Bad Vibes at the Castle of Love

Deb and I spent all last week in Napa Valley, together with two other couples. And you gotta know the six of us drank a lot of wine.

Pinots, cabs, chardonnays, zins, you name it.

Probably the coolest winery was Castello di Amorosa (“Castle of Love”), nestled against a hillside just south of the geysers in Calistoga.

It’s a full-blown medieval Tuscan castle, with a drawbridge, dry moat, great hall, courtyard, church, iron-gated entrance, towers, and even a torture chamber. Totally out of place here in California.

Their wine was great.

But they almost blew it.

Our friend Carrie had an iPhone app that promised a two-for-one deal for admission and wine tasting if we arrived before 11:00 a.m.

But the two ladies at the entrance didn’t want to honor it. They fussed. They fumed. Only after much argument did they finally permit two of our party to enter at a discount.

That left four of us very p.o.’d.

Not a good thing when your business sells wine at prices ranging anywhere from 28 to 100-plus bucks a bottle.

Let’s just say none of us were predisposed to make any wine purchases that morning.

Good thing for the owners of Castello di Amorosa, the tasting room guy was friendly, generous, and informative.

We joked with him. He shared stories. We really liked him.

And he sold us some $300 worth of vino.

On the other hand, the two guard dogs at the gate had been willing to risk that sale for an extra $32 in admission fees. Not to mention the gamble they’d taken that we might blab about our crappy experience to our Facebook friends.

The lesson, as Scott Stratten points out so well in his new book UnMarketing, is that business is built on relationships. It’s not built on pissing off your potential customers.

It doesn’t matter if you own a large Napa Valley winery or you’re a solopreneur — relationships always matter.

So don’t screw ’em up.

By the way…

We had a word with one of the castle’s bigshots. We suggested the guy in the tasting room get a raise and that that the gals at the admissions counter get dumped pronto (or get trained to be, well, nice).

As a thank-you, he refunded us $32 in entry fees.

Smart move. We may go back next year.

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Bad Vibes at the Castle of Love — 3 Comments

  1. yep. cant tick off the customers, cant even judge them for their appearance as my daughter and bf recently found out. they happend to go to the ford dealer to look for her a truck and were judged by the they 1. looked at the moment dressed in sweatshirts and jeans, 2. . a young couple no money to afford the truck, & by the way they could , the sales man was an ass !
    good for u guys… the castle looks amazing, and im sure it was fun … the story is a hoot… im glad u called the women at the gate out on their behavior… think it sunk in??? ; / L.

  2. I doubt it “sunk in” for these two women, Leslie. And I fear that their boss never called ’em out, either. Ah well…

    The castle gets by, I guess, on a handful of good folks in the tasting room, on its good wines, and on its overall “good looks.”

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