Door County Part 3: Stone’s Throw Winery & The Oilerie

Stone’s Throw Winery

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

—-

The Oilerie

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.

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14 thoughts on “Door County Part 3: Stone’s Throw Winery & The Oilerie

  1. Just an observation:
    as for the Oilerie and customer service, I had a negative experience Nov 8th. I payed the shop a visit without realizing that children under the age of 13 are not welcome. Even though I carried my well behaved two year old daughter throughout the store I still ended up being reprimanded in school-marm fashion by the owner’s wife when I made the mistake of letting my daughter taste some of my olive oil sample ~ apparently she’d rather have had me throw the remainder in the garbage rather than give it to a child. My daughter was more welcome at the Inn at Kristofers restaurant that evening than she was being carried in my arms throughout the Oilerie. Needless to say I won’t be returning.

  2. Pamela –

    That sucks. I could see if your kid was running around, opening spigots, making a mess, and bothering other customers but if you are holding her and gave her a sample I don’t understand why they would have an issue with that.

    Not only did they lose a customer, they likely lost a future customer in your daughter.

    Jeff

  3. Bummer about Stone’s Throw. It’s a shame that a WI winery would take on such attitudes toward their primary clientele… certainly there are a host of other things to do in Door County. They should know better.

    As for the Oilerie – interesting.
    So, do they bottle locally? Seems that olive oil perveyors are popping up everywhere… and I’ll be curious to see when the grain is separated from the chaff.

  4. Too bad about Stone’s Throw. I hope to get over to Door County sometime in the next year, and I’ll check it out to see if things have improved. Meanwhile I have to agree about Sonoma. I recently visited several wineries there with a wine industry friend and found tasting room staffers very friendly and very happy to talk about their wines.

  5. Jeff,
    I am truly sorry to hear about this attitude change at Stone’s Throw. My wife and I have been long time fans of Russell Turcot’s work, and I was appalled to read your post about this poor attitude toward customers. BTW, no, we are not Avventura members –we just pay a pilgrimage to ST once a year or so, place orders, and see what’s new and exciting.
    I do hope you inform them of this.

    As for the Oilerie, we found it had some nice products (we like the lemon olive oil particularly)…pity about Pamela’s (Nov 11 comment) negative experience.

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  7. I love the Oilerie. I was there this past May and bought a few bottles of olive oil (and olive oil soaps). The garlic oil is just great and I’m nearly out of it.
    Have you tried Digger’s? It’s right across from the entrance to Peninsula State Park. Apparently, there’s a new owner/chef and it was pretty good. Their pizzas got rave reviews from guests and the burger I had was exceptional.

  8. Just a word about Pam’s experience. All of the advertising for Oilerie says that we “welcome adults and children over 13” to our store. As for not knowing, Pam had to walk past 3 signs in our windows and front door saying the same thing. Pam was welcomed to our store and told that tasting is for adults only. Pam then gives a toddler a drink of olive oil and is surprised when she is reminded of our rules. We never asked her to leave. She was not scolded “school marm fashion”, she was simply and politely told our policy. Oilerie provides an adult environment for sampling and learning about olive oil and our customers thank us everyday for doing so.

    • All of the advertising that the Oilerie does is age discrimination. I am affended by it.
      Pam also stated that the sample that she gave to her daughter was the left over.
      I was looking for an email to express my feelings..but was unable to. I will never be your customer and I will share my feelings w/ others.

      • Its not age discrimination to prohibit children from tasting olive oil. Its a private store and they have the right to limit samples to adults and you as a consumer have the right to not patronize that store if you hate the policy. Tasting olive oil is not a constitutional right and children are not a protected class.

        The great part is that there are now a couple of Olive Oil places in Door County so you can chose to go to another one if you don’t like the policy.

        I like the Oilerie best because of their variety and the other great stuff they sell, but I tend to go to the other places for more unique oils and vinegars because the Oilerie only sells large bottles. The new-ish place in Fish Creek sells (I believe) 3 different sizes.

  9. Curt –

    I kind of figured that was what happened. I noticed the signs and I don’t even have a child. She made it seem like you guys were jerks about it but if she was politely told not to do it, I can see where you are coming from.

    No offense to toddlers, but I am fairly certain the nuances of different oils and vinegars is lost on them.

    Its your store and its your pockets ($$) that the samples are coming out of. I have no problem with your policy and I actually wish more stores would do the same.

  10. Dear Jeff,

    I would like to apologize for your negative experience while visiting Stone’s Throw Winery last November. Be assured we have turned this negative into a positive by using your feedback/review as an opportunity to examine, monitor and implement changes that have improved our customer service (including staff changes) and hospitality practices. Stone’s Throw Winery is committed, as we’ve been for the last 12 years, to providing our customers with the highest quality hand-crafted wines this side of Napa Valley as well as a gracious and enjoyable experience each and every time they visit the winery. We hope you will give us the benefit of another visit to Stone’s Throw, we know it will be a pleasant and memorable one.

    Russell Turco
    Proprietor

    P.S. If you would like to ‘blind taste’ our Zins vs. Ravenswood…call me, we’ll set something up…I’ll buy!

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