Home Wine Business Editorial V Files Mystery Shoppers Visit Starmont Winery

Mystery Shoppers Visit Starmont Winery


Strategically located on Highway 29 at the crossroads of Carneros and Napa Valley, Starmont Winery offers visitors a multifaceted approach to their wine tasting itineraries. Easily accessible from either direction, the modern facility and tasting room focuses on their small production, DTC wines, mostly grown on the surrounding 55 acre Carneros Estate. The region is well known for the fruit produced from the historic Stanly Ranch, 50 acres of which is maintained and harvested for Starmont’s Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay. The Starmont label originated from a Chardonnay produced by Merryvale and the portfolio was launched in 2006 when the winery was built. Limited access to the property was available on Sundays until the tasting room opened in mid- 2015.

Tasting experiences at Starmont are unpretentious, and no appointment is required. Guests may choose to situate themselves in one of the comfortable outdoor patio seating areas or sit inside at a table or at the tasting bar. The relaxed vibe and cool Carneros breezes from the San Pablo Bay are a welcome respite from hot summer days. The tasting menu is generous with a line-up of five to six wines, and usually always includes their flagship Chardonnay and several of the Carneros Estate Pinot Noirs.

According to the website, Starmont offers several tasting options ranging in price from $25 to $65 per person and highlight Carneros or Napa based selections, a Stanly Ranch tour and barrel tasting, and, for vintage Merryvale fans, a Portfolio tasting.

Our tasters were hosted as walk in guests, but were not made aware of the tasting options, so assumed the Carneros selections represent the default menu. The hospitality team was warm and welcoming and offered guidance to self-select a preferred seating area. Shortly thereafter an assigned host presented the tasting menu and explained the origin of the wines, a bit about the history of Starmont’s foundation with Merryvale and the relevance of the Stanly Ranch Vineyards. While informative and interesting, perhaps because our tasters opted to sit on the patio, the host didn’t linger long, and did not go above and beyond to learn more about their guests. Wines were all presented factually, and unique qualifiers related to the history of the region were incorporated into the presentation. The staff seemed to be working as a team, and were attentive to the stage of the discussion, offering to clear glasses or tend to needs of each group.

The tasting menu was succinct, with an organized listing of the wines to be presented, complete with descriptions and tasting notes, and prices were easily accessible on the reverse side. The wine club was referenced on the Tasting Menu vis a vis a notation that the tasting fee would be waived if one were to join, but other than that, it was not brought into the discussion.

Hosts did query as to preferences in an effort to qualify palates, and extra pours were offered based on responses. At the end of each tasting guests were asked if there was any interest in purchasing, but no references were made to upsell bottles to waive tasting fees. Whether a purchase was made or not, our tasters were not asked for contact information or their interest to stay in touch.

Overall Starmont Winery has a lot to offer, with its convenient location, representation of Carneros wines, and open air atmosphere. The staff is warm and welcoming, and the experience itself is relaxed and unassuming, but perhaps too much so. Our tasters, outside of buying some wine, left the premises without any invitation to reconnect or stay in touch. We scored them based on an average across the quality and content of the presentation as it related to sales conversion and overall connection with the winery and the host.

Starmont Winery
1451 Stanly Lane
Napa, CA 94559

WHAT THEY DID WELL: Walk-ins welcomed, knowledgeable staff, unpretentious, thorough presentation


STORYTELLING: Knowledgeable staff; winery history

CONNECTING WITH HOST: Relaxed vibe; Interesting presentation


  1. Product Knowledge
  2. Wine list and pricing prominent throughout tasting
  3. Asking for purchase

Virtual VinesThe V Files™ by Virtual Vines

THE V FILES™ is a monthly publication (subscribe for free) which offers an ssessment and rating of wineries DTC performance in relation to overall guest experience and staff proficiency. Wineries are chosen at random by Mystery Shoppers and are evaluated using a scorecard approach leveraging DTC best practices. The ratings are based on how well each winery delivers a memorable guest experience and staff’s ability to sell, covert and connect with customers.

The Rating System is based on performance in the following categories:

  • Inspirational Story
  • Connection w/ Host
  • Sales Acumen
  • Wine Club Conversion
  • Collecting Customer Info

Virtual Vines DTC Sales and Marketing Consulting Services help integrate DTC best practices to help wineries build brand awareness, increase sales and grow customer loyalty For more information please contact us: www.virtual-vines.com, 707-927-3574

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