Wineries demonstrate the Three Ways to Wow

Grapevines at Heitz CellarMy wife, Sally, and I recently toured Napa Valley to visit the California wineries featured in a famous 1976 tasting in Paris. California wines won both the red and white categories, despite the fact that all the judges were French. The theme made for a fun trip, but we also discovered these wineries knew the Three Ways to Wow: build relationships, solve problems, and go the extra mile.


Build Relationships

Relationships improve customer service, whether it’s the first time you meet a customer or you’ve served someone for years. The best tasting experiences incorporate this concept when it feels like you are sharing a glass of wine among friends. We visited Mayacamas Vineyards where Stacy provided us with personalized service that left us feeling like favored customers.

Sally had spoken with Stacy a few weeks earlier when she called to make an appointment for a tasting. When we arrived, Stacy greed us by name and immediately made us feel like friends. She made small talk about our hometown of San Diego and told us she had gone to school at San Diego State. Stacy also gave us a brief history of the winery after learning about the theme for our trip. She even gave us some insight on dining options when we told her we hadn’t picked a place for dinner that evening. The wine at Maycamas was good, but Stacy made the experience outstanding.

Solve Problems

Problems are inevitable in customer service, but the best service providers solve them quickly, efficiently, and permanently. We encountered a small problem when we booked a tour and tasting appointment at Spring Mountain. Our schedule was pretty full, so Sally called back a few days ahead of time to see if we could just do the tasting. The woman she spoke with was not very helpful and finally dumped the call into someone’s voicemail where Sally left a message.

We hadn’t gotten a call back by the time we arrived in Napa Valley, but we decided to take our chances and go to Spring Mountain anyway. Patrick greeted us when we arrived and immediately apologized for not returning our call. Sally had left a message on his voice mail, but today was the first day of his normal work week. However, rather than making excuses and trying to fix blame on his co-worker, Patrick immediately tried to make things right.

He agreed to let us skip the tour and led us into the tasting room. Another group arrived for the tour a few minutes later, but Patrick politely asked them to join us for the tasting first. The group was happy to do it and all of us proceeded to have a great time enjoying great wine and comparing notes. At the end of our visit, Patrick handed us his business card and invited us to contact him directly if we ever wanted to come back for the tour. Nice save, Patrick!

Go the Extra Mile

Exceeding a customer’s expectations is the third Way to Wow. We visited Heitz Cellar, where Joe provided us with a great experience. Like most wineries, Heitz Cellar has menu of wines they offer for tasting that does not include their limited production or high priced wines. The Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is a fairly exclusive wine that sells for $150 per bottle, so it naturally did not appear on the tasting menu. However, when Joe learned about our Paris tasting theme, he poured us a glass of the Martha’s Vineyard since it was the Heitz Cellar entrant in the Paris event.

Joe’s knowledge and friendliness created a good tasting experience, but his willingness to go “off the menu” made it truly special.


I learned about the 1976 wine tasting while reading a terrific book by George Taber called Judgment of Paris. A somewhat fictional account of this story was also featured in the 2008 movie Bottle Shock, but the real stories are even better. This is a must read for anyone who enjoys California wines. Check it out on Amazon: