Tipping in the tasting room?

Not we’re going to argue about how much to tip. Brings back memories of arguing about tipping how much on wine in restaurants.

Tom never buy wine in a restaurant and pay the corkage in MN. I always tip nicely though for my server. As bad is MN liquor laws one of the best one’s is you can bring your own wine into the restaurant and pay corkage.

I like that. Lots of corkage in PA but ownership can restrict it.

Tom grew up in Camp Hill, PA. Where are you located? Feel bad for you that the state runs all the wine and liquor!

Some tasting room employees do make commission, but I think it is fairly unusual - the only people I’ve known personally who have been in that situation have been at smaller places.

Tipping is very common now here (Sonoma/Napa). Especially since the start of the pandemic. And especially as tastings have become less and less about getting a pour at the bar and more and more about sit-down experiences. As someone who doesn’t have much money and is much more interested in the wine than the rest of the experience, I don’t personally like this trend, but I get it - they’re not trying to cater to people like me, which is admittedly a good business decision.

Tasting room employees around here do not make minimum wage, but they don’t make much more. I do find it nauseating to see the number of people who visit here, throw down five figures on wine, and then sneer at the idea of tipping. It’s an attitude I’ve seen a lot in Napa Valley.

Pittsburgh, but lived in SNJ until a few years ago. The Philly BYOB situation is better than Pittsburgh with more strictly byob restaurants without corkage. And OH/WV aren’t any help with selection.

four percent. That’s what it is…

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I disagree with this kind of characterization. I’ll bet those same people tip normally at restaurants and bars and casino tables, sans sneering, because it is customary and expected.

Over the decades, I think people haven’t tipped in tasting rooms simply because it was not customary or expected, and customers did not have reason to think it was built into the model of how the employees were compensated, like it clearly is in restaurants. Like the same reason you don’t tip the helpful salesperson at an appliance store, electronics store, wine retail store, nursery, or auto dealership who helps you select your purchase. Like the same reason you don’t tip when you buy fast food. Or the same reason many wealthy Europeans don’t tip when they go to restaurants over there.

Now, from this thread, it sounds like tasting rooms are starting gradually to become a place where tipping is more customary and expected, and if that is so, then I’m happy to tip. Though it doesn’t sound like there is much consensus about in what situations or how much to tip (see Jim Anderson’s excellent post above), and that creates awkward uncertainty both from the employees and the customers, so I would still be quite forgiving in both directions as far as characterizing people’s motives if they don’t do something the “right” way.


We’ve never tipped when in California. We had never heard of the practice until Covid hit and everyone went to payments via iPad with the tip suggestions staring you in the face. So, we’ve tipped here locally in Virginia. I’m reluctance to tip when I’m paying the absurd tasting fees they are asking for in Napa. That’s why we started splitting one tasting.

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Building on that: If your customer are sneering at your new, unexpected practice, you are probably presenting it poorly. It’s a difficult balancing act. Customers seeing that tipping is an option will garner more tips. If they feel pressured, you’re being rude to them. They’re in a learning process exposed to this change. Seeing it at more and more places going forward, having experiences where they think the staff merited a measure of appreciation for their level of effort, they may reflect and begin tipping, at least some of the time.

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My tasting room tipping is very discretionary. When it is warranted and a server is obviously a paid server, i.e. not winemaker/owner, then I am much more inclined to leave a tip; On a recent trip to Paso we tipped 5 for 5, one that included a meal service, but mostly one-on-one wine service. None were solicited, and I am tipping not based on wine price/purchases, but on service for the personal time. Seems like I tipped $20-30 cash or add on to card. I actually think private tastings, post-Covid, will make me more inclined to tip. Overall I think I am tipping more during/post Covid. Meals, wine, taxi/uber, whatever.

For wineries where we are members and taste directly with Owner, we are less inclined to tip them directly, but will add to a charity jar, etc…

As a point of reference, what is the cultural practice in France, Italy, Germany and Spain when it comes to visiting Chateaux or wineries? (are there even fees, or any expectations to buy?). I think one of the issues with tipping culture in the US, is that there ultimately is no reasonable limit or boundary to what could be considered acceptable for tipping. Although I don’t believe it’s common practice, why not tip for appliance repair, or a plumber? Or even large freight deliveries (appliances, furniture, etc - even if they just deliver to your door). This isn’t a critique or complaint, it’s just an observation that you could reasonably extend tipping to just about anything.

I think some of the consternation, at least in the US, about tipping and it’s growing application and the culturally expected rate (which has gone from 15% to 20%) is that it’s ultimately confusing and can often be uncomfortable. Few people want to be cheap, but sometimes are not prepared for unexpected costs, and the tip line on receipts are becoming more and more prevalent just about everywhere. That’s not to say that it’s a slippery slope - I think many of us expect to tip in hospitality environments, and wine tastings is a reasonable part of that, but given the wide disparity in fees, bottle costs and the like between tasting rooms, there doesn’t seem to be any good guidelines for what to do without feeling like you’re insulting or shorting the service.

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I’ve always had folks tip in my tasting room at their own discretion. Some prefer to leave cash but most prefer to leave it on their credit card on my square system as others have talked about.

I do have one woman who works for me who gets frustrated when folks did not tip her, especially compared to what one sees in restaurants or bars. I somewhat sympathize with her, but understand when folks don’t.


This got me thinking. What is the standard tipping policy for folks in tasting rooms? Do people tip based on the tasting fee amount? If one purchased a case or two, do you on the value of that purchase as well?

The way our Square system works, there are 3 large buttons for 15%, 20% or 25% tip amounts. There is also a long, though not as tall button for a custom amount. Most people use one of the 3 large, percentage buttons and a few will key in an amount.

Our tasting fee is $10 so if someone leaves a 20% tip, I make $2.
On the other hand, I have had folks leave me 25% tips on multiple case purchases. Those days are pretty fun.

Just for the sake of practicality, this essentially demands that you’re carrying a fair amount of cash, in multiple denominations at all times. I rarely have cash, although do like to carry a little for situations where I might want to tip. I really do see the virtues of tipping - but I also understand why those outside the US who see it as such a bizarre practice. And I do think the practice, if used widely, (and we’re not outside the realm of wine) can feel like a social tax especially for those who might not have the means to tip for appliance repair, deliveries and any other service where there is some sense of gratitude. Some might be tempted to say that you shouldn’t feel like you need to, if you can’t, but the reality is that always a layer of social pressure involved here.

It’s kind of a curious subject - one in which I feel like has more objective pitfalls than the alternatives. (say a livable wage - but now we may be getting into politics).

And because I can’t help myself here, as I’m thinking, for those who always tip on take-out food (which I do), why not tip for fast food restaurants? What’s the difference, other than social convention?

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True. I am old and believe in carrying around cash and actually get a little nervous if I have less than a certain amount that I think many people would consider “a lot” of cash these days. There are ways around it like Square and even f-ing Venmo and shit if necessary.

In most cases this isn’t like a restaurant where if you went in and had a $100 meal and left $5 you would be seen as kind of a jerk basically 100% of the time. I think trying to honestly assess the situation and your experience and maybe asking others there or even the server and you can get a pretty good idea of what’s cool.

Thanks for the obvious answer. The point is you can’t afford a $20.00 for the server?

I live in BFE, it took me 2-3 years to find a trustworthy plumber. I call J.D. 2-3 times a year for something it seems, mid-70’s house on a well with multiple add-ons renovations. IF it is an immediate need he always shows that day or within a day, even after normal working hours. I tip him generously and extra at Holidays even if he is not used. Because A) he’s a great plumber and B) I want to remain his valuable customer.

Off the topic of tasting rooms, but yeah TIP for anyone who deserves it for superior service,