WhenI first started this blog I wrote about Stone’s Throw Winery and how much we liked the tasting and some of the wines. I even got an e-mail thanking me for my “kind words” about Stone’s Throw from their owner. I am sorry to report that things have changed. First, I have learned more about wine than I knew 3 years ago. I commented back then on how good their Zinfandel was. After sampling several in Napa & Sonoma, Stone’s Throw doesn’t come close to some of the Zinfandels being produced by Ravenswood, Joel Gott, or a host of other wineries. I have also visited Napa and Sonoma for the first time and saw how the wineries and tasting rooms operated. However, the biggest and most unfortunate change since that visit has been the overall experience of visiting the tasting room at Stone’s Throw.
After a recent visit I came to the conclusion that their contempt for tourists and non-wine experts is astounding. Given that they smack dab in the middle of one of Wisconsin’s biggest tourist areas, Door County (and not Napa Valley) you would think that they would welcome visitors with open arms, encourage them to try different wines, and educate them about the wines and winemaking process. Being friendly, and helpful cannot do anything but increase wine sales, but apparenty Stone’s Throw only wants to sell wine to certain individuals. My wife and I thought the workers were arrogannt and aloof (unless you are a friend and in their special wine club, more on that later) and they almost seemed as if they were doing you a favor by letting you sample their wines.
For example, one lady standing next to us seemed to know a lot about wine and she asked if she could have a pen to take notes on the color brochure with all of the wine descriptions. An employee flat out said “no, they weren’t allowed to do that because guests write on these then threw them away or left them at the counter.” I could see not wanting to waste expensive color brochures but then why not have black and white ones or a separate sheet for tasting notes? Why not include the cost of the brochure in the tasting costs?
The person helping me wasn’t very helpful at all and after I had sampled two wines (you can try up to five) she came over and said “ok so what do you want for your last sample.” I had to correct her and tell her I had only tried two. This despite the fact that she was making check marks on my receipt to keep track of my samples. It was almost as if she was trying to push us out the door.
During my tasting a group came in and was warmly welcomed by this same employee. It seemed they were members of the elite group known as the Avventura Wine Club. Almost all wineries do these clubs which gives people access to special wines not available in stores, limited releases, and deals on their wine. They also get free tastings. I think these clubs can be great if you find a winery you really enjoy however I don’t think that joining a wine club should be the determining factor as to whether you are treated nicely or as a nuisance when you visit the winery.
I had kind of dismissed my experience thinking that maybe the lady was having a bad day. Then I did some internet research and found that many others had encountered this snobbery too. Check out these reviews at catchwine.com. It seems that most everyone had a similar experience.
Their biggest problem seems to be not knowing their target market. They are acting as if they are plunked right along Highway 29 in Napa Valley. People aren’t going to Door County to discover great wines. They are going there because they they want something to occupy their time for an hour or so. To treat customers like idiots and tourists who don’t know anything about wine is just stupid business practice. However even in Napa, I never noticed any contempt for tourists and non-oenophiles. After touring around 10 wineries in Napa and Sonoma, I found that every one of them had friendly and helpful staffs and were actually fun to visit (my favorites were Prager Port Works and Ravenswood).
Stone’s Throw makes good wines (the best in made in Wisconsin by far) that are seem to be a tad overpriced. They were charging 39 dollars for a port wine that was nowhere near as good as bottles costing half to 1/4 as much. I’d put a $10 bottle of Clocktower or Jonesy up against this any day. If I am spending that much on Port, I’ll order from Prager Port Works. As much as Stone’s Throw likes to make fun of tourist wineries serving apple, cherry and other fruit wines, I would much rather drink mediocre Cherry wine served by nice, friendly people than good traditional grape wines served by jerks.
If you still want to go, Stone’s Throw is located at 3382 County Road ‘E’ (Intersection of A & E) in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin
Stone’s Throw should take a customer service lesson from the Oilerie in Fish Creek. The Oilerie is an olive oil store that also has lots of vinegars, and gourmet food items. The staff is courteous, helpful, and friendly. They let the customers sample every single one of their products, including expensive olive oils and 25 year old balsamic vinegar.
My only complaint is that you only have one size to choose from. Now I have no problem buying larger bottles of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and 25 Year Old Balsamic Vinegar but I don’t know that I could ever use up a 12.4 oz bottle of cinnamon olive oil, even though it was very good. I think they would probably sell more flavored or specialty oils and vinegars if they offered half bottles as well as the full size.
The best thing about the OIlerie is the prices. Most extra virgin oils are prices around $14.00 for a 12.7 ounce bottle. Truffle Oil is a mere $15.50 for the same size. A 12.7 ounce bottle of 25-Year Old Balsamic will only set you back $18.50. The vinegar pours like a light syrup and has a nice sweetness that the aging imparts. It’s great on fresh mozzarella or buratta, drizzled on a steak, or on small pieces of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Sartori reserve cheese. After trying just about every oil in the store I settled on a bottle of Primaiolo Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It has a very pronounced olive taste and has been a nice addition to my kitchen. It is great drizzled on vegetables (particularly asparagus and Brussels sprouts) or as a dipping oil for a nice loaf of crusty bread. The Oilerie also stocks some gourmet food items (dips, jams, rubs, olives, etc) and olive oil based beauty products.
The Oilerie will be opening a store in Brookfield this month in the V. Richard’s Plaza. 17135 W. Bluemound Road.