Chicago Wine Council President Tom Zullo writes to say:
I had just listened to your podcast on our Winter Wine Tasting at Dine (Uncorked Chicago) and I wanted to respond regarding your review. I was certainly disappointed about the score of 3/10 but realize that we can’t please everyone. I would like to say that the majority of those that attend our monthly events are pleased with our tastings and the roaming format.
To assist you, our goal, overall is to introduce wines to the Wine Curious and the Wine Educated, monthly and at different locations. Some tastings provide unique wines and other tastings hit on those that you might know but have forgotten about.
With that in mind, we really are challenged monthly to meet this goal but continue to work hard to really hit both ends of this spectrum. Our tasting have always attracted 100 plus people and they are from all over Chicago not just Lincoln Park as you mentioned. I did actually enjoy that you mentioned the age being low because that is also one of our indirect goals – to show that wine can be enjoyed in your 20’s and that it is not reserved for those with money or gray hairs. I want the bar to come down so this is a great fact you mentioned in passing.
As for the order of the tables, per the podcast, we really have little control over this and how the wines are laid out or presented via the reps. So you can understand, we are always working at full speed with the venue and wine reps, to assist in organizing the event (tables & wines). You can guess that the bigger the event and the more wines offered makes things very difficult.
Also, the knowledge base that is not always afforded to participants has been a problem and we have tried to supplement this issue with our “Wine Diary”. It does disappoint our organization that the wine reps who oversee these wines are unsure of their product or even that they have a lack of interest. I often wish that we can give feedback to the companies that oversee these folks but that is not afforded to us. Unfortunately, with the diary we print off, we have to, again, rely on the vendors for tasting notes and to bring the wines that they supplied to us at printing which does not always happen.
Selling wines – we have offered retailers the opportunity to take us up on this and at times it will occur on-site or by coupon in the diary reflecting a discount but again this is not easily accomplished monthly.
You mentioned Webster Wine bar and House of Glunz as great places to get wine knowledge and for tastings. I do believe that because they are retailers / wine bar that they have an upper hand over us. Remember that we are a FREE Club. In my opinion, they have the backing of the wine industry since they are retailers / purchasers of wines, which gives them opportunity for education and new wines, FREE wines.
In closing, considering that we are 100% volunteer in staff putting on these kind of events, a FREE Club to boot, we believe that we are putting out tastings for a variety of people that would not explore wine in the first place. I guess they might not see our events as the best place to grow, but hopefully they can appreciate what we had tried to do for them in the early stages of their wine experience.
If you ever care to discuss “us” further, I would gladly speak with you. I do hope that you give our Club another chance or at least review it as a step off point for those first getting into the wine world.
Thanks for your note, Tom. We really do appreciate hearing from you. I hope you take our criticism of your wine event constructively as it’s intended. We’ve planned an event or two ourselves and know first-hand that challenges arise. That’s why there is always room for improvement.
I’m a member of your target audience, and I can say without a moment’s hesitation that I expect wine tastings to be well structured. I’m not a sommelier, but I want to learn about the wine I taste. That’s why it’s extremely important that my palate isn’t destroyed straight off by a full-bodied wine. I rely on you, the event planner, and the wine reps to steer me in the right direction, to guide me from one taste to the next, and to instruct me on how to drink good wine. At this event you failed to do that.
I understand that wine reps may be more willing to pull out the stops for a retail outlet like The House of Glunz because there is money in it for them. I’m assuming that when you say you put on tastings for “free” you mean that you don’t get paid to plan them and that the reps don’t get paid to participate. But as an attendee that makes little difference to me. I still paid $45 to get in the door, and that price is very much in line with what I might expect to pay at a retail outlet.
It’s time to step up your game. Continue to make the effort to expand and improve the quality of your events. It’s not easy. It’s a process. But if you do, I’ll bet wine reps will be beating down your door to get a piece of the action. Will Chicago Bites try another Uncorked event? Sure. Just say the word.