Clearly I’m pissed…annoyed, perhaps. Actually embarrassed. As tweeted earlier today, I took friends, a wine blogger from SF and a Food and Beverage manager from New York (this is all context) on a spontaneous wine tasting day in our beautiful Napa valley. Sunday morning seems to be one of those days that begs for bubbles. We headed north to Domaine Chandon. The rain, the fog, the day was, frankly, stunning. We arrived at D.C. as the prologue to start our venture into the best of Napa Valley Hospitality. Or not.
We entered the store where 3 employees chatted amongst themselves and greeted us before resuming their conversation. Heading upstairs for the tasting room, we found a place at the bar and tables ready for us. Fantastic blood oranges adorned the champagne cocktails as winter life during the mustard festival buzzed on this delicious Sunday noon. As we chatted about where we’d lunch and visit it was almost 15 minutes of waiting without a single word, glance or acknowledgment, from anyone working there. Totally invisible, we looked around, found another place at the bar for about 2 minutes before deciding we were not going to be helped in any way. Domaine Chandon was clearly too important to care. With too many choices in the valley we left. Sadly surprised at this discouraging start, we walked out past the same 3 chatting employees (greeters?) who didn’t say good bye or interrupt their conversation…yet another missed opportunity.
Generally we expect adequate service. That’s the kind of service you barely notice as it becomes part of your daily routine…basically it is the bare minimum. Occasionally we get really good or even great service or great hospitality. When we do get that kind of service, it changes our day. We talk about it …a lot. We go back. We take our friends. When we get bad service we talk about that too…but it also changes us, or at least it changes our day. Soured, disappointed, a hospitality fail is incumbent on every person working there. From the manager down to the newest tasting room hire, any guest leaving with a bad experience does so because each and every person on that team failed to do their job.
Simply put, we were ignored…for over 15 minutes. No “hi”, no “welcome” no, “we’ll be right with you”, no nothing. I would never do that to my friends coming to my home. Why would any winery let that happen? We left with me embarrassed by my choice to go to Domaine Chandon and the lack of hospitality here in Napa. I am so grateful that Elizabeth Spencer (a fabulous tasting room just across from the Rutherford Bar and Grill), and specifically, Vanessa, turned our entire experience around. With a calm ease and charm, she shared the wines and delightful conversation reminding me that a Sunday with friends in Napa Valley can be a spontaneous joy with just a little hospitality.
I’d recommend anywhere else for bubbles in Napa: both Domaine Carneros and Mumm are less likely to ignore you than Domaine Chandon. But at Elizabeth Spencer (and at Darioush, Rutherford Bar and Grill and Rubicon Estate) you’ll get at least good service, if not great hospitality. Customer service is the best marketing, hands down. For another perspective on the same visit, check out The Luscious Lushes’s Blog, or The Roger Smith Life. It wasn’t just me.