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Results: 2014 Washington State Wine Events Survey

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It’s no surprise that wineries spend the majority of their time making wine even though they also have to run a business. Winemakers love the art of harvesting, crushing, fermenting, pressing, barreling and bottling to create an amazing elixir to please the palate and reflect the Terroir where the grapes were grown.

To share the genius of winemaking wineries have to find ways to market and distribute their creations with each year’s releases, every year. Events are one of the main ways wineries promote their wines. Key to their success are events to get the general public to try their wines and build a preference for them. Tasting events are commonly used to get broad audience interest. Special smaller events build loyalty and long term customers.

PlaceFull recently ran a survey asking Washington State Wineries how they use events to help them drive more business. Below is a summary of the responses from Washington wineries and the top 5 ways they are using events to create awareness and grow their base of loyal customers to drive more business.

1. Events inviting customer participation

Some clever wineries act like Tom Sawyer getting customers to help them make wine. Often tastings are involved so its a better deal than whitewashing fences. The most popular wine making activities include customers – crushing or pressing grapes. Over 63% of wineries have events for customers to participate. Wineries are not opposed to sharing once the juice is in the barrel. In fact, of all wineries surveyed, 73% offer barrel tastings.

Customer Participation

2. New release tasting events generate the most interest

Wine aficionados like bragging rights for being first to find the next great wine. It is no surprise that new release tastings generate the most interest in the wines produced. Even though many wines get much better with time, getting in early helps to predict which will be the best wine to rack in the cellar for years to come. Wineries know this, and over 72% offer events for early tastings of new releases to generate a viral buzz and create initial demand. Barrel tastings also stimulate strong specific wine interest for similar reasons. 62% of wineries rate barrel tastings as one of the best events to generate interest in future and existing wines.

If a memory of taste can last a few years from wine in the barrel to the final bottle, it makes sense to go from barrel to new release and library tastings to experience how wines mature, getting better with age. To have the full experience, it is advised you join the wine club as reserve and library tastings are often only offered to wine club members. The barrel to bottle experience give customers the opportunity to see how wine develops its flavor and bouquet during the whole process from vine to wine. Over 45% of wineries use bottling events to show how the final product is created, corked, and labeled for distribution.

Tasting Events

Along with new releases and barrel tastings, which generated interest ratings of 74% and 63% respectively, wineries like to showcase their wines with food. 32% of wineries have winemaker dinners or food pairing events (16%). Corporate events are less frequent for wineries. They have the lowest interest levels due to the fact that most corporations are not volume purchasers. However, corporate and Washington State Wine Commission events have a strong social effect that we did not measure but are important to getting the word out about wineries. Neither should be ignored as good vehicles for developing awareness about wineries.

3. More time is spent on barrel tasting events, but education is also a key resource focus

In terms of time and effort, wineries spend the most time on new releases and barrel tastings due to the resources required to produce wines. Barrel tasting is not a food pairing or themed event. It’s all about the wine – many wineries offer “futures” on their barrel samples. This is a chance to purchase wine early, often at a discount, then come back to the winery when the wine is bottled (12-18 months later). Many wines are so limited, buying futures is the only chance to purchase them.

The price to attend a barrel tasting typically includes the opportunity to sample wine from the barrel, and in most cases, also trying a limited number of current releases.

The effort to educate customers and influence their tasting choices is also high on the list for Washington state wineries – from educational events to winemaker events to help consumers understand the subtleties of the winemaking process.

Barrel Tasting

4. Washington Wineries use public tastings to drive the most sales

  • Public tastings are the obvious winner for driving wine sales.
  • Wine club events are a popular way to reward loyal customers.
  • Private tastings provide a special opportunity for parties to interact with each other.

Public Tasting

5. Club events generate the most non-wine revenue

Outside of wine sales, Washington wineries also generate a portion of their income from club events, followed by corporate and educational events. Club, corporate, and educational events generate the most non-wine revenue for wineries, followed by food, music, and winery rentals. Many smaller wineries don’t have the space or staff to accommodate large events.

club events

6. Wineries still use the phone and email to book events versus online booking

Much like California and the Silicon Valley, Washington is gaining recognition for its technology innovation and use of online capabilities to grow their businesses. However, Washington wineries could be doing more to participate in the innovative use of technology to allow customers to book events from wine tastings to tours on their websites.

The majority of Washington wineries surveyed still use the phone and email to book events and take inquiries. Few take advantage of online booking and scheduling technology to get bookings online for their events twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. They may be missing a great opportunity to drive more attendance at all event types and improve the efficiency of marketing to existing clients.

How much business are you losing at night?

booking events


Washington state wineries are gaining a reputation as premier wine producers worldwide. More wineries are competing for attention, many paying lots of money for it. The best are using events to not only drive awareness but to establish a relationship with their customers.

If wineries want to keep their presses running and their juices flowing, they’ll need to embrace the convenience of technology. Many customers prefer to reserve a table online (OpenTable), book a flight online (Expedia), and it’s only a matter of time until consumers expect to book tastings and events online.

View the Washington State Winery Directory powered by PlaceFull.

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