Barossa Cellar Circle presents present final excellence awards

It was a bitter sweet evening for the Barossa Cellar Circle sub-committee who last week ran their eighth and final excellence awards to showcase the region’s high-flying wineries.

The 2017/18 Cellar Door of the Year award was jointly won by Kalleske Wines, Greenock, and Yelland and Papps – which was the Nuriootpa winery’s third consecutive win.

Cellar Door Team of the Year went to Two Hands, Marananga, which perfectly complemented the Cellar Door Person of the Year award presented to their valued employee Mason Canning.

The Barossa Cellar Circle awards has been overseen by sub-committee members Tush Steinert, formerly of Elderton Wines, Megan Curren, Henschke Cellars and Samantha Sutch, Jacob’s Creek Wines.

Ms Curren explained how Barossa’s cellar doors were invited to nominate themselves for inclusion in the awards and for the first time this year cellar doors were able to select which categories to be judged in.

“It was the sub-committee’s job to select engaged judges who could commit the time and energy into completing the forms properly and provide constructive feedback, from which we could provide a well-rounded picture of how each cellar door was performing, and ensure that a great experience would be offered to all visitors to our region,” she said.

“And we couldn’t be happier with our judges this year.”

Judges were South Australian Tourism Commission executive marketing director Brent Hill, Jacob’s Creek and St Hugo tourism and events manager Lisa Anderson, Carlton Untied Brewers sales manager Matt Pfieffer, East End Cellars Adelaide sommelier Matt McNamara and Eden Valley Hotel manager Cass Fitzgerald.

“We sent the five judges on two rounds of judging, during which time each cellar door was visited by at least two different judges, and each judge providing a score of 10,” Ms Curren explained.

Judging sheets were then reviewed and graded by the sub-committee to establish an average at the end of round two and identify the finalists for round three.

For any category to enter into the finals – a near flawless experience was reported by more than one judge.

“Each of the finalists in round three were then visited by two different judges to ensure the experience being offered was consistent,” she said.

Cellar Door of the Year

This category looked at key elements seen, felt and experienced when our judges walked into and out of the cellar door. We asked the judges to answer questions:

  • Once on the property, was the cellar door easy to find? Was the entrance to the Cellar Door well signed?
  • Upon entering what were your first impressions? Was there an immediate atmosphere within the cellar door that made you feel comfortable being there?
  • Was water and spittoons made available or pointed out?
  • Did the aesthetics’ (referring to the winery facility’s design and décor) help to promote and support its brand and history?
  • And additionally, beyond the core experience of tasting and buying wine, did the winery offer complementary services, such as a restaurant, local produce, art gallery, entertainment, tour, or accommodation) that helped build on their entire experience?

Three finalists out of 29 nominations for Cellar Door of the Year were:

  • Z Wines
  • Yelland and Papps
  • Kalleske

What the judges said:

Kalleske: The design of the building was perfect for hosting cellar door tastings, be it formal, informal or group tastings. The feel was casual and simple however you could feel the class that the winery was offering.

Z Wines: Fun, quirky. Looked like a bar but also had couches available for tastings and platters. Had a mix of cottage furnisher and modern styling. Was really attractive and was in line with the branding of Z wines as new and fun. They had their own style and it all came together, would definitely return.

Yellend & Papps: The place is fantastic, it is comfortable, welcoming, family friendly and honest. You really get an understanding of how they have built it from the ground up and that everything that is done is done with passion and family orientation

Winners:

  • Yelland & Papps (Michael Papps)
  • Kalleske Wines (Donna Pywell and her team)

Cellar Door Team of the Year

This category was looking at how well the staff interacted both with each other but also with the guests.

  • Did you witness/feel a good atmosphere within the team during your visit?
  • How did the team handle the pressure/quiet? Did they come together to support each other where/if needed?
  • If the staff member serving you was unable to answer your question, was there open and honest communications with you and the team in an effort to answer the question?
  • Were all team members engaged and focused on creating a memorable experience and passionate about their approach to customer service?
  • Keeping in mind each individual brings their own unique contributions to the team, was there still consistent knowledge of the brand and the story between the team members?

Two finalists out of 25 teams entered were:

  • Henschke
  • Two Hands

What the judges said:

Henschke: Plenty of communication to identify what we liked, our questions on Henschke wine, their history, tour offerings etc. was very natural and informative, did not have a ‘script’ and was open and honest answering our questions.

Two Hands: Great level of enthusiasm and drive – definitely engaged, interested and not fake. They really knew their stuff, and shared with us the story. We left feeling connected to the wine, winery and story and told plenty of other people about just how good it is.

Winner:

  • Two Hands

Cellar Door Person of the Year

This is where the judges drilled down to find those exceptional staff who had to reach top marks on questions such as:

  • Did they provide a warm reception?
  • Did they take the time to connect with you to identify what style of tasting you were after, what wines you usually enjoy, what you might already know about wine tasting and the region itself?
  • Was the person open and approachable during your tasting so you felt comfortable to ask questions about the wine/winery/their brand and the region?
  • Did you leave the cellar door feeling more connected to their brand and wines?
  • Did the person have a genuine enthusiasm, interest and knowledge for their wines, the brand, history and their story?
  • Was there a good understanding of the other attractions that visitors to the Barossa could engage in whilst visiting?

Four finalists out of 26 were:

  • Andrew from Murray Street Vineyards
  • Michael from Yellend & Paps
  • Mason from Two Hands
  • Bec from Fernfield

What the judges said:

Andrew: Andrew was excellent. He was very welcoming, warm and friendly. He provided great service and was full of knowledge of their brand, products, history and the Barossa region. We had a great time and would definitely come back to visit Murray Street Vineyards after this visit.

Michael: Such passion and dedication from not only the winemaker but owner was an added advantage, however this paired with great customer service and a relaxed environment made the experience more wonderful and memorable. He delivered a faultless experience that we would be proud to recommend to friends and family.

Mason: He was in his own category. He was such a passionate friendly guy, who knew his stuff and really stepped us through the wine. He knew everything and had brilliant stories on the smallest details. He is a superstar, a real asset to Two Hands, and one of the best tourism focused and wine focused individuals I’ve ever met in a customer facing role.

Bec: She connected well with me and the others visitors that dropped in. She was really engaging and you could see the passion that she had for what they were doing. She explained where the fruit came from, their wine making philosophy, the history of the property, and was really engaging.

Winner:

  • Mason Canning from Two Hands

Final chapter

Meanwhile, the decision to cease Barossa Cellar Circle as a whole was due to a number of reasons, including a decline in associated events.

Ms Curren explained, however, the decision was not taken lightly.

“We realised at this point that the best option moving forward would be to cease Barossa Cellar Circle as it stands, and spend some time researching other successful community groups for the ‘secrets to their success’, and align with suitable local organisations to launch a fresh, focused and re-branded group in the future,” she explained.

“The committee all truly believe that the right people with passion, and most importantly the time will take on a new concept that can bring the industry together as Barossa Cellar Circle has done in the past – will most certainly succeed.

“And we can again celebrate everything that is great about customer service and our beautiful Barossa region,” she said.