Tipping in tasting rooms

Just back from a great several days tasting in Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles. I experienced something new to me there and was wondering how others felt about or dealt with it.

Tasting fees are now omnipresent. In Lompoc and Los Olivos, they seem to range from $10 to $12 for a normal tasting, more for reserve, and are waived only for multi-bottle purchases and sometimes not even then. In Paso, in contrast, they were often lower and were waived routinely with a one bottle purchase (and sometimes waived with no purchase).

On top of that, however, almost every tasting room in Lompoc and Los Olivos had a tip jar. Since we were the first guests at numerous places, it was clear they had been primed. In some that use an iPad credit card swipe payment system, there was a pop-up page for a tip that you have to affirmatively pick “No Tip” to conclude the sale. In one such situation, the pourer basically said “Here’s where you add a tip for me,” as if it were a given I would do so.

Is anyone else bothered by this? I realize American culture has developed to the point where everyone expects a tip for simply doing his or her job, but these are situations where all the person is doing is pouring pre-set wines and for the most part providing little more information about the wine than in the script they memorized. Rare was the pulling out of something interesting not on the list because discussion indicated I might be a buyer. I’m already paying $10 to $12 to sample the product; shouldn’t at least part of that be to pay the pourer?

Just to be clear, except in a few incidents, the jars were just there and were not mentioned by the pourers. I did not see them at all in Paso, where in general people in the tasting rooms seemed more welcoming, genuinely interested that we would travel from the East Coast just to come visit wineries in Paso.

Rant over.

I don’t tip at tasting rooms unless the winery did something above and beyond for me. This should get interesting.


Open tasting rooms seem to be more about entertainment than anything else. Hard to appreciate brand new releases, at room temperature, in small glasses and tiny pours. I much prefer a tasting by appointment and only rarely go to open tasting rooms. Your experience pretty much sums it up for me.

if tasting is gratis you should certainly tip. if you’re paying for it, and don’t get anything ‘extra’, don’t tip.

I think a tip jar in the TR bar is pretty gauche. I consider myself to be a Wine Educator or Wine Professional when I’m behind the bar, as opposed to a bartender or barista.

When guests do ask if I accept gratuities, the standard answer is, “A tip isn’t necessary or expected, and is always welcome.”

My .02

Generally speaking there are too many moving parts to make an assessment. What if the winery allows the tasting room staff to accept tips as a means of incentive for increased sales and/or customer service? It seems like the issue in principle should be fine, but practice is difficult when one is visiting multiple tasting rooms, paying fees, buying bottles etc.

Ironically, we are in NM visiting my in laws & went to the Gruet tasting room. They waved 3 of the 4 tasting fees when we bought a case of wine. I was ready to tip for doing so, but they didn’t have a jar, nor did their IPad POS ask for a tip.

Paul- just FYI, I go to a lot of coffee places here in Seattle where Baristas are extremely professional & knowledgable about their product. That professionalism is certainly not affected by the presence of a tip jar.

You should have asked the staff that question. Why does you ask for tips while other employees (like me) don’t?

Anthony, I didn’t mean to imply baristas (or bartenders by extension) aren’t professionals or not knowledgeable of their craft. More, it was to point out that folks behind the TR bar are there for reasons beyond entertaining guests and earning tips.

Tipping in our country is WAY out of control. I have a crazy idea. How about the employer PAY their employees a decent salary.

And while I am ranting, i hate the grocery stores tjat contamtly have people outside begging for money for everything from charities to sports for school. Oh, and don’t forget the cashier that us forced to “ask” u how much u would like to donate to _______. My new response is now: I’ll match whatever YOU would like to donate.

More wine for you right now. [wink.gif]

Steve, agree with your thoughts! Just had a cashier ask me that exact question two days ago . . . I’ll use your line from now on!

As for tipping in a tasting room: Tip if they go above and beyond their job expectations, if not, then no tip. I typically tip more when people don’t practically shove it in my face and ask for one. The more you ask or try to make it obvious, the less I’m inclined to tip more.

Understood. Thanks for clarifying :slight_smile:

My father taught me: “tip generously”

But… If staff at a tasting room is good to great, and believes in heavy pours… I always pass a twenty.

If not, I do not.

This is interesting. Lest anyone thought differently from the original post, I always tip generously in real tipping situations, particularly having worked in tip dependent jobs early in my working career.

But heavy pours are wasted on me. I’m tasting, not drinking, and often much of the pour goes into the spill bucket. I want the pour to be enough to smell and taste the wine and not more.

Tipping isn’t and should not be expected. If you get something special then go ahead and tip. It should not be dependent on the size of your pours as that is regulated by law for those who didn’t know. If you order glasses of wine, as you would in a wine bar, then you should probably tip. If there’s a tip jar on the bar the TR mgr should be fired IMO.
(from an ex-TR mgr)

This is an interesting topic.

In my view, tasting room staff should be educating the consumer on the wine, selling the wine directly, and signing up new members to the wine club.

I do not view tasting room staff as bartenders. And many times I am the driver, so I spit. A heavy pour would be of no benefit to me.

Perhaps it comes down to whether one is “tasting” or “drinking”.

Times are tough for many of our fellow Americans, and tips can make a difference. Does anyone imagine that tasting room staff are just eccentric millionaires who really don’t need the primary or supplemental income their winery jobs provide?

Then their employer should PAY them.

I also think it’s inappropriate, but not the cashier’s fault; their employer–Kroger’s, Vonn’s, whatever–makes them do it. So, if I am especially annoyed, I ask whether the corporation will be matching.

I love going to restaurants, etc., in France where the employers pay the employees and tipping is really not expected. Makes the entire experience much more pleasant.