A busy tasting room can certainly be a challenge. So when my significant other and I walked into Auburn Road Vineyards on a Saturday afternoon and saw a packed tasting bar, we were not sure what type of winery experience we would be getting. But there was certainly no cause for concern, as the two women running the tasting bar had it covered. They seamlessly took turns with each of the customers, ensuring that one of them was always pouring the next taste when a glass emptied. This strategy seemed to work better than the often used one in which the person who starts the tasting finishes the tasting.
In addition to their attentiveness, the staff also imparted their knowledge of the wine. This educational aspect of the winery experience can often be lost, especially in a busy tasting room. We had just come from a couple of other wineries where the staff were attentive and friendly but their pours of wine were accompanied by these descriptions: “This is the Chambourcin.” “This is the Cabernet Sauvignon.” Learning something about the grapes, the way the wine was made, or even the name chosen for the wine can enhance the winery experience.
We learned at Auburn Road that they grow most of their own grapes but use Cabernet Franc and Grenache from Lodi, CA in their Winemaker’s Blend. We also learned that their Eidolon wine (a red blend) was named for the Walt Whitman “Leaves of Grass” poem; apparently the Whitman poem took seven years to perfect and so did this blend. A great story to engage the customer. They also infuse a little humor into their wine. Their peach wine (white wine blended with Jersey peaches) is called “Give Peach a Chance” named after the John Lennon song. Although I am not usually a fan of sweet wine, this one was crisp and refreshing and made me think longingly of summer.
I often find the story behind a winery interesting as well, especially in New Jersey where several of the winemakers did not start out their careers in the wine industry. Auburn Road is a good example. The staff member told us that the winery has six owners who were professionals in other fields but working long hours in their positions left limited time for their families and they wanted to make a change. She noted that some of the male owners started out making the wine but it turned out one of the female owners was better suited for the job. So they have a self-taught woman winemaker and created a successful business. An inspiring story.
Being attentive to customers in a busy tasting room without losing any of the interesting educational aspects of the tasting as well as using a little humor can lead to a truly excellent winery experience that engages customers and encourages sales and a return visit. We gave peach a chance and bought that bottle, and we will certainly be back.