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 Photo Credit: Wilson Creek Winery Tasting Room

I live very near the Temecula Valley Wine Country which boasts 35-40 fabulous wineries with casual to elegant tasting rooms, restaurants, wedding venues, and beautiful inns.  Most of the business events and fundraisers I attend are held at many of these.  Just yesterday, I was at South Coast Winery for the Annual Women In Business Conference and from there, stopped by my friends Bill and Jenifer Wilson’s beautiful venue at Wilson Creek Winery – world famous for their Almond Champagne. (Check out their new Peach Bellini and Sangria sparkling wine too! Wow)  I brought this subject up with Brie, a delightful wine room server with whom I had the pleasure to speak and share the topic of tipping.  She was a gracious young lady who seemed to thoroughly enjoy her job as well as a keen interest in her own professional development in the hospitality industry.  I liked that….and so I began to chat about some people tip and some people don’t…and some people are just unaware of whether or not they should.

This seems to be a controversial topic but I have no idea why.  There are many who say that tasting room servers are there to educate you and that it’s not a bar and that you pay for the tasting and that you often buy the wine, etc. etc.  But I don’t see how these things effect the standard we have always had in America when it comes to “tipping for service”.  I always tip at a wine tasting; sometimes I’m not even tasting, I’m actually ordering a particular favored wine of which I’m already aware of  it’s notes, bouquet, vintage, etc. Should that change anything? I’m still being served.

Now I’m not saying that tipping is “mandatory” in a wine room…but then tipping isn’t really mandatory anywhere for that matter.  It’s not like you’ll go to jail for not tipping! You will often see tip jars behind the servers.  They are not blatantly sitting on the actual wine bar because a) that would take up patron space, and b) that would be tacky – it’s not considered “counter service” after all.

There ARE wineries that may prohibit the accepting of tips – for whatever reason – perhaps they don’t want anyone to feel compelled to follow the lead of another; or maybe they pay their staff handsomely enough to offset a lack of tipping.  If an employee is absolutely forbidden to accept a tip, they will surely tell you (if they want to keep their job) with hopefully, gratitude and grace, that they are not allowed to accept tips.

However, it is rare to find a person who provides a service, particularly in the food and beverage industry, that does not appreciate a tip for good service.

As Magnolia Etiquette continues to promote our tag line to “Raise Your Standard”, I am suggesting that when you visit the wine valleys and regions in the US, you simply consider the option to express your gratitude under the following circumstances:

  1. Your server spent ample time educating you on either the varietal, each tasting in the flight, history of the vineyard, upcoming events, gift shop goodies, or any combination of informative tidbits.
  2. Your server enjoyed friendly banter with you throughout your tasting experience, regardless of how busy they were  moving from station to station to assist all at the tasting bar.
  3. Your server clued you in on a fabulous “off the list” tasting, private selection, or barrel room tasting.
  4. Your server simply made every effort to make sure your experience was delightful.
  5. You were given COMPLIMENTARY tasting tickets from someone, anyone, the owner/manager, etc.
  6. You have brought in a large group that is under time constraints, excited about their wedding, and “rushing” the server – yes…they appreciate a large group buying tastings and/or wine…but again, a small expression of gratitude is greatly appreciated by the servers.

So….how much to tip?  Well, I use the same rule as I do when at a bar. $1/full drink (not $1/1 oz. tasting – so, if I have a “flight” of tastings that equals to about one glass of wine, I tip at least $1, sometimes $2 – again, depends on how great my experience with the server has been. If I’ve received COMPLIMENTARY tasting tickets, I usually tip $5, particularly if I’ve had a tasting flight, and then ordered a glass of something favored.  I mean, let’s face it, you didn’t pay $10-15 for the tasting ticket right?

I’m not saying everyone should do what I do, but I am saying that any expression of gratitude for good service will be appreciated – whether financial or verbal. 🙂

Enjoy your next wine-tasting adventure!

Graciously, 

Jonnie Fox Flanagan

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