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Exploring the sumptuous Sonoma Valley in its lush springtime glory, one of our afternoons in Dry Creek, near Healdsburg, offered an interesting contrast in tasting room experiences and a reflection on human connection in customer service. I’ll tell you about the first experience with this article. It was Easter Sunday so many of the wineries were closed and there weren’t as many visitors about as usual, which worked out great for our trio of tasters.

Unti Vineyard Tasting Room Experience

At the first winery, Unti Vineyards, we were greeted by a young man who had memorized the key data and descriptors and proceeded to rattle them off for us. I’m sure he meant to be friendly, but I felt like I was a part of a mechanical assembly line or a type of knowledge dispensation system. Maybe he was a scientist type who was actually truly passionate about the science of winemaking and that’s how he was expressing that passion, or maybe he would have preferred to have that sunny day off. Whatever the circumstances, soon after our arrival, for some reason he traded places with the winery’s owner and went over to recite his data to another set of enthusiastic wine tasters. With this stroke of luck, we met George and we got to learn about how the Unti family arrived in California from Italy, and that we may even have mutual acquaintances! George had a way of placing one elbow on the tasting room counter, leaning in slightly as he spoke which made it seem like he was revealing secrets to us, secrets meant for our ears only.

Power of Human Connection in Customer Service

The warmth of the communication and the human connection actually made the wine itself more interesting. We learned about the wine named for the father’s home town in Italy, Segromigno – and as I tasted it, the strength of its body and rich red fruit notes together with its gentle balanced tannins, made me feel like this wine was a true representation of George’s gentle but firm father who courageously emigrated from Italy to raise his family in America. I needed to buy a bottle. We learned about the family’s desire to take risks and innovate with new grape varietals typical in Italy yet uncommon to the Sonoma Valley. We learned about UC Davis’ bank of grape clones and how wineries can purchase them, we even admired George’s wife Linda’s paintings. The Fiano wine was an expression of the family’s creativity, and I could clearly imagine its austere minerality and slightly sassy and very subtle citrus notes cutting artfully through my creamy seafood pasta – I needed to get a bottle of that too. Just by tasting with George and him letting us into the background and history of the family, the winery and the wines, we felt like we had now somehow become a part of this trailblazing winery.

We came away with four bottles, but perhaps, more importantly, we came away feeling we had an emotional connection to this winery. We’d had an experience, this was a Relation-Sip, this wasn’t just shooting tasters. We left the tasting room and made our way, through the colourful flower beds, wisteria everywhere, back to our convertible (tasting on a sunny spring day in wine country is even more delicious with the top down!) I’ll remember Unti Vineyards and I’ll certainly remember how welcome George made us all feel.

Are we having a Relation-Sip? Or are we just going through the motions?

Do you own or manage a winery tasting room? How are your staff relating to your customers? Are they truly connecting with them? Or just going through the motions, awaiting the end of their shift?

Your customers have personalities, and if your team members are skilled at reading them, they will have an easier time making that human connection which will definitely lead to more direct to consumer sales in the tasting room, guaranteed! Want more insights to increase client engagement, see our other posts.