Customer Service

     Recently, I had an experience as a customer in the retail liquor industry that reiterated to me why I work in this field.This involved a couple of the aspects that I have written about before, including (need to add in links here, but the ones about customer service and helping a customer find what they are looking for as well as all the specialty stuff).The experience that I underwent is typical of how customers are treated at some stores.

      The experience started with an article I had read about a specialty Italian liquor called Amaro.This is an extremely bitter drink that is typically homemade in Italy.However, there are some commercial brands available in the United States.So, I figured I would try to try one of the commercial brands before I tried to make it myself.I knew it would be a small hunt to find it, and it turned out I was correct.I knew that the local beer and wine stores would not have it, so I went right past them.I then went to an extremely well stocked grocery store.I could not find it on the shelf, so I asked the person working in that department. I got the expected response of, “You mean Amaretto?”I told the person no.He was clearly confused, but helped me look in the sections for it.After about 5 minutes, we gave up and he said they didn’t have it.I then called around to some larger liquor stores in New England.The employee’s helpfulness ranged from a straight no to actually trying to be helpful.I took note of how each employee treated me so that I could determine whether I would go back to that store the next time I was looking for something.The major thing that the places to which I would return had in common was that they really wanted to help me.This included offers to order the item or ship it to me.The fact was that no one locally had it, but that didn’t stop some companies from trying to find a way to help me.This included shipping if they did have eventually ended up buying it from a store that ordered it for me.However, I will also be visiting the places that had it.Even though they weren’t able to complete the transaction, they were extremely helpful and probably have other items for which I am looking.
      In all, my experience was typical of most customers.If a place doesn’t have it or doesn’t know about it, that’s it.Employees typically do not go beyond their own shelves.This is unfortunate as the goal is to create repeat customers, and just because a person cannot buy one item from your store does not mean they won’t come back looking for something different.Employees should always try to get the job done for the customer as customers remember the helpfulness that was shown to them.

Local wineries

      Lately, there have been quite a few local wineries opening up.  These wineries are attempting to capitalize on the trend of all things local.  Unfortunately, it is very tough to find anything unique about these companies.  This starts with the grapes.  Most new wineries purchase their grapes from distant locales and offer nothing special in the way of location.

     Over the past few years, I have visited quite a few wineries.  Recently, they have started to appear more and more around here in Massachusetts.  Being a curious person, I have started to take a look at the provenance of the grapes used to make these wines.  The first reason I started looking is because Massachusetts and New England are not known to grow any wine grapes.  Concord grapes can be used to make wine, but we don't normally see this being sold.  In fact, most grapes used to make wine in New England are grown on the West Coast, New York, or South America.  That's correct, it doesn't have anything to do with beng local.  These locations offer much more hospitable growing conditions.  If you see a Cabernet Sauvignon made from a Massachusetts winery, be assured it did not grow around here.  The wineries here are getting the grapes, or frozen must shipped to them, and the wine is made locally.  The question becomes why anyone would pay a premium for a product that has nothing local about it.

    I would like to note that there are some wineries that do produce wine made from their own or very locally sourced grapes.  The key is to look for specific grape varieties that do grow well around here.  This list includes a lot of grapes that you may never have heard of, but represent hybrid grapes that can survive our relatively cold winters.  The most recognizable is Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay.  If you see one of these, there is a chance that it was grown locally.  The remaining ones, such as St. Croix and Marquette are a little more suited to our climate, but don't have the taste profile that most people like.

   As a winery owner, you should be prepared to answer questions regarding the provenance of your grapes.  It may be true that most people don't care where the wine comes from, but I would suggest being prepared for those questions.  Here is a list of wineries that do produce some local grapes:

Turtle Creek Wines

Coastal Vineyards

Lincoln Peak Vineyard and Winery