We had a woman in the Tasting Room who angrily threw three dollars at us, enraged that she had to pay to sample our wine. As she stomped out before getting the explanation, I thought maybe this would help clarify things:
#1: The history of complimentary tastes. Wineries initially used complimentary tastes to draw people out to their winery sites – generally miles and miles outside of cities, meaning folks had the winery as their primary destination – guests were “pre-screened,” as it were. The majority of wine regions that don’t need the allure of free wine to attract customers now charge tasting fees. Again, this is a way to ferret out folks with genuine interest in wine from folks looking for a free buzz. So, the first reason we charge for tastings is this: we are not out in a remote winery location. Our Tasting Room is in Downtown Bend.
#2: We are located in Downtown Bend. Our Tasting Room is surrounded by bars and restaurants. In fact, there is a bar right next door. If you had your business right next to a bar, would you give away any alcohol product for free? We get a lot of walk-by traffic, people who notice our signs and mosey on in to see what’s up. And like it or not, folks, most of the industry is heading towards tasting fees.
#3: The OLCC. Our Tasting Room is kid friendly – we welcome families with kids, have toys and chairs for kids, and advertise that fact. The OLCC (Oregon Liquor Control Commission) asks that in return we have certain controls in place to ensure minors are not served alcohol, and one of their requests was “no free tastes.” Do I even need to continue?
#4: We credit back the tasting fee towards the purchase of that bottle of wine. Seems more than fair to us – many wineries won’t even do that, reasoning that the taste is a product (and it is) and you paid to purchase that product.
#5: We almost ALWAYS have additional wines open that we will include in a flight at no extra charge. Unless a visitor is being a butthead, in which case they get nothing. Haha!
#6: We are not a multi-national corporation that can afford to spend millions of dollars promoting their product. The winery is me and Scott. We are very, very small. We didn’t have any money when we started and now we have even less. If someone wants cookie cutter, economies-of-scale, corporate Mega-Mart wine, then we are probably not for them anyway.
#7: Our Tasting Room is a bargain. In contrast to the Mega-Mart wines, the wines we pour in addition to ours are also premium and ultra-premium wines. See similar wines on a restaurant wine list and the glass price will hover close to $20. We are offering folks the opportunity to sample $25, $30 and even some $50 wines for only a few dollars.
#8: Tastes add up. If you are enjoying a full flight – even our shortest flight - you will end up consuming almost the equivalent of a full glass of wine.