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(By Eve Bushman) I was all set to write on this topic alone until this past month, when we saw the news - true, false and still unresolved – of three local restaurants having some major issues that could prove fatal.

Sisley Italian Kitchen announced that they were closed and then pulled back and said only water damage prevented them from re-opening, all employees at TPC Valencia – including the chefs to the wait staff of the Oaks Grille – were laid off, and finally the owner of Southern Smoke would most likely lose his liquor license and maybe the restaurant too as he was found guilty of criminal charges and is now a convicted felon.

Whoa Nelly. I’m in a bit of a shock. But I’m not here to defend or blame any of these businesses. I’m here to discuss what we should look for as consumers – in a restaurant, bar or winery - that is open and not dealing with crazy external issues.

The Experience

More and more people are looking for an “experience” and that includes the tasting room as well as the winemaker’s story, the owner's story, activities/lessons/tours/dinners/events at a winery. What would cost a winery business? For me it would be a less than hospitable person at the tasting room. Be that person that smiles when you answer a phone – a good measure of a person that is trying even when they’re not seen. Don’t be that person that announces the rules before even talking about the wine. Ask where we’re from, who we’ve visited today, what wines we might enjoy and please attempt to make some form of eye contact while doing all that.

Most of my pals have recounted winery experiences that have compelled me to also visit. The quality of the wine itself is first and foremost, but if it’s lost in a dull story or dull visit, then it’s just that: lost. I’ve also, by way of being a wine writer, shared stories that I hope would compel others to seek out a particular winery. Robert Parker giving something a 90+ may mean more to you than my words, but if you’re going to visit the winery you may need a tad more than a score.

Read more here: Eve’s Wine 101: Will an Outstanding Experience Make or Break Your Winery, Bar or Restaurant?