POSTED ON June 16, 2010 | IN Tasting Rooms, Wine News | BY joe

In the good old days of the Napa Valley, you could walk into just about any tasting room along Highway 29 and not worry about having an appointment or having to pay a fee for tasting wine. You weren’t presented with a menu of different levels of wine tasting. It was then a straight forward and simple way for a winery to introduce their wines to visitors. Now with some 400 wineries to visit in the Napa Valley, you will find a multitude that are open by appointment only, and several wineries have various fees for different types and levels of tasting. “Yes, we are open by appointment only, but we are always here, so just come on in.” “No, you need to call ahead for an appointment to arrange a tasting or tour.” Once you are in the tasting room, “Do you want our Club Med tasting or just the normal tasting?” This can all be very confusing to the first-time visitor to the Napa Valley.


Take this email we received this past week from a man from Ohio who is planning a trip to the Napa Valley. “I don’t understand the difference among ”wine tasting” and ”reserve tasting” and ”paired tastings” and ”library tastings; some are sit-down and some are not, some are by appointment and others are not.” The guy had probably picked a few wineries to visit and looked at their websites for tasting information. As you can gather from his email, it is apparent that many wineries are probably not providing enough clear information for visitors.

The email prompted me to take a look at several winery websites and see how they presented information for tourists. I frequently found websites that do not have a tab or heading for either “Visit Us” or “Tasting Room.” Often that information is under the heading “Contact Us” and that just does not make sense. I also found examples of where the tasting room information is on the Home page but below the “fold.” This is the area where one has to scroll down to find more content on a page and thus this information is often overlooked.

When it came to describing different tastings I found the most confusing terms to be with Reserve and Library tastings. Here is one example taken from a Website of a Napa Valley winery. “Our Reserve tasting includes our favorite Reserve Wines and our Library wines.” There are no other details except for the fee for this tasting. Some wineries do a great job describing each type of tasting they offer, but others just have a title and fee and little else to enlighten the tourist.

My suggestion to wineries is to make life easy for the wine traveler. It should take only one quick glance at the Home Page to locate tasting room information. Once on the tasting room page, visitors should see all the information they need. This information should include visiting hours, fees, types of tastings, map or directions, and any other goodies a winery has, like a picnic area or Bocce courts. The website should provide short but clear descriptions for tasting that are “Reserve”,” Library,” “Food Pairing” and the like. Leave nothing to chance. Presume the person looking at your Website is from Ohio and has tasted little wine and has never been to wine country but is anxious to learn.