A while back, Shannon from Michigan By the Bottle wrote an article praising free tastings and arguing (more or less) against them. This is not a direct response or anything of that sort, but it got me thinking....
I love the paid tasting.
Seriously. I also acknowledge my love of them is a symptom of neurosis.
I am a recovering Catholic and though I've gotten over some things, the sense of overwhelming guilt still fills me with just about everything. When I enter a winery and the nice person pouring hooks me up with multiple pours of wine for free, I feel guilty. If said person is a winemaker/owner/manager I feel even worse. Even though I am legitimately looking for wine to buy and am not looking to get drunk, if you set me up for free, I feel bad.
If you charge me a few bucks, that guilt goes away. I also don't feel bad lingering a bit (not too long) and taking notes.
It's a trade off in terms of business I suppose. On a wine trip we made pre-blog, I bought wine from every single winery we visited that did not charge. This included places I hated everything - every single thing - we tried.
But when you charge me a few bucks - five, ten, fifteen, according to some reports there are places in Napa that charge fifty! - I am far more relaxed.
Recently, we visited Brys Estate - a winery in Michigan - and did a "premium" tasting of their $50 wines, four pours cost $10, a price I find to be more than fair. I guarantee if they poured these to me for free, I would've bought their cheapest, sweetest wine and given it to my sister-in-law who doesn't like wine. And that makes things all the more awkward with the "oh great, wine, my favorite" reaction. So, in a way, when wineries charge for tasting not only does it save awkwardness in the present, it also prevents it in the future.
To those who are well adjusted, I get why the free tasting makes sense. To the neurotic? For the neurotic? Charge me at the door - I insist.