Food Strategies to Boost an Excellent Customer Experience

Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard in (Los Olivos) Santa Barbara County, California has two different ways of serving food to its customers.Partnering with local companies, Fess Parker’s tasting room offers an ongoing selection of curated cheese charcuterie platters to its customers, with menus that offer suggestions for wine pairings. The cheeses are sourced and assembled with great care and all ingredients are locally or regionally sourced, President of Fess Parker Tim Snider told Vintner. 

“The idea that it’s all locally sourced is really interesting I think to a lot of consumers and really, to me, supports the story of what we’re doing on the wines exceptionally well, which is of course, a lot of our wines are estate grown and/or are site specific in their sourcing. We do a lot of single-vineyard Pinot Noirs for instance or single-vineyard Chardonnays, and of course a lot of single-vineyard wines from our estate.”

Staff are taught specifically what each cheese is, and what style each cheese is, whether it’s cow’s or goat’s milk, hard or soft, whether it’s a Brie, etc, and then they have to be able to make pairing recommendations based on that knowledge.

Starting in 2019, Fess Parker began offering food to its customers a second way, using rotational offerings from local restaurants, catering groups, and food trucks. Every weekend, different selections are offered, and menus are prepared to help customers understand which wines will go with their meals. 

“We’re bringing in different restaurants, catering groups and food trucks that we have gotten to know and work with over the years and when you do it on a rotational basis, it gives consumers a chance to look over the menu and be like ‘oh, I know this restaurant, this style of food looks great,’ and there’s diversity in the offerings in an ongoing basis, which I think is working well,” Snider said.

After taking the winter off from these partnerships with local food companies, coming back in the spring had a lot of new restaurants asking to be a part of the program.

As part of California’s reopening process, the state and county of Santa Barbara mandated that food service be a part of the experience for reopening. At first, it looked like it would be cumbersome for the winery.

“What we actually saw in the COVID pandemic was that restaurants were seeking opportunities and seeking ways to get out and get in front of customers,” Snider said. “So this program has really ramped up … it has really taken off over the last several months and we’re really excited about the future of it.”

When the winery was working with a local restaurant, First and Oak, Fess Parker had a specific menu printed up with both the restaurant’s and the winery’s logos with wine pairing suggestions on the menu.

Two of the food trucks that Fess Parker works with on a rotational basis have their own menu on a chalkboard or some type of display on the truck itself. Pre-shift, staff are prepped on what the food is going to be each day and to make some recommendations in terms of which wines might pair better with the different offerings that are associated with the different restaurants.

“When it’s a restaurant menu that we’re printing, obviously we can print this suggestion on there and that really helps things,” Snider said. 

“If it’s a food truck, for instance there’s one that’s Cuban inspired, and we’ll say ‘This white wine will work well with that’ because for instance our Rodney’s Viongier will work well with some of their dishes that have a little bit of spice, while a typical cubano sandwich might be more appropriate with a Pinot Noir.”

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