Tasting fees

https://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2021/05/tasting-fees-skyrocket-in-wine-country
Stop complaining about having to buy two bottles at Fu’s favorite restaurant. Onward Berserkers, onward! We conquered one for, next the world!

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Interesting and eye opening information about tasting fees in different regions. A little bit of sticker shock for me although I haven’t visited many wine regions during the pandemic.
With the loss of sales from the pandemic and the loss of product from the recent fires, it comes as no surprise that the fees would increase. For some wineries, I’m sure it’s a matter of
survival.

Not to quibble but fees are up over the past 5 years. I don’t recall paying anything like this 3 years ago in Napa/Sonoma but it’s not likely I’d go to places with high fees. Not a big Napa cab fan/buyer. Agree on the survival angle.

Just returned from Napa/Sonoma. Tasting fees in Napa are higher than they were two years ago when we last visited. To get a winery to waive the fee generally requires club membership enrollment. If a winery will waive the fee for a bottle purchase it will usually require you to buy several bottles of their wine (adding up to a $300 purchase)
Sonoma tasting fees were more reasonable in my opinion with fees waived with 1-2 bottle purchase. Of course, there were some Sonoma wineries we visited that were charging similar tasting fees as Napa with similar waiver requirements.
I believe there is some justification in the new higher tasting fees as the number of visitors to many of the wineries (up to this point ) has been limited by state/county COVID related regulations and by people’s reluctance to start traveling again. Things are supposed to ease June 15th but my guess is that these higher tasting fees are here to stay.

Which wineries?

Headed to Paso and SB for a few days. Dropping a bundle on tastings.

All in, including air fare, lodging and meals?

Wouldn’t it depend on the level of the tasting? Who is conducting it, what (current vs library) and how many wines poured etc. Happy to pay for quality experience.

I have made reservations each day at wineries, and they almost all have tasting fees unless you are a member, and some are as much as $40 per person.

We were just in Napa end of March, and it felt like fees were up. Cheapest we had was $40 per person, with most $50-75. Places like Matthiason, Pride, Dakota Shy, and Rivers Marie. There were a lot of places I would have liked to go but were $125+ per person, and I cant justify that. As mentioned, nearly all will void the fee with purchase. One place was $75 per for two of us, we bought 4 bottles total for $~225 all in, and they waived the tasting fees completely. No brainer. No disagreement that they are up due to the lower number of tastings per day, trying to cover costs.

So the wineries are selling product at full retail prices for current release and charging exorbitant fees to ‘market’ their wares to entice you to join clubs that will direct sale a continuous stream of revenue? Sounds like a scam to me.

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This seems an overly broad accusation, just saying.

Would you pay a fee to try on the latest sneakers at the Nike store or fiddle with the lates Iphone at Apple?

That’s one way to see it.

The other way, at least for me. Tasting fee is a way to taste wines that I haven’t tried yet is interested in. I would rather buy “a bottle” at $50 - $75 to try 3 - 5 different wines then buy 1 bottle at $50 - $75. At least I know what I like and don’t.

If I like something I’ll buy it. If they waive my tasting fee it’s like frosting on the cake. I can always (well not always) buy later vintages at less than release price when they’re on sale at retailers or something else.

Huh?

Well, normally you are not “depleting” the sneakers or the iPhone, while the wine you are…

Tasting fees sure have gone up, and Ive only been doing this wine thing for about 4-5 years now. It also appears that wine prices have gone up quite a bit during that same time as well. Perhaps some correlation there. I can’t say I enjoy it, especially when the wine isn’t what you hoped or they only allow tasting of the entry level wines.

Also this analogy is not accurate. With the shoes and phone you’re testing an item that is going to remain essentially the same as what you started with. There is no loss to the company except the model phone or maybe a trial shoe (though typically you’d try the same pair you’d buy). With wine there is the loss of the product itself every time someone “tries” it. And once the bottle is gone, they’ll have to get another. Apple isnt grabbing a new phone everytime x number of people touch the display version.

I get the loss of product so you have to recoup some cost but some fees seem excessive.

For many years we made an annual visit to Napa/Sonoma to taste at new-to-us producers. We stopped two years ago as we had been priced out of the majority of tastings. We had instead begun visiting Paso Robles, where tasting fees have also rapidly increased. On our most recent visit I commented that average fees seemed to have approximately doubled since we began visiting two years ago.

This seems to coincide with a shift to more of a hospitality-styled experiences - appointments, very expensive high-design tasting rooms, more individual attention at many tastings. There is clearly a large investment being made by many of the producers and it seems that there is no shortage of takers for the high-priced appointments. We have just had to shift our mentality to see tastings now as more of a restaurant-style experience. We schedule one or two per day, usually with friends, and feel little need to purchase rather than the old way of stopping in at several to actually taste through the lineup for potential purchase.

The times that I am most bothered by this trend is when the tasting charge is $40+ for a flight of 3 or 4 1-oz. pours. First, the pour is so small I have great difficulty working out whether I liked the wine or not. Second, I’ve invested the time and money to visit and yet spend most of my time with an empty glass staring at the bar wondering how a real pour of that wine might actually taste. While I recognize this is ultimately a business, these experiences leave me with a definite impression (not a positive one) of a producer much more interested in the money than the wine.

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It’d be interesting to see number of wines served and average bottle prices as data points as well as those likely play heavily the cost.

Just returned from Paso. 5 wineries. AronHill, Turley, Tablas Creek, Tobin James, Herman Story. All $15-20. All waived w 2 bottles purchased. We paid zero in tasting fees and came home with 2 cases of tasty wine. Also travelled free on Alaska Air via SLO. Same experience as 2 years ago in Paso.

ETA. Most of those had set flights 5-6 wines. They all added wines if asked, or not. Tablas brought 3-4 to add to flight of 6. Tobin James had about 50 wines available and I think you could taste them all if you wanted.

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