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Feb 5, 2007 08:57 AM

Your opinion on wine tasting fees?

Is there a consensus among either the producers or the consumers on how wine tasting fees should be handled when one purchases wine post-tasting?

It seems like the lower quality wine/winery, the more likely they stick you with the fees even though you may have bought a few bottles.

I, frankly, find this a bit irritating.

This weekend at Sunstone, (whose wines, in sum, I found okay/good), I wanted to buy a couple of bottles to take home. When I noticed that the girl behind the counter wasn't discounting us for our wine tasting fees, I asked her why that was. She replied (rather smarmily), that was how they did their wine tasting and besides (verbatim) "People ask me that all the time and I just wanna know who does that?"

I replied, in my experience, most of the Napa Valley. And I was no longer interested in purchasing.

Swung by Kalyra as it was next door (average/okay) and Rideau (good/excellent) as well. Similar type modus operandi there. That said, I thought the folks at Kayra were the most personable and easy-going.

Overreaction on my part? Bad business on their part? Poorly trained staff? I'm a proletariat buffoon?

Maybe I am just not very simpatico, and didn't merit a waiver of the tasting fee?

Thoughts? Opinions?

Thanks in advance.

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  1. I think the tasting fee should be waived if you buy a bottle. I thought the fee was more to keep out the touring tasters who have no intention of buying anything than it was to pay for the wine.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Snackish

      That was my impression as well.

    2. Fees depend on the winery. I managed hospitality for a winery who charged $20 for a tour and tasting. Some may find that expensive, but when you are tasting 3-5 wines in the $25-70 range along with a culinary tour, the majority of guests enjoyed themselves. In fact, I had the pleasure of the company of regular visitors who made annual, or more frequent visits when new releases were available.

      Yes, fees can be a method to separate the "drink tasters" from those who are tasting to buy. From the winery perspective, I was witness to some horrifying behaviour of visitors who thought that a tasting fee meant that they could have a full glass of each wine - 1 to 2 ounce pours are the norm, and depending on the winery, they can be strictly measured pours to managing inventory more effectively. Considering that some people visit 4-5 wineries in a day (I don't know how they do it - 3 is my max.) and taste 3-5 wines per property, the math will indicate the volume of alcohol consumed. I always offered spittoons, and encouraged their use the tasting was the first of the day. I have seen several DUI tests being administered roadside during the middle of the day in the wine country.

      Regarding fees, most wineries will deduct the fee when wine is purchased. Your experience at Sunstone was quite unfortunate, and I would attribute it to a combination of lack of training/supervision, bad attitude and fundamentally poor customer service. There is too much good wine out there and too many wineries with gracious hospitality to waste time, energy and emotion on those who don't take the time to care about their visitors and clients.

      1. I'm in favour of wine-tasting fees simply because I hate to feel obligated to buy something whether or not I liked the offering. Having said that, it has been my experience that most wineries discount the wine tasting fee if you make a purchase.

        1. To put the issue in a global context, let me relate an anecdote:

          I was about to visit the Côte d'Or ( ), and faxed requests for appointments to quite a few wineries. Among them, one at the very top of the Burgundian hierarchy. Assuming, of course, I wouldn't get any kind of response.

          To my great surprise, I was accorded an appointment at my requested date & time.

          I was shown up & down, all different cuvées in the cellar tasted from the barrels, by one of the owners.

          When I (humbly) requested the chance to buy some of the fantastic juices I'd tasted, the answer was: "Sorry, we're sold out way in advance".

          Moral of the story: the producers -in person, mind you- spent quite a few hours with a total stranger, not part of the wine trade, just for the pleasure of showing their work.

          1 Reply
          1. re: RicRios

            That sounds like an amazing experience. I'm hoping to do something like that on my next trip to Napa, but only focusing on smaller vinyards (no Opus here)

          2. I don't think I've ever been to a winery that DIDN'T take the tasting fee off your bill when you bought wine from them... but then it's years since I've been wine-tasting so things may have changed without my knowing. If I was to take it up again, I'd be VERY annoyed to be charged money for the privilege of spending more money... (I don't 'get' shopping expos either...)