JM Cellars 2012 Margaret’s Vineyard Estate Red wine

Seattle District teachers will be striking on Wednesday because they are asking for a 21% raise over the next three years. Warning to said teachers: don’t expect much sympathy from the population. You already got a 30-minute recess (read: “break”) from the entitled brats, and an entire summer off with pay… take the 11% the district is offering and git yer asses back in the classroom. Hey, what the f*ck was that debacle at Martin Stadium on Saturday? So, when does Cougar basketball start? Leave it to a fellow black man, Damon Wayans, to defend Bill Cosby by calling those women he took advantage of as “unrapeable.” I looked that word up in the dictionary and it defined “unrapeable” as Paul Gwine’s fat ugly ass with nipple rings. And how’s this for “professional journalism”– the lemon party president begged his crony followers to help him research a winery in Walla Walla that he never heard of. Guess it’s just too damn difficult to drive over and do some boots-on-the-ground investigation because he’s hosting a lemon party reunion with his former Choad Enthusiast cocksuckers. Then there was poor Sean at Bumbershoot trying to give away free pours of cheap wines he hocks for the D-listed wine rag. 80,000 hipsters passed through the gates yet he couldn’t finish depleting a case of donated shlock. He did better in past years when he teamed up with Barb Winegal, who flashed her gams whenever she was asked to give “expert” commentary. Finally, in case you think wine blogging has improved in the Northwest, look no further than the still-around horrific, in-the-fold posts from self-proclaimed “I’m not a wine blogger but I do state I am one on my Twitter profile” bozos in Shona and MarGot. S.o.s. … same old shit from these wrinkled bags of wine moochers.

What drives customers to not only get in the tasting room, but actually BUY wine instead of paying off a dinky tasting fee?

Hell, if I had that answer, I’d be a marketing genius but usually, the first method is to get them to the neighborhood. A strategically placed sandwich board that stands out helps. Also, being friendly with your winery neighbors is a BIG plus. So often, I hear the question of “Where should I go next?” or “Who makes a great (insert wine)?” and I direct them to that tasting room.

What influences my recommendations? Obviously, the wines have to be good– at least the ones people are looking for. Secondly, having a history or lineage also helps. This information can be gleaned off a well-designed website or by knowledgeable wine reps. Which then leads to– is the winemaker personable or at the staff that’s pouring. Thankfully, I’ve never had a bad experience at a warehouse tasting room yet and I’ve been through all of them multiple times. They all want your business and will step out of their comfort zone to get that sale or favorable impression. The older tenants tend to be more relaxed than the newbies. So, if a winemaker can relate well to his/her customers quickly, stay positive, and smile a lot, you can bet that tasting room will be high on my recommended list. But again, the wines have to deliver. No sense having a friendly winemaker who makes piss-poor wines… and there are a handful of those still around. Also, the tasting room should be accommodating for sampling wines. Just because I’m in a warehouse doesn’t mean I have to look at concrete walls and pipes and cords in the open ceiling. And yes, there are sippers out there who abhor being present in such an environment as they are only accompanying a friend who dragged them. That’s when décor becomes a higher priority and I will recommend them to pay a visit to places like Pondera Winery or Refuge & Prospect. There’s enough variety now in the warehouse district for everyone to enjoy at least one winery.

Back to the question… a good tasting room fella should always smile and genuinely be inquisitive into asking a patron how their tasting went, then emphasize on the positives. Roll with the positive vibe to make them feel in control then do the one thing that separates the pro from the rookie–lead them to the sale. “So, you want a bottle or a case of that (insert favored wine)?” Once you lock in the sale, throw in discounts! People love discounts! That’s the perfect time to mention the wine club. If not that, then mention the bulk discount– like 10% off a case or tease them with a half-case discount. Analyze your customer! Is he/she on the fence to purchasing multiple bottles? Incentive-ize them with a custom discount and compliment them if they were the kind of customer your tasting room wants a whole lot more of. I can tell a lot about a winery just from their wine club. An un-advertised 10% off a half-case does not hurt the bottom line and you will get more back in good word-of-mouth. With all these social media sites like Yelp, Twitter and Instagram doing instant reporting, you will earn free recognition that slowly builds up into mouths at the counter.

For the tasting room volunteers, it is important to blanket any personal beliefs. Dealing with a high-maintenance snoot with the alternate lifestyle? Clamp down and serve the bitch. Your victory will be in taking their money. It’s a business and the most profitable businesses are blind to aberrant behavior. You are a server, so serve your customer. Of course, there is a line that is drawn but that is very rarely crossed (see inebriated or abusive derps). You may not know anything about the wines but don’t lie about it. Just say you don’t know and that you can find that information, but always do it with a smile. As a customer, I’d rather deal with a clueless college student who smiles than a WSET level 44 know-it-all who lectures me on soil types and vine spacing. Never show off how much you know that’s more than what your customer knows. It’s plain annoying.

Why this remedial course in tasting room etiquette? Simple. There are lots of new faces pouring wine and they’re getting younger every year. Some kids have no idea where the Red Mountain AVA is or how big the Columbia Valley AVA is. They never heard of carmenere or aligote. They surely have no clue about vintage variation or why single vineyard wines cost more than multi-vineyard ones. I swear, there a few kids who look like they haven’t even taken their SATs. This is their introduction to both the wine and service industry so it is important they know the basics to at least start an intelligent conversation about the wonderful wines of Washington. If you see a greenhorn, welcome them and have fun trading what they know and how they like doing what their doing. Chances are, they already have some entertaining stories of previous customers that will make you laugh. And, that’s what the wine experience should be.

Tasted at 58-70 degrees on the IR temp gun. Black garnet in the Riedel and full throttle on the palate with blackberry, black raspberry, dried bark, black olive, tumbleweeds, and bitter chocolate swinging around the tastebuds.

Alcohol: 14.9% (website 15.3%). Vineyard planted in 2007 at elevation 1300 ft. 50% cabernet sauvignon, 25% merlot, 10% cab franc, 10% malbec, 5% petit verdot. Aged 22 months in French oak (75% new, 25% once used). Walla Walla Valley AVA. 452 cases. Power: 3/5. Balance: 3/5. Depth: 2/5. Finesse: 3/5. Rated: 91. Retail: $42. Music pairing: “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly. This is WAwineman… uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

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