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Is Washington ready for prime time?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

As Washington wines continue to receive high ratings and reach a wider and wider audience, the wineries confront the increased expectations associated with high prices and high-end wine. Are Washington’s wineries ready?

Indications are that some still have a ways to go. One prominent winery who recently built a multi-million dollar facility in Walla Walla sent this message out last week. To protect the not-so-innocent, I will refrain from naming the winery here.

RE: Dear Wine Club

Dear Wine Club,

The weather is hot and the grapes growing , and the much awaited release of our Grenache Rose’ has arrived. It maybe the prefect deck wine for the summer of 2007. Your next shipment is right around the corner so I am reaching for new shipping addresses and Credit Card info is up to date so you all can enjoy our great wines. We are having a great year New tasting room a staff that is totally awesome need I say more.

The message was cordially signed by the marketing and sales manager. The message was sent to their wine club members, of which I am one, with the entire list in the “To” list instead of bcc’d, a significant violation of member privacy.

My first thought was that the winery’s site had been compromised, given the strange subject line, the numerous typographical and grammatical errors, and the request for credit card information. I sent this concern along to the winery. After receiving no response, I sent another message and received confirmation that this was, in fact, a legitimate message from their marketing and sales manager. Apparently, an apology was sent to the list by the same individual for not blind copying the message to the list, although I did not receive this message. Unfortunately, failing to bcc the list was only the most significant part of this embarrassment. With messages like this, I would not only expect that their marketing manager would soon be listed as “former,” I would expect many of their wine club members would be as well.

With the spotlights shining on Washington, there will be increased pressure to provide not only top quality wines but also top quality, professional service. While the small mom and pop wineries may be forgiven for such mistakes, the larger, more successful wineries will not be. Beware Washington. Opportunity knocks!

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