The Somm Journal Magazine goes behind the scenes with the managers, owners, and operators representing the country’s top tasting rooms and the brands behind them. We sat down for a Q&A with Shelly Zanoli Proprietor and Tasting Room Manager at Zanoli Wines in Paso Robles.

Shelly Zanoli
Shelly Zanoli, Proprietor and Tasting Room Manager at Zanoli Wines. Photo credit: Danika Drue

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

Wine quality should always be top priority for guests to enjoy an exceptional wine-tasting experience. Here at ZANOLI Wines, we source our grapes from legendary vineyards; setting the bar high with top-quality grapes, ensuring an unforgettable tasting experience.
Additionally, Jimmy Zanoli, our founder and winemaker, and I, provide a one-on-one tasting experience with each guest. This is a great way to ensure a positive and memorable experience in the tasting room. By giving this personalized attention, we can cater to specific preferences and elevate the tasting experience.
Crafting the perfect wine-tasting experience involves attention to detail, including our tasting room’s decor and design. By carefully selecting fabrics, colors, and textures, we created an atmosphere that helps our guests feel at home; like they are in my living room. When relaxed, they’re more likely to enjoy the wine-tasting experience and recommend our tasting room to others.
Music is a big part of our life, and with Jimmy’s record collection that he inherited from his grandparents, we knew we had to have a vinyl record area where guests could spin a record during their experience. Finding that perfect record reminds you of memorable moments and creates new memories with wine friends.

How do you collaborate with the winemaking team to ensure a seamless connection between the tasting room and the winery?

Here at ZANOLI, we are fortunate to have everything under one roof, making it easier to do tastings in the cellar. Jimmy, loves to teach and show guests around the production area. We offer barrel tastings, the Art and Science of winemaking experience during harvest, and private tastings in the cellar.
It’s always great when you can interact with the principals of a winery during your visit. It adds a personal touch to the experience and allows guests to learn more about the winery’s history, philosophy, and wines. This can make their visit more memorable and enjoyable.

How do you engage with the local community to promote the tasting room?

Paso Robles has over 250 producers, and AVA spans 25-45 miles. We are in Tin City, a small wine community inside Paso Robles wine country. Tin City has about 30 small brands; we all help and depend on each other. One of the most significant community events we have is the Forklift Parade. This is a way for all of us to dress up our forklifts for fun after a prolonged harvest and cut loose during Christmas time. Something we all look forward to!

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

We love to teach, and want to bring the customers into our lives during harvest to show them how to make wine and get dirty with the grapes.
From September to November, we explore the art and science of winemaking. We provide the opportunity to visit behind the scenes and experience where the magic of winemaking comes to life.
Guests can discover the secrets of harvest, from the critical picking decisions, to grape crushing and fermentation. As a participant, you can compare and taste grapes at various stages of the winemaking experience. A tasting of our current wine portfolio follows this immersive 90-minute experience.

How do you stay informed about industry trends and ensure that your tasting room remains competitive in the market?

Engaging with the local community helps us promote the tasting room and allows for valuable insights into industry trends. By going out to do community outreach at other wineries and connecting with local businesses and organizations, we stay up-to-date on what’s happening in the area and adjust our strategies accordingly. Plus, it’s a great way to build relationships and show support for the community.

View the full publication in the April/May edition of The Somm Journal Magazine