Aside from excellent pinot noirs, great bubblies, and an always eclectic array of other grape varietals, Laetitia Vineyard and Winery makes for a great spot to stop whenever you are on a drive to the Bay Area or other points north. You can run through a quick tasting, enjoy a picnic and bocce ball under the foggy sun, or just peruse their clothing selection and stretch your legs.
Best of all, there’s always someone interesting to speak with behind the bar, including Robbie Melero, who told me on my last stop at Laetitia that he also runs a business on the side. Called the Coastal Wine Agency, Melero and his partner, Cayse Hunstad, work with wineries to help market their tasting rooms while getting people like you and me discounts on those tastings. It seemed like a win-win-win to me, so I recently asked Melero some questions about his business.
Tell us briefly about the service you offer.
Coastal Wine Agency offers wine tasting passes for multiple wineries at one low flat rate. We have a weekly pass for $20 and a quarterly pass for $40. This pass allows you and one additional guest to taste at 16 wineries (and counting) on the Central Coast of California.
What’s the most you’ve ever personally spent in tasting rooms fees on a day?
My girlfriend and I went tasting one time in Paso Robles for her birthday. We went to four wineries and each winery had a tasting fee of $10. After the day was over, I spent about $60 on tasting fees alone. That isn’t even including bottle purchases!
Are wineries liking the idea?
We have gotten a great response from wineries. We are bringing in new faces to their tasting room, and, in exchange, they are giving complimentary tasting to our customers. A lot of our customers tell us that they have tried new wineries because of our pass, and that is what we are all about! We get customers in the door, and our hope is that they buy bottles, join the wine clubs, and become lifetime fans of these wineries.
Has anyone done this before? If no, why not?
Wineries have gotten together for “passport” weekends such as Roll Out The Barrels. On weekends like that, customers pay a one-time fee and can taste at all participating wineries. We took this same concept and turned it into a full-time business, but for the entire Central Coast.
Are you actively expanding your roster?
We are always looking to expand our roster by adding more wineries. It is free for wineries to participate. All they have to do is accept our passes in their tasting room. In exchange, we do free marketing for them on our Web site, blog, Facebook, and Twitter.
We also continue to expand our partnerships with hotels and bed & breakfasts. We are currently selling our weekly pass at eight lodging facilities. It has been one of our biggest successes. Having our passes in hotels and bed & breakfasts allows us to reach tourists coming into the area.
What other plans do you have?
We are currently working on two iPhone applications. These apps will be the “go-to” apps for any tourist or local looking for something to do in the San Luis Obispo or Paso Robles areas. They will not only give you lists of local wineries, but local restaurants, hotels, events, activities, and more.
For more information, see coastalwineagency.com.