Napa: 7 Gems And A Clunker Part 2

Sorry, I had to put on my cranky pants for this post…

Last time I shared with you the magical start of our recent group trip to Napa. Everything about the trip was going along perfectly: great friends, lovely accommodations, delicious wine and fabulous hospitality at the wineries.

But the middle of Day 2, we hit a bump in the road.

The clunker.


This is Darioush. Gorgeous, right?

Because of the unique beauty of the place and the historically spectacular wines, we always, always visit when we are in Napa and include Darioush in our “must see” list when asked for recommendations.

We have been loyal members of Darioush for ten years. Of the 2,000+ bottles of wine in our wine cellar, more are from Darioush than any other winery.

So, not to be snooty or pretentious, but you’d think that this type of devotion would bring with it some appreciation.

Apparently, not so much.

Three months before our trip, I called to arrange all of the wine tasting appointments. I know that a larger group (anything over 6 or 8) can be problematic for some wineries and some flat out won’t take a large group.

The folks at Darioush assured me that the size of our group was not a problem and scheduled us for, and I quote,

“a private, guided tasting”.

Upon our arrival, we were told that we’d have to wait for a bit because the large party ahead of us was just finishing up and had not yet vacated the space.

Having been to Darioush many, many times we are quite familiar with the variety of private tasting spots they offer. We were certain that we would be ushered over to the comfy sofas in one of the cozy alcoves or into one of the private tasting rooms.

Instead, 20 minutes after the time of our appointment, we were led to the bar in the middle of the noisy and crowded tasting room. Some of us were seated on one side and the rest around the corner on the other side.

The harried wine pourers filled our glasses, told us what they had poured and moved on to everyone else at the bar.

Not private, not guided, not acceptable.

I later found out that one of the wine pourers, when innocently asked what we would be tasting next, told a couple members of our group, “First you have to finish what is in your glass. We aren’t going to give you a clean glass for every wine. If we did that we’d have way too many glasses to wash.”

Can you believe it?!?!

Perhaps our palates were colored by the lousy experience but we didn’t even enjoy the wine very much. It was the only stop out of the 8 wineries we visited at which not a single person bought wine to ship home.

Now, you may wonder why I didn’t demand better service right there on the spot – ask to be seated in one of the TWO unoccupied alcoves. Afterwards, I wondered that myself. I can only say that I was so shocked by the uncharacteristically bad service that I just wanted to leave.

Because my wonderful mother taught me that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all, I was very conflicted about sharing this story.

However, after we returned from Napa, we called Darioush and told them about our epically bad experience. We also withdrew from all of our First Offering Reservations (their equivalent of a wine club) – over 3 cases of wine per year. We received a standard follow up email confirming the cancellation but have never received any sort of follow up regarding our visit.

Darioush Viognier

I think what is most disappointing is that we have loved the wine over the past decade and have had many wonderful and memorable visits to the winery. We will probably keep Darioush on our recommendation list because it is so strikingly beautiful but it might be a very long time before we visit ourselves.

Oh, yuck! I hate being so negative. Happy talk, let’s get back to happy talk!!

Next up, I will tell you about the last 3 stops on our Napa tour which were awesome and fabulous and resplendent with excellent wine.

Time to cleanse our palate from this unfortunate tale and move on to better things!

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  1. What a bummer…hopefully they will realize what a msitake they made. The place does look beautiful.
    Beemie recently posted…Should I…My Profile

  2. I think it’s brilliant you wrote about your vastly inferior experience, Mo. And I do hope the folks at Darioush take note. I see that you tagged your post. I wonder what it was all about. Any idea who the larger, previous group was? It’d be interesting to know. A) Did they exhaust and soak up all the attention? B) Were they also unsatisfied with the service? I wonder if the management has changed recently? It’s just so odd. And to treat you this way is unacceptable. I’m off to share. Everywhere.
    Kelly L McKenzie recently posted…Ask Me In SeptemberMy Profile

    • Thanks, Kelly! Glad to have you in my corner. The folks before us was a group of (obviously wealthy) 30 somethings. As we looked around the tasting room, we did note that our presence skewed the age demographics up a bit – something I had not noticed during prior trips. Could that be it? They no longer “need” us older folk?
      Mo Lux recently posted…Napa: 7 Gems And A Clunker Part 2My Profile

  3. Oh, that’s just terrible customer service all around! At the very least you think someone from there would issue an apology. There’s something to be said for retaining your lifelong customers and they apparently don’t see the value in that.
    Bev recently posted…Black Cat Dog Designs: An Interview with Bev LevreaultMy Profile

  4. The Mister would say “the inmates have taken over the asylum.” I’m glad that you were honest with your review. Hope you send your link to the head honcho. Have a great week.

  5. How dissapointing. It makes you wonder if they would have moved you even if you would have complained when there. Mistakes happen, but there is no excuse for poor follow up after your email. I bet your group shrugged it off and still had fun 🙂

  6. Customer satisfaction is a thing of the past. When my family has owned businesses in the past, finding good employees was one of the biggest problems. As the owners, we always wanted to hear if customers were not happy with their service, but then we would make it right by deeply apologizing. Too bad that hasn’t come along yet.

    As for your vast collection of wine, did you just have to move all of those bottles to your new house?
    Leslie Anne recently posted…Comment on Antique Jewelry Lampshade by Leslie AnneMy Profile

  7. Jessica Hague says:

    Mo, I am truly sorry to hear about your recent experience. I understand the disappointment you feel over your visit in early May, my team and I feel it too. As a loyal client of ours since 2006, your history with us is long, and I am particularly saddened that our appreciation was not shared with you and your guests at the time of your visit.

    The winery was founded nearly 20 years ago on a distinct commitment to hospitality – to make our guests feel more at home than home itself. It’s our hope that you have felt this level of service and care from us in the past, my team has certainly enjoyed hosting you and Peter. I agree with you wholeheartedly, we should have accommodated you and your guests elsewhere at the winery that day. Tasting at the bar lessened the experience for you, and also limited our ability to properly express our appreciation for your patronage. You deserved more acknowledgement than you received that day, and I hope, in time, you may give my team and I another chance to do so.

    I thank you for taking the time to write us about your visit; we take your comments to heart. I hear the disappointment in your words, the conflict in recommending Darioush to others. Please know that because you shared your experience, we can now make some necessary adjustments. My hospitality and member teams will be meeting later this week to discuss all aspects of your personal experience with us, from booking the reservation through the First Offering cancellation letter you received – and everything in between. Here in lies our opportunity to improve, thank you for that. My hope is that it does not come at the expense of your patronage. I hope that we can work to regain your trust, and are humbled that you will continue to keep us on your ‘must visit’ list for your readers.

    Finally, I would like to reimburse you for your recent shipment and fees from the May visit. Would you kindly let me know the best time to reach you to arrange this, by emailing me directly at jessica at I look forward to connecting with you.

    With warm regards,
    Jessica Hague
    Vice President

    • Jessica, thank you so much for your kind response. My disappointment was so great precisely because all of our previous experiences have been so positive and your customer service has always been exemplary. I will be in touch with you. No hard feelings! We enjoyed a bottle of 2006 Signature Cabernet the other night and it was, of course, exquisite.
      Mo Lux recently posted…Napa: 7 Gems And A Clunker Part 2My Profile

  8. Business lost does not easily return. If they are going to begin catering to 30 something’s I would bet their wine is going to change. And by the time they realize those 30 something’s are not going to be loyal in the long run like you are because they aren’t, you will have found another great wine to replace their wine!

  9. How disappointing. I’m glad to see Ms. Hague’s response, though. That is how a business who values their customers should react – I hope it makes a difference.
    Dana recently posted…The moments in betweenMy Profile

  10. That is too bad, Mo…one bad experience can sour an entire trip. I am happy they are attempting to make things right. In the hospitality industry, sometimes one bad apple employee making a stupid decision (or a few employees on a particular day) can ruin a company’s long standing reputation. Hope your week is going well! xoxo
    Sandy recently posted…Desinare ~ A Must for Any Florence ItineraryMy Profile

    • I agree, Sandy. When I called to complain AND cancel all of our First Offering reservations, I could tell that the person I talked to was taking notes. She said she would pass the information along to the appropriate parties. Maybe she never did, maybe she did and no one acted on it. I hope to find out more when I speak with Ms. Hague.
      Mo Lux recently posted…Napa: 7 Gems And A Clunker Part 2My Profile

  11. Thank you for being honest about your experiences at wineries. It is helpful for the rest of us for trip planning. I read the winery’s response above, and cannot help but feel they only answered you because you have a well-read blog. If it took them this long to figure out they have major problems on a daily basis, they have serious management problems.

    I do enjoy your blog!

    • Thanks so much, Lynn! Writing something so negative was very hard for me because I much prefer to be a positive person with both feet firmly planted in Polyanna land. If they had followed up after my first complaint I might have written the post differently. But they didn’t. And if there is one thing that can rile my Irish temper, it’s bad customer service!
      Mo Lux recently posted…Napa: 7 Gems And A Clunker Part 2My Profile

  12. I know when I had a MRI on my wrist recently, it was a bad experience from the time we walked through the door. The tech was not happy it couldn’t be done the way it was supposed to, the concept that someone with two broken arms could not lay on their stomach was too difficult to grasp. It went downhill from there. I sent in an email complaint a few days later, the head of the department called me that afternoon to discuss my complaint. Didn’t change my bad experience but made me feel better that they responded so quickly.

  13. Aw sorry that you had a bad experience! Did you make your move to Chicago yet? Or did ya go back to California to check out the wineries?

    That place looks gorgeous and thanks for the heads up! And don’t worry you ARE a positive person. We are all human.

    I really can’t wait until you start checking out the wine spots around the midwest, I will be looking forward to them!
    Deanna recently posted…Andersonville and Midsommer FestMy Profile

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