COVID-19 safety guidelines have made it tough for wineries to invite visitors to crowd around the bar and taste wines from open bottles.
With staying seated at a table considered by some officials and epidemiologists to be a safer alternative, some wineries turned to the table-side tasting as an alternative to outdoor walk-up bars or virtual tastings.
Count Oliver Winery in Bloomington, Indiana among those that have found the tableside tasting session to be a great success.
The format Oliver chose that they say works for them includes:
- Tasting sessions available by sign-up
- Seating each table with up to four guests and 5-10 tables per session.
- Having guests choose a pre-selected flight of six wines
Sarah Anderson, director of marketing at Oliver, said tasting room sales were up 67% year-over-year despite in-person restrictions across the industry.
Oliver had been interested in introducing tableside for a while, but the pandemic proved to be the catalyst.
“Tableside service is a direction we had always considered going in, but COVID sort of pushed us in that direction quicker than anticipated,” Anderson said.
It’s proven to be popular and has allowed Oliver to better serve its customers, she added.
“We continue to receive really positive feedback and this model has allowed Oliver to actually see more people and utilize our staff more efficiently,” Anderson said. “It has also given us the opportunity to dive more into the story of the wines based on each category and people’s interests.”
Papapietro Perry Winery in Healdsburg, California has also included tableside service as an option for its customers. Co-owner Renae Perry said it was important to prioritize creating an inviting environment, and part of that is making sure your staff is up to speed.
“You need to create a warm comfortable place for your visitors,” Perry noted. “It required additional training for the staff since now they are a bit more like waiters.
“Not everyone can adjust from the tasting bar to table service.”
Photo: Oliver Winery, Bloomington, Indiana