The Tasting Panel Magazine explores the inner workings of some of the top tasting rooms across the country, delving into the roles of managers, owners, and operators, as well as the brands they represent. We sat down for a Q&A with Amanda McNeil, Director of Hospitality at Hourglass Winery in Napa Valley.

Amanda McNeil, Director of Hospitality at Hourglass Winery Photo credit: Mike Battey @shotswithmike

How do you ensure a positive and memorable experience for visitors in the tasting room?

All tasting appointments at Hourglass are private experiences. This gives us the opportunity to not only talk about our wines directly with our guests but also learn more about them as well. This creates a relationship with the winery and new clients joining our allocation list. Wine creates personal connections – that’s the best part about opening the bottle and sharing it with others.

Could you describe any unique or exclusive offerings that set your tasting room apart from others?

Our tasting experience is held in a wine cave. Yes, there are many wineries that host tastings in caves. However, our cave has a unique look and feel that has been curated by the Smith Family, one that could not be duplicated anywhere else.

How do you train your staff to provide excellent customer service and product knowledge?

Our production team meets with us with every vintage change and/or release to taste through the wines, talk through that particular harvest and also makes comparison to the previous harvest. We have a file with notes on all varietals offered for that vintages harvest, tasting notes, etc. should we need to look up any library wine details. This is something we all stay on top of as many guests inquire about previous vintages.

What strategies do you use to handle customer inquiries and feedback effectively?

All correspondence with existing clients or inquiring guests is personal and direct contact either by email or by phone.

In terms of customer engagement, do you have any particular events or activities that have proven to be successful?

Music is a major part of our culture here at Hourglass.

Vintage & Vinyl is a great example of one of our events that is truly successful. We host a decade themed party where the DJ spins vinyl that is dedicated to that timeframe and we pour wines from around the valley within that decade as well (for example, 2023 was 90’s themed).

Our Harvest Party, Mabon, is also set in concert style and is probably one of the best parties in the valley. Food trucks are all around the crush pad, we have two DJs, a guest band and the headliner is Jeff Smith’s band, WristRocket. The cool thing is that all of the proceeds go to charity.

SommCon 2024 returns to San Diego October 5-7, 2024 at the Town & Country Resort. Exhibitor registration is now open and Attendee registration opens soon. Save the date!

View the full publication in the March/April edition of The Tasting Panel Magazine