event offered
  • How customers learned about the event
  • Which advertisements and promotions reached the greatest number of visitors
  • Goods and services visitors purchased during the event
  • What other events and activities visitors would be interested in attending

Pay attention to how attendees are reacting during the event and note whether what you are offering them meets, if not exceeds, expectations. Be sure to keep track of certain indicators that determine if the event provided a return on investment and whether or not it should be offered again or changed. Specifically, record the number of visitors, amount in sales, and other related information.

Dec 2014_Kathy_Events 2 Pic 1

Foot Traffic

Document the number of consumers that visit the business during the actual event and weeks that follow.

Measuring foot traffic can be accomplished by:

  • Requiring attendees to RSVP or bring an invitation to the event that they receive in the mail, print from the Internet, cut out of the newspaper, etc. These approaches can also be used to collect attendees’ names, email addresses, interests, wine preferences, and other information that could be used to help plan next year’s event or other activities. Be sure to have extra invitations available at the event for walk-ins to fill out and use to be admitted.
  • Assigning an employee to manually count customers as they enter the event or install an electronic sensor that tabulates the number of customers who pass through a particular doorway (do not forget to subtract the number of employees who might also enter through the same doorway).
  • Providing customers with the opportunity to sign up for your mailing list or to become wine club members.

Each system has its advantages and disadvantages—for example, not all customers will sign up for your mailing list or loyalty program, or they may already be members. But, an estimate of how many consumers attended can help you better plan future events.

Dec 2014_Kathy_Events 2 Pic 2

You may find that basing foot traffic counts on a per-hour basis or for a several-hour block of time can help with scheduling employees and/or adjusting the hours that the event could be held in future years. Additionally, if you invite other vendors to sell their goods and services or a special entertainer to perform, try to schedule their appearances when foot traffic is at a level that will be rewarding for all involved.

Record not only foot traffic at the tasting room but also the number of visitors who access your website during and after the event. Have customers participate in an online survey that asks if they are interested in attending the event, what additional vendors or attractions they would be like to see, how they heard about the event, and if they were aware of the event before visiting the website.

Gross Sales

How did gross sales compare to the same period during the previous year, regardless of whether or not you hosted a similar event? Did they increase, stay the same, or decrease?

Gross sales that are either the same or decrease could indicate (excluding any other major changes to the business or factors such as poor weather conditions) that the focus of the event, structure of the activities, or other components need to be altered. An increase in gross sales is certainly a very positive measure; however, it is still necessary to review notes taken during the event and determine if any changes could be made to make the event even more successful.

Dec 2014_Kathy_Events 2 Pic 3

Net Sales

Especially during the first few years, an event will probably require more inputs than other promotional activities, depending on:

  • The number of activities that are offered during the event and whether customers are charged a fee to participate in any or all of them
  • If other vendors are invited to be a part of the event and whether they are required to pay for booth space
  • Additional advertising expenses
  • Whether merchandise will be discounted during the event
  • Additional staff that may be needed before, during, and after the event

The event could be a success in terms of attracting new and existing consumers, yet not be profitable.

  • If the primary goal of the event was to be a major income generator, but the cost of hosting the event exceeded revenue, then it may be necessary to revise aspects of the event before offering it again.
  • If the primary goal of the event was mainly to alert consumers that the business exists and no significant sales were expected, sales generated during the first year could be viewed as an additional benefit to the business.

Sales during the event are key, but consumers may not always make purchases, or make their entire purchase, during the event. Rather, they may return at a later date when there is less of a crowd, or they may need to give greater consideration to the goods and services offered and their need for them. If the conversion rate (number of purchasers compared to number of visitors) is low or less than an average business day’s conversion rate, then further investigation is warranted.

Once the event is over, the work is not done. Though it may be difficult, key personnel should meet immediately after the event to talk about their perceptions of how well the event was received, any components that need to be reconfigured, and what the economic reward was. A final task would be to develop or redefine a list of objectives for the next time you plan to offer the event. Most likely, employees’ memories of the event will become less accurate as they become involved in other business activities.

Events, Part 1: Planning

By: Kathy Kelley

With the fall and winter holidays coming up, I’m sure you are in the midst of planning, or have finished planning, a few events that will draw consumers to your tasting room. But, surely, November, December, and early January are not the only months during which you’ll host such events. Consider creating events that will bring customers to your tasting room during times when sales are typically slow. An opportunity to develop and host an event is only restricted by your creativity and rationale for offering the event. Some potential events include:

  • Store openings and anniversaries
  • Recognition of customers who spend the most at the business on an annual basis
  • Targeting your primary customers for a “night out”

During what other times might you host an event? Some to consider:

  • October is Pennsylvania Wine Month – 31 days of celebrating
  • Pre- or post-harvest celebrations
  • End of bottling
  • National Drink Wine Day (February 18th;, not to be confused with National Wine Day (May 25th)
  • You will find a nice calendar of events on Mark you calendars for “World Moscato Day” (May 9th), National Chardonnay Day (May 21st), “Drink Local Wine Week” (Oct. 11th through the 17th), and many more.

Dec 2014_Blog_Kathy Pic 1

Events for a cause

An event may be the perfect way to raise money for a charity or alert the community about a cause. Several examples exist where retailers host an event on their property, invite artists to showcase and sell their paintings, jewelry, etc., and provide space for caterers and food businesses to promote their products.

Dec 2014_Blog_Kathy Pic 2

Having caterers at the event is a great way to help customers discover more way to use your wine. Ask that caterers share menus of what they plan to serve with you well in advance – then post a small sign by each tasting station that lists which one of your wines pairs well with the dish.   Alternatively, you could create “handouts” that list the item(s) at the food station, contact information for the vendor who is selling the product/providing samples, the name of the wine that would pair well, and how attendees can order/find your wine locally (at the winery, whether your wines are at state liquor stores, if you sell your wines at farmers’ markets, if the wines are available at local restaurants, etc.), as well as you contact information, how they can join your case club, and related information.

If you don’t already have a list of caterers who could handle a crowd, consider visiting a local farmers’ market and connect with food vendors. If they have been selling goods at the market for a while they probably have a following and they could easily promote the event at their farmers’ market stall, via social media, etc. Having another artesian from the community can further enhance the “local” aspect of your business and that you do your best to support other small businesses.

Dec 2014_Blog_Kathy Pic 3

While a free event might draw a reasonable crowd, selling tickets could help defray the costs of the event or provide a significant amount that could be donated to the cause. Also, if tickets are sold in advance, it will be much easier to plan the event and ensure that enough food and drink is available.

Ask artists to donate some of the proceeds from goods sold, provide items for a silent auction, or pay for their vendor space. Even though attendees will pay admission and bid on items – set up several sites where they can donate money. Asking vendors to have a “donation jar” in their booth is one way to collect spare change and dollars.

What to consider when planning an event

With the amount of time and energy that developing and implementing a successful event can take, consider holding the event for more than one day. Of course, the number of days that you hold an event depends on the type of event as well as how established the business is and how many customers could potentially visit.

More established tasting rooms with a larger customer base may need to host a multiday event to accommodate the number of visitors expected. Though having enough employees available to complete all the prep work and on-site activities can be difficult, consider the potential benefits, including:

  • Increased likelihood that busy couples and groups of friends could attend at least one of the days
  • Flexibility in arranging times for vendors, demonstrations, and specialty guests
  • Reduced parking congestion and crowding

Before you start planning, take stock of the amount of property or space available inside the tasting room to accommodate larger-than-average crowds. Additionally, determine whether you will need an overflow-parking site.

  • Do you have an open field, or can you use another business’s parking lot?
  • If so, can attendees walk from this parking area to the event, or will you need to hire buses to transport them?

Hire extra staff to organize these spaces most efficiently and alleviate stress for all involved. Extra staff may also be necessary to enforce food and guest safety, as well as to help prevent vendors and guests from being victims of theft.

Even with significant space available to accommodate a crowd, several components of creating a comfortable space still need to be considered, such as:

  • Appropriate number of bathrooms and wash stations
  • Variety of refreshments available for visitors to purchase, especially if temperatures are unseasonably warm
  • Shelter, such as a tent, in case of inclement weather

Consider offering tents or other outbuildings to food vendors who will be cooking and selling snacks and meals. Tents for cooking must be up to code and need to be placed a specific distance from permanent buildings in case of fire in the tent. Consult your local township, borough, or city for more information and a list of restrictions.

Will your event be “worth it?”

The ultimate goal of the event is to generate income while offering your visitors an experience. Hence, you’ll likely need to devote resources beyond what you allocate for regularly scheduled promotions. When both planning and evaluating the event, develop a list of questions that can guide you through the process and help you determine what to change for future years. The following are some questions worth considering.

Is the idea unique?

An event can help business owners differentiate themselves from their competitors. The uniqueness, and subsequent consumer appeal, of an event can be a key marketing factor that customers associate with the business. Certainly, there is a difference between a unique idea that is engaging and inviting and a unique idea that is over the top and intimidates visitors. To be effective, as well as interesting, some tie-in needs to be established between the business and the focus of the event. For example, if you hire a local artist to design labels for your wines, consider a “meet the artist” night during the event.

Dec 2014_Blog_Kathy Pic 4Will the event be memorable?

To achieve this, tasting room staff should ensure that the perception (what actually happens) of the event is greater than what visitors expect, and that the outcome ultimately “wows” attendees. Another way to think about this is to deliver more than what is promised, and the visitor will not be disappointed. The reward may be realized both during the event and when the visitor returns.

Is the event important enough to justify the amount of time and expense invested?

As can be expected with creating an event that is both unique and memorable, resources need to be allocated to the effort. Sales and foot traffic (discussed in next week’s blog post) are two indicators you should track and analyze. Keep in mind that it may take more than one attempt at offering the event to actually obtain the desired level of profitability.

Customer interaction

Once attendees have arrived, involve them in an experience that engages each of their senses.

  • Sight: As mentioned above, create spaces for local artists to display their products
  • Sound: Set up a stage and invite local bands to perform or play a selection of music from CDs you/they offer for purchase. Have appropriate seating, or space for visitors to set up their own chairs, for more formal performances when artists are asked to entertain rather than just play “background” music. Don’t forget to publish a list of performances and ask the band/performer to do the same
  • Touch: Allow attendees to walk through the vineyards, see the vines up close, and pick fruit right from a few vines you’ve set aside for this purpose
  • Smell and taste: Invite a local bakery to sell specialty breads, pastries, and cheese, all complementing your wine. Nothing smells better than freshly baked bread (except wine of course!)

Dec 2014_Blog_Kathy Pic 5

Research has shown that the longer consumers spend looking at merchandise in a store, the more likely they are to make a purchase. If you already offer barrel-tasting tours, vineyard tours, and reserve-in-advance tastings, consider other ways you can educate visitors. Try implementing a mix of short seminars for free (e.g. how to properly cellar wines) and all-day educational sessions for a fee that involves the customer, and that quite possibly provides them with something they take home from the session (e.g. making jelly from wine grapes).

Dec 2014_Blog_Kathy Pic 6

Depending on what you talk about during the seminars, you may alert them about products and wines that you sell and that they might not have considered or noticed before hearing you speak.

Co-hosting events

Though your business may develop the vision for an event, the responsibility of coordinating and implementing it doesn’t need to be restricted to only you, your facility, and your staff. Involve a complementary business, or two, and work together.

For example, invite a local baker, caterer, cheese producer and/or florist to co-host. During the event, staff from all three businesses could offer demonstrations, such as meal preparation using the food items and choosing a flower arrangement for the table. Each business could also provide goods that can be included in gift baskets for sale, part of a charity raffle, or that could be ordered at the event (great for those who might need winter holiday gift ideas).

Dec 2014_Blog_Kathy Pic 7

Consumers who attend the event may appreciate being able to interact with more than one business and purchase goods and services provided by each. Combining forces could be more economical for all businesses involved, compared to each business hosting its own, smaller event.

Hosting an event together also results in having a greater number of employees available to staff the event, along with pooling funds to cover advertising and event-related expenses. Along with agreeing on a unified theme that makes sense for all businesses involved, decide in advance how you will assigning duties and distribute profits from either admission or activity fees, as well as how the visiting businesses compensate the host business for utility and land use.

When it comes to social media, make sure that you:

  • “Like” the business you co-host with on Facebook and follow them on Instagram (Abigail Miller will be discussing Instagram in her December 12th blog post).
  • Alert followers when you add co-hosts’ products to your displays or when new partners and vendors agree to be involved in the event
  • Post images before, during, and after the event. Consider assigning that duty to a specific staff member – most likely if this role isn’t assigned the number of images collected and items posted will be less than desired
  • Both original tweets and your retweets should mention your co-hosts
  • Develop a Pinterest page that all businesses co-manage and pin pictures to related to the event, provide links to recipes for foods served during the event, etc.
  • Develop a #hashtag specifically for the event and use it in all your postings. Also, ask visitors to use the #hashtag in their postings so that you can search for their images and repost on social media sites, websites, and tweet. You could encourage attendees to help document the event by announcing that you will hold a contest and select (at random or by vote) one or two visitors who post and use the #hashtag.

All these efforts inform your customers about joint activities while reminding them about your business.

In next week’s blog, I’ll provide information on how to evaluate your event and determine whether it was a success.