Monday, February 16, 2009

Days perhaps numbered for tasting fee holdouts

I've mentioned tasting fees a lot since starting this blog. They vary significantly across the region, from $2 to $3 in the area around York, Pa., to as high as $7 in suburban Philly. Conversely, member wineries of the Berks County and Lehigh Valley trails, I'm told, don't charge. Clover Hill Vineyards & Winery is a member of both of those trails and one of just a couple of wineries that are members of more than one trail. Lehigh Valley event are held at the main winery in Breinigsville; Berks County events take place out of the Robesonia location.

At this point, they don't charge for tastings except for groups of 12 or more, where they assess a fee of $5 per person. But the days of free tasting for the others might soon be coming to a close, according to Kari Skrip, PR/marketing manager and someone who has her finger on the pulse of many things wine across the region.

"We are back and forth with changing our policy where we may start charging individually," she said by phone the other day. "We had plans to start charging but to be perfectly honest we backed off because of the economy and we just didn't feel it was right to start charging now. . . . I don't think it will be much longer because I hear a lot of feedback from all the wineries I know that they're waiting for us to make the first move," she said, starting to laugh. "You know. It's been a really difficult decision for us. What we've noticed, and this is really something just starting to happen, and it's probably moreso with the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail because they're more established than the Berks County Wine Trail. But I'm sure this happens in every wine trail. People come, they have a great time. They come and enjoy the wine tasting, they buy some wines and then they have friends coming the next week. And they bring their friends back. And that's fantastic, but everytime they're coming it's not necessarily to purchase wine, they're coming to have a good time.

"So it becomes, you know, a form of entertainment in some respects, and when you look at the numbers of how much wine we pour in a month. We track our wine monthly, and it's just crazy. . . . between all of our retail stores, and that's six retail stores, we pour about 50 cases a month. That's a LOT of wine for tastings. So at some point you have to at least cover your expenses.

"It's been difficult for us. We toss and turn over this all the time," she said. "Most of the wineries [along the Lehigh Valley trail] are now charging for groups because we're getting a lot of the limos and the mini party buses and stuff. They're not coming necessarily to buy wine, they're coming to have fun. And, so we said, by appointment only and we charge them $5, and I think most of the wineries are 2, 3, 4, 5 dollars, somewhere around there."


Regina said...

Hey There...Love your posts, it's nice to get some great info from a local guy! Wondering if you heard about the hearing this Wednesday in Annapolis, to pass a bill which will allow direct shipping of wine in the state of Maryland-there is a facebook "cause" page with info and sample letters to send to Senators to get this bill passed. Would love to spread the word to get this bill passed! Here is the link:

The Wine Novice said...

We're on it.