There’s an old Chinese saying that goes something like this;
He who can not smile, should not keep shop
We found this very, very true.
The cellar door business started small and grew each passing week, month and year. You’ve seen the other sections about the bus tours, the festivals, weddings and other events.
For years and years we logged details about all our visitors. We kept a simple sheet of paper and wrote down all the details. Where they were from, how they found us, how they got here, how much they bought and what country they came from. It made fascinating reading and pretty soon you saw the patterns.
Any major event killed business during the event and then we’d be flooded afterwards.
During the Olympic Games in Sydney we were dead quiet. But afterwards as people stayed in Oz and explored the country they came pouring in.
Australia is so far away from anywhere else in the world that people tend to stay longer and travel further while they’re here. It’s not like living in London and skipping over to France for the weekend. If you’re living in Melbourne, France is at least a 24 hour flight away.
Another example was the Melbourne Cup week. During the week we were pretty quiet as people were busy doing Cup week stuff. And, since the room rates for major hotels shot up during Cup week we didn’t get many other travellers. They all avoided Melbourne during peak price periods.
The same for the Grand Prix, Fashion Week, Super bikes, the garden show and etc. You name it, we felt it. It probably sounds bizarre as you’re reading this but we saw it every time. The events going on in Melbourne and even further away in Australia impacted our winery way out in the country. If you’re out on holidays you probably don’t really care what exact date you’re going to be anywhere. By that I mean you don’t really care if you see Melbourne on a Tuesday or a Thursday. If a week means the difference between $650 and $250 per night for the exact same room, I know which one I’m going to choose.
Straight after any major event we got the ‘stay a while longer’ travellers and the ‘built up demand’ other travellers.
You could set your watch by the traffic patterns.
After any major Aussie vs England sport match we got the ‘barmy army’ stopping in and you’d be searching for a long time to find nicer people. They were out here to enjoy themselves and they took that goal seriously. Some looked up long lost relatives and dragged them out on the road to see some white lines. Others rented a camper van and set out to see Australia on their own. You cold pick ‘em walking in by the smile on their faces and lobster red suntans.
And every person stopping by had their own fascinating story. Who are they, what are they doing here, what do they want to see.
We got the backpackers and we got the NY city drug enforcement officer out on holidays. We got the professional tea taster from Sri Lanka and we got the trade union secretary from Shanghai (it was a she, not a he). You could write a book about the stories which I guess is part of what you’re reading now.
We put out a newsletter for many years and people loved it. I can’t say we were snowed under by the sales coming from it but that was way before facebook and twitter and iphones. It seemed to work as a reminder for people to stop by and pick up their next dozen wines. Anyway, the key point is that it worked.
Some groups coming through were having a lousy day. They were disorganised, some of them were already trashed and they were simply having a miserable time. Other groups were having a ball and this was the best day they’d had in a while. We figured out what the ‘good time’ groups did and I wrote an article about it for the newsletter. Here’s the article;
1 – Plan your trip and call ahead You’ve got your winery map in front of you. So plan a route and be realistic about how long it’ll take you to drive from winery to winery. Can you really cover 50km of twisty road in 30 minutes? Be honest about what you can do in one day and more importantly, what you can enjoy in one day. It’s not race to log the most tasting notes in 48 hours.
And most importantly enjoy the day.
Call each winery a few days before your weekend. Not all small wineries open every day and some close altogether over winter.
Plan your trip and leave time to enjoy your stay at each winery. About 1 hour should do.
2 – Line up a designated driver You’ve probably already figured out where you want to stay the night. But you still need to get from winery to winery. Find someone who doesn’t drink or is willing to not drink this one weekend. It’s just plain easier and safer for you.
3 – Wear something comfortable and dark For shoes, leave the stilettos and designer heels home this weekend. Wear something you’re comfortable walking and standing in. Not every winery will have space for you to sit down so you may be standing most of the day.
And wear comfy dark clothes. Dark clothes hide whatever you or more likely someone else spills on you. And it’s easier than having to change or walk around looking like Spot the dog for the day.
4 – Go easy on the after shave or perfume A huge part of what you taste comes from the smell. That’s why food always tastes flat when you’ve got a blocked nose. It’s much easier to pick up the spice in the Merlot when you’re not battling with the Old Spice from the person next to you.
5 – Have a decent breakfast and plan a good lunch You’ll stay sober longer and you’ll get the best from your days away with a decent breakfast under your belt. It’s no fun getting smashed by 11am on the first day when you’ve still got half a dozen wineries to visit.
Get a decent breakfast and leave time for a good lunch. Either bring your own picnic basket and eat out in the vines or eat in. If you’ve planned lunch at someplace small and far away then please book ahead. Often it’ll be the only thing for miles and remember, plan ahead and you’ll enjoy your weekend away much, much more.
6 – Get there early We know, from experience that afternoons are busiest. So try and get out of home and be at the first winery bang on opening time. Whoever’s behind the bar will have more time to spend with you, you’ll have a better time and you’ll learn more.
7 – Taste the wines in order of lightest and driest to strongest and sweetest Tasting fine wines is just like enjoying a fine dinner. You start off with a light entrée and you finish with the sticky date pudding. Just imagine what your prawn cocktail tastes like after your ice cream? Start with the light whites and finish with the ports.
8 – Learn to spit If you swallowed everything you tasted in one day on the road, you’d be hammered by lunchtime.
Learn to spit.
It’s an accepted and expected thing to do in the wine world.
But please… practice at home first.
9 – Don’t stress about taking tasting notes Remember you’re out to enjoy your weekend and your wines and not check the boxes on a score sheet. Grab the wines you like on the day (please keep them out of the boot on a 40C degree day). And get yourself on the winery mailing list. Most wineries will have a newsletter and tasting notes online. So don’t worry about scribbling notes that you’ll probably lose on the way home. Once you’re on the mailing list you can order your favourite wines anytime.
10 – Keep drinking water all day long Sipping wines and travelling all day dries you out. Carry your water bottle with you, keep it topped up and keep sipping all day. It just means you keep tasting wines longer and don’t flake out early on.
11 – What goes in, must come out Use the toilets at each stop. I know it sounds obvious and we’re not 3 years old anymore, but we see all sorts of strange things. So stop at the loo whenever you get a chance.
12 – Enjoy they stay Relax and go with the flow and just have a good time. Don’t rush as it’s not a race. If you don’t get through your planned route, then so be it. There’ll always be another weekend and hey, do you really need an excuse for another wine weekend away?
Remember… You’ll be in a new area enjoying new things, new wines and meeting new people. Just kick back and enjoy the experience.