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By September 18, 2017 6 Comments Read More →

Mystery Shoppers Visit Pine Ridge Vineyards

Pine Ridge Vineyards is located on a strategic stretch of the Napa Silverado Trail within the Stags Leap District. They are known for their single vineyard varietals harvested in some of Napa Valley’s most prestigious AVA’s. The visitor center offers by appointment tastings in their caves and cellar or for walk-ins, a standing tasting bar upon entering. Tastings at the bar are $45 for a flight of 5 wines, and their “Elevated Tastings” are available as a tour and cellar tasting ($85) or a cave & culinary cabernet pairing for $125. The Hospitality center has a lovely patio, however, it is reserved for wine club members.

For all the visits (both during the week and on the weekend) our shoppers arrived as non-appointment walk in guests, so each visit was conducted at the tasting bar. Upon arrival, cursory greetings were made and on two occasions the staff negotiated among themselves who would be delegated to host. Once a host was assigned, although they wore name tags, no introductions were made, and on all visits the tasting menu was printed, but the hosts failed to explain the offerings, the price, or what one could expect for a $45 tasting experience.

On the first visit the host recited scripted information about the wines, but did not offer any foundation as the premise of Pine Ridge, how the wines came to be, or why they were special or unique. On other visits there was shallow knowledge of the foundation of the wines, and one host had to consult with other team members for answers to basic questions on wine production and history of the winery.

There was some reference to being a new hire, but after further dialog discovered the tenure was months, not days or weeks… certainly enough time to understand the basics. On every visit our tasters felt like they had to force dialog, probe to learn more about the wines and the winery, and were not proactively offered information on how to purchase or details of the wine club. Certainly the wine club would be an easy topic to breach, since all of the seated areas were set aside for members. One would venture to guess the Pine Ridge Tasting Room staff are not incented on sales as all of our shoppers left the tasting room paying only tasting fees and disappearing without a trace. There seemed to be a lot of behind the bar activity going on among the staff, discussing internal logistics regarding inventory and other customers, and during one visit a host actually was bantering with colleagues while marrying two bottles of wine in front of the guests.

Pine Ridge has a rich legacy in Napa Valley for its’ single vineyard cabernet sauvignon. Their wines are beautiful expressions of some of Napa Valley’s most prestigious AVA’s. Unfortunately, unless you are a wine club member or pay around $100 for a hospitality experience at the visitor center, one may never know all the richness Pine Ridge has to offer. From a prospective customer perspective, Pine Ridge came up short across all five of the DTC Sales weight factors, and as such, The V Files ™ gives them a half point rating based on combined or attempted ad hoc staff performance during all three visits.

Pine Ridge Vineyards
5901 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558
www.pineridgevineyards.com

WHAT THEY DID WELL:

Friendly staff, Intermittent knowledge of wine portfolio.

AREAS WHICH NEED IMPROVEMENT:

Connecting with guests, knowledge of product and winery story, passion and inspiration, converting guests into customers through wine sales or wine club memberships, attempting to stay in touch after the visit.

DTC BEST PRACTICES RECOMMENDATIONS:

Connecting & Building Relationships with Guests:

  1. Making personal introductions and addressing guests by name
  2. Establishing trust- Instilling passion and inspiration about the winery and offerings
  3. Providing a more intimate tasting venue for non- elevated tasting experiences 

Converting Sales, Wine Club Subscriptions & Staying Connected after the Visit:

  1. Mandatory staff sales training: Qualifying, connecting, using discovery and closing sales
  2. Implementation of sales incentive plans to reward on sales, wine club & email collection.

Virtual VinesThe V Files™ by Virtual Vines

THE V FILES™ is a monthly publication (subscribe for free) which offers an assessment and rating of wineries DTC performance in relation to overall guest experience and staff proficiency. Wineries are chosen at random by Mystery Shoppers and are evaluated using a scorecard approach leveraging DTC best practices. The ratings are based on how well each winery delivers a memorable guest experience and staff’s ability to sell, covert and connect with customers.

The Rating System is based on performance in the following categories:

  • Inspirational Story
  • Connection w/ Host
  • Sales Acumen
  • Wine Club Conversion
  • Collecting Customer Info

Virtual Vines DTC Sales and Marketing Consulting Services help integrate DTC best practices to help wineries build brand awareness, increase sales and grow customer loyalty. For more information please contact us: www.virtual-vines.com, 707-927-3574

6 Comments on "Mystery Shoppers Visit Pine Ridge Vineyards"

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  1. Rob McMillan says:

    Why would anyone selling their services to the wine business, single out and publically criticize a potential client in trade press?

  2. Hello Rob- I appreciate your question, and upon embarking on the concept and subsequent decision to publish our V Files Report series, we took pause as we realized providing assessments of how wineries are perceived in real life scenarios as far as guest experiences might become a little touchy, especially in the unfortunate situations where overall performance ratings may score low. That said, the intent of the series is to bring to light unbiased, candid feedback from a customers’ POV in an effort to help wineries improve guest experience best practices. As much as we would like to only publish our 4 and 5 star experiences in the V Files reports, it would diminish our intent of authenticity. So yes, while controversial in some cases, overall the feedback we have received has been encouraging as far as the reports providing useful references and suggestions on ways to improve DTC business practices. We’ve even had a few requests from wineries to come out to shop in their regions.
    Our archive of V Files reports can be found here: http://virtual-vines.com/dtc-sales-marketing-news/v-files/

  3. Christine says:

    This whole experience seemed mean spirited and contrived. Staff should have had an opportunity to respond to this before you plastered such a negative narrative in the the trade press. You should consider the effect of these off handed remarks and subjective perspectives before you send to the Internet such a scathing review. It is you who come off negatively.

  4. Mike Meisner says:

    Rob – maybe to show some standard of virtue and to remain an impartial critic of both the good and bad behind the industry. Sometimes it’s helpful to point these things (the truth) out. They seem to use a weighted evaluation system. I say bravo on the transparency and candor.

  5. JB Francis says:

    I am a driver in Napa Valley and follow the Mystery shopping reviews. For the wineries I have visited so far think they have been spot on. Businesses should hear what their customers have to say, good or bad. (Last month the report they did on Laird was great.) As far as this review I think it’s very honest. It doesn’t downscore the whole operation. It gives credit to Pine Ridge’s legacy wines and the property. It also clearly states the review is only based on their walk in business, which overall is becoming a challenge in Napa Valley. As wineries move to appointment only models, unfortunately the walk in business is becoming second tier. I would hope wineries would find the information beneficial and use it constructively to deliver our customers the best experiences- private or public.

  6. It is refreshing to get straight forward feedback on wineries offering hospitality services. Too often people have bad experiences and just walk away or put out total negative feedback to friends and others. This was a well put together review on all aspects and from my experience in visiting and taking clients to the various wineries in Napa and Sonoma Counties there are many who need to step up their staff training and put quality customer service in the front end. Managers and administrators need to pay attention to what the front house staff is putting out and train them appropriately.

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