Update on Orange Coast Winery in Newport Beach:
Strong Tannins of Change
Last year Tom’s Foodie Blog reported on the opening of Orange Coast Winery with much fanfare, as a result of their awesome wines and even better customer centric attitude. Please read the orginal blog post for Orange Coast Winery.
Late last year, the founder Orange Coast Winery, Gus DeFalco, sold the business to Doug and Deborah Wiens. The Weins are from the Weins winery in Temecula, but wanted to break out on their own. www.TomsFoodieblog.com has been carefully watching for the past five months as the new owners have slowly transitioned the winery to their own style, both in terms of wine and customer service. I have visited Orange Coast Winery twice since the transition and here are my impressions.
Although I preferred Gus DeFalco’s Italian Winemaking style. I tried six wines this past weekend and my reactions were favorably mixed. Of the wines we sampled, two of the wines were great, two were good and two were disappointing for my preferences. Technically there was nothing wrong with the wines; although again for my palate, I was not “excited” about four of the six wines. I know there may be some people who disagree with me on this reaction to the new wines, although for my tastes, I did not get the “Wow!” factor for this current batch of wines. If there are any of you who had a very different reaction to the wines, please feel free to leave a comment with your impressions. I would love to hear from you.
The cost of wine tasting is $10 for six tastings, far less that Gus used to provide his guest. When I go wine tasting , I am accustomed to reading the tasting notes and writing my own notes and even marking which wines I would like to purchase. The day I visited Orange Coast Winery, there was only one laminate tasting sheet for our group to share. There was a tasting notes sheet, although it was laminated, so I couldn’t take notes :/ Also, I was forced to share a single tasting notes sheet with three people. Bad Form. The descriptions on the tasting notes weren’t the most helpful in understanding the flavors. For example one wine is described as “The best aroma of autumn brings this wine with clear breathy aromas”, what the hell are the describing a car freshener?
Overall Customer Service
Overall I had a mixed experience with customer service. The folks pouring wine were friendly and courteous, but had a rehearsed knowledge of the product. The biggest single factor that is holding this winery back is that it is now missing the secret X-Factor that made it fun, the big personality of Gus DeFalco. That secret sauce is hard to duplicate. When you treat wine club members as guests and tasting guests as customers, the winery loses its appeal. Temecula wine tasting rules and practices do not translate well in the snootiest part of Orange County. Each guest likes to feel special, learn something new and have their personal preferences validated. My experience felt more like I was Oliver Twist saying, ”Please Sir, May I have another.”
The day we visited, the winery was a little understaffed at the pouring counter. While the wine pourers feverishly worked to pour wines and keep track of customers, I saw the Winemaker, Doug, in the back more concerned about shrink wrapping the foil on the wine bottles then servicing the customers. The winemakers should be actively engaged with the customer to explain the wine making process, characteristics and tasting notes. This practice should especially be the case when the winery is brand new to the public and still trying to establish themselves. I would have loved to have chatted with the wine maker about this wine making style and the grapes, instead I chatted with his staff.
Wine Club Benefits:
1. Wine tasting benefits: Gone is the customer centric focus. In, are the strict wine tasting rules. Previously, a couple that had a membership with the winery was treated as separate members when it came to tastings. Now, only one person is considered the “Member” and the other person a “Guest.”:/ The result, my wife and I were poured alternating wines and we had to share :./ We were forced to ration our wine so we wouldn’t cheat each other out of sampling a wine. To you my readers, does this sound like welcoming customer service?
2. You can no longer bring two friends for free. Since I was the “guest”, our friend was told she must pay $10 to taste. As a compromise they agreed on a “half price” tasting for $5. This half sampling translated to tasting every other wine, a smaller child size glass and smaller pours. There is no better way to make customers feel like unwelcome guests, then to give them the cheap glassware and less-than pours. My advice to the wine owners, don’t get cheap on the samplings to Wine Club members, it will break you and give a bad reputation to your operation.
3. My co-editor, Daniele, visited Wien’s Vineyards, over the past weekend, to check out the scene. Apparently there is some injustice in the wine clubs! If you are a wine club member of Wiens, then you can taste at Orange Coast Winery; although, if you are a member of Orange Coast, you are a stranger at Wiens and have no tasting rights. Ouch! That one was a cold shower.
My Final Thoughts
I had previously given Orange Coast Winery, by Gus DeFalco, a 4.5 out of 5, for many factors. The Orange Coast Winery under Doug and Debbie Wiens now earns 3.0 out of 5. What has changed? Temecula’s best wine tasting practices do not always work best in the heart of Orange County. I think their wines are on a good track and will improve over time. The customer service and wine club pouring practices will continue to haunt them unless agressively improved.
There appears to be a little bit of over-confidence and frankly a little arrogance in their response to Yelp reviews; one response was downright snippy, which is a BIG No NO!. You can’t improve and grow in the customer service sector unless you toughen up your skin to these rough reviews and translate them to improved customer service. I would encourage Doug and Deborah to focus their attention to customer service and wine club member benefits.
<a href=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/20/1613656/restaurant/OC/Costa-Mesa/Orange-Coast-Winery-Newport-Beach”><img alt=”Orange Coast Winery on Urbanspoon” src=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/b/link/1613656/biglink.gif” style=”border:none;padding:0px;width:200px;height:146px” /></a>