Winning Back the Wine Tourist — Some Ideas


Written by:

Joe Becerra

Last updated:

Everyone knows the number of visitors has dropped in the Napa Valley and all wine country regions. As seasoned travelers to the wine country, we know that there are a number of strategies that wineries can do to win back visitors and keep them coming back for more. We have talked to loads of tourist on our winery treks and from those conversations and our own experiences, here are just a few ideas that we think will encourage visitors. These are not necessarily in order of priority.

Tasting fees applied to the purchase of wine. It just makes good P.R. sense and we honestly do not understand why so few do this. It is a “win-win” for all.

Team up with hotels, websites, restaurants, the Destination Council, and provide two-for-one tasting coupons. We know a lot of wineries have these but few visitors know about them.

Offer a price range of wines with at least one wine in the price range of $15 for the budget-minded traveler.

Have something on sale each week. When we visit the wine country of Paso Robles, we always stop in at Castoro winery no matter what. Why, because they always seem to have a sale that is a fantastic value. It keeps us coming back.

For the smaller wineries, it is always nice to meet and become friends with one of the owners or winemakers. It is so nice to be recognized when you walk into the tasting room.

If things are slow and there are two people working the tasting room, how about “let me show you around.” Even a five-minute tour provides that personal touch.

Picnic areas are important to people. Get that picnic permit. We always go back to Robert Sinskey, Rutherford Hill, or Diamond Oaks for a pleasurable view and peaceful picnic lunch with a glass of wine. The new Picnic Law allows one to sell a glass of wine.

Make the experience memorable. When we open a bottle of wine, it always tastes better when there is a story behind the wine. Educate your guests.

There is a big potential of Spanish speaking wine travelers. What about a few tours in Spanish offered once every so often.

Don’t be so hoity toity about the wine. Most wine travelers like it fun and merry and not so serious. We are really bugged when the host caters to a wine snob and neglects the rest of us. Be nice to all!

Rethink the wine club. They all seem to be the same. Provide more flexibility and more perks.

Offer more wine and food pairings. Wine always tastes better with food. Make it an educational experience. Don’t charge an arm and leg for the event just break-even.

Keep your Website up-to-date. Keep a good email list. Keep your emails short and sweet and offer something interesting for a visit.

Facebook Fan page and Twitter may not be that important as yet. However, remember ten years ago or so, when wineries were wondering if they should have a Website or not.

  • Joe Becerra

    Joe Becerra has been traveling to wine country and enjoying wine since 1965. He is a retired educator, and now have the time the opportunity to share his wine travel experiences through this Website.

6 thoughts on “Winning Back the Wine Tourist — Some Ideas”

  1. Good feedback.

    People like for their trips to be coordinated (one stop shopping). People want a personalized experience (and as you can tell more wineries are offering the Swanson/Patz & Hall salon pairings experience).

    Secondly people do not want to be nickeled and dimed (let me become a member, have flexibility – select what I want to receive and provide opportunities for me visit/member exclusives). It is ok to have a sale every week!

    Third when you send wine, provide food and wine pairings, receipes and let me know when you are going to be local to my community (wineries should leverage their mailing lists/people who sign up when they visit). Rubicon sends me emails when they are appearing at events (most are in San Francisco and I live in San Diego). But a number of wineries do send out newsletters (electronic or print). When I visit wineries they followup whether I buy or not (if not what is the point of me signing their guest book?)

    Fourth, give me a reason to visit again and personalize the invitation. I think wineries could work together to provide an itinerary for 2-4 days and collaborate on a winemaker dinners during the visit.

    Fifth, put the service back into customer service and think beyond the first transaction…I have purchased wine from Silver Oak since March 1998. Not because it is the best wine I buy but because they know me by name when I visit, send emails all the time and the people have introduced me to other people in the valley (everyone knows everyone in Napa).


  2. Brilliant, not in your ideas, they are basic (and needed) but for coming out and saying so. The one thing I would add is greater cooperation within winery associations. In places like Portugal and Australia, the winery associations are helping their members pool the stats and helping them understand what is happening. There are many signs that there are challenges ahead (including a warning by Diageo in today’s WSJ) that still exist and that better times are not yet around the corner.

    Creativity should be the word of the day (month & year)!

  3. Glad to see a customer service focused post here. I agree with the spirit of James’ comments. Make customers feel personally acknowledged and they’ll return. In my opinion, it’s not necessary to put on a slew of gimmicky events or have sales every week. Nothing is more important than having a well-trained, welcoming, and friendly staff in the tasting room. These are the people who make the personal connections with visitors after all. Sadly, in my visits to Napa over the last few years, I have encountered far too many tasting room associates who ranged from sub-par to disengaged to downright rude. Hire people who like people, who are enthusiastic about wine, who are happy to share what they know, who are engaging. It’s very basic, but it seems that in the last few years too many wineries have gotten sidetracked by planning ever flashier tasting events and building fancier tasting rooms and have forgotten to put the same time and energy into hiring the right people to staff them.

  4. Nice comments. A recent trip to Napa had mixed reviews. While some places were a bit stand offish others were fun and extrememely enjoyable. My tip is stay away from the busloads of tourists in the heard em in heard em out places and seek out the little guys. The wine is usually awesome and you will most definately make new friends. While a lot of the offbeat ones require an appointment, the extra legwork on your part will be worth the effort.

  5. I recently moved to Napa with my fiancé and my family plans to visit from back East within the next year for our wedding.
    Here are some other ideas:
    * Family Discounts = Bring your family in today (four or more with same last names) and pay for just one tasting. Most likely at least 1 out of the 4 will make a purchase that day. A closing ratio of 25% on a first time visit is not too shabby.
    * Wine Club Discounts = Sign up for our Wine Club today and receive one bottle of wine FREE ($25 Value).
    *Case Discounts = Buy a case today and we will ship it FREE to your house on ____ this date, with 2 FREE Wine Glasses. (Add your logo to the wine glasses for increased branding and exposure.)
    With my background in Marketing Management, Sales, and Strategic Business Analysis, I learned people love the word FREE. It will keep them coming back, telling their friends, and overall increase your bottom line profits. For more ideas (I have a lot more) or Marketing Consultation please email me any time. “Will work for wine.” 🙂

    -Cheers, Salud, and Salute
    Edward Stephanick

Comments are closed.