You shouldn’t expect rude service at any establishment where you plan to spend money, though you might not be surprised to encounter it at a fast food joint or a clothing retailer during the Christmas rush. One place Megan and I never imagined we would receive actual rude customer service was in a winery tasting room. While you may encounter less than ideal service at a winery (such as the tasting room staff not knowing much about the wine they are pouring), you would never anticipate being treated poorly. Customer service is an amazing thing – in one foul swoop it can turn a winery you have really enjoyed in the past to one that you question visiting again.
This weekend we are traveling around Charlottesville visiting some wineries for my 31st birthday activity (my b-day is actually Wednesday) and we decided to hit some old favorites yesterday and a few new ones today. The winery we were visiting yesterday closes at 5:00 and we drove into their 200 acre property at around 4:10. As we were enjoying the views we failed to notice the tiny 8.5×11 sign taped to one of the fence posts stating they would be closing at 4:30 for a wedding. We strolled in the tasting room at approximately 4:13 and were immediately glared at by the tasting room associates, one of whom looked to her colleague and stated “we must not have put the signs up” and continued to scurry around in a huff. Megan and I looked at each other confused, thinking that maybe we had read the brochure AND website incorrectly and they closed at 4:00 instead of 5:00. When we asked, they confirmed that they typically close at 5:00 but were closing early for a wedding, again exclaiming “you didn’t see the signs?” Despite the fact that we hadn’t seen the signs, we still had more than 15 minutes before the earlier closing time to go through the tasting. The tasting room staff scowled and said, “I guess we can do a quick tasting,” poured the first wine and bellowed “it will be $3 per person to taste.” We suggested that maybe we should just leave, to which the tasting room associate replied “well it’s up to you, but I’ve already poured the first wine, and it will be $3 per person.”
Luckily we were both keeping our emotions in check, because the rudeness at this point was about hip deep and we both felt like we were about 1 inch tall. We received a “splash” of each of the next five wines, and were told the name of the wine before the associated turned her back to us, walked away with no further explanation, and continued to clean up and shut down the bar. We were both astonished and actually couldn’t believe it– were we on candid camera or something? After the 5th wine with 3 more to go, we had had enough and decided to just pay and go on to the last winery of the day (at this point it was 4:22, still 8 minutes to go). I pulled out my wallet, and said I would just like to pay – the women who had been our tasting associate had disappeared for a moment, and the other woman was kind of taken aback that we didn’t want to finish and we said with an extra helping of sarcasm “that they were CLEARLY too busy to be helping us and we didn’t want to be in their way any longer.” At that point our tasting associate had come back and, realizing that she had been extremely rude to us, offered to pay for our tasting (though she wasn’t very gracious about it). We thanked them and left, relieved that we didn’t just pay $1/minute of wine hell.
At this point I am really contemplating putting the name of the winery in the article, but I think I won’t. I am however going to email the link of this post to them to let them know the impact that this experience had on us. If you are an astute Virginia wine lover, you can probably figure out which Charlottesville winery we are talking about.