IMHO,Napa,Wine,Wine Appreciation,Wine Etiquette

The Removal of Wine Train passengers is a symptom of a bigger problem

Well, this was bound to happen, regardless of race, creed, or political party. The removal of Wine Train passengers brings a lot of issues to the forefront, from the side of someone on the other side of the bar.

Let me digress for a second… When I was working in tasting rooms, inevitably some group would come into the tasting room and be so self absorbed that they were literally out of control, as compared to the people who really just came to taste and learn about wine. The people around the swam of bees would stay a bit away, to make sure they didn’t get stung. It happens everyday in wine country, and maybe why Americans – in other countries – are considered to be lacking courtesy.

Honestly, I’ve been with a group of people – who hasn’t? – where we got a bit boisterous, and then decided to not care about anyone else around us, because we were having so much fun. (These moments produce great memories, for those who are having the fun.)


A whole new generation has moved in, as regards consumers.

There’s a recent movement to have one’s image taken with the “Welcome to Napa Valley” signs… on both ends of the valley. I’ve never seen anything like the droves that are now gathering. It’s like having one’s picture taken at the Eiffel Tower or the climbing of a Pyramid. It says you’ve been there and done that.

But, this past Sunday, something different was in the air… I saw the ultimate. One guy on the south end of Napa had climbed the sign (not easy to do), and had stuck his head through the bubble part of it and the banner above. What if he fell? (The Girl Scout Day Camp director, in my past life skill set, still asks those questions of safety.) Who’s going to pay that bill, besides the land owners? All of us, as health insurance cost continue to climb for those who can afford to pay, to cover those who can’t. We don’t consider that, when we’re hanging off signs not constructed to hold people, though. We just want to have fun.

So, there’s the guy, head through the sign, while the Napa Valley Wine Train is coming down the road, and little did I know, with a group of passengers noticeably out of control by those who were sharing the car they were in and not invited to their private party.

While some are screaming “race.” This isn’t a race issue, I can tell you that. The guy on the sign was not a person of color, he was a white guy. If the cops had seen him, he would have been told to “get down ASAP.”

[This image has come from the Napa Valley Wine Train Website.]

The Removal of Napa Wine Train passengers

While media are having a heyday with this story, because it’s salacious, it’s doing a disservice to the industry. Everyone is focusing on race instead of courtesy.

We (in the business) have to try to control the people we are serving who step over a line of consideration for the others around them, too. Someone on this train had had enough, but didn’t handle her communication well, so now she looks like a racist. That might have been far from her intent. She may have just wanted the joyous group to bring it down a notch. I don’t really know. I wasn’t there, But, as someone who puts on wine events, I know that there are always those who create situations, and they’re asked to tone it down, whenever possible.

Here’s how it happened:

In a statement issued on Sunday, from a Napa Valley Wine Train spokeswoman Kira Devitt: “…received complaints from several parties in the same car and after three attempts from staff, requesting that the group keep the noise to an acceptable level, they were removed from the train and offered transportation back to the station in Napa.”

Continuing: Wine train spokesman Sam Singer has stated, “On average, Singer said, individuals or groups are asked to get off the wine train once a month for one reason or the other. ‘It’s not a question of bias,’ he said.”

While the chief officer of the train company has issued a public apology, which is the best PR he can do, the behaviors that wine professionals see everyday, would suggest that consumers also need to consider their behavior. Whenever there is alcohol involved, it’s going to be the most difficult and challenging, especially when a large group enters a tasting room.

If that were my company, and remember – this is how rules become rules, I would have a no parties larger than six in the future on public cars, and allow parties larger than that to rent a car for their own enjoyment.

There are good reasons why there are signs everywhere, refusing busloads of people, and that also includes limousines being turned away. I wish I was making this up… I’m not.

From the San Francisco Chronicle: “Later on, Johnson said the manager told them that “this isn’t going to work,” and that if they didn’t “tone it down,” they were going to be asked to get off the train.”

What do you do with behavior that’s been warned? I take the clue…

When there’s alcohol, judgment is off…

It’s a courtesy issue that’s very much connected to alcohol. When we enjoy wine (or any other alcoholic beverage), our defenses for being more private are greatly diminished. [According to Cognitive Sciences, “It has to do with the excitatory affect alcohol has on almost all neurotransmitters and their receptors, including serotonin, dopamine, and GABA.”] This reaction has been going on since the beginning of time, and we all know its effects.

The Wine Train, to its credit, asked the passengers in question to “simma down now, simma down.” Obviously, they didn’t and just kept going. They took a private party onto a public train, where others were also wining and dining, and the others weren’t being asked to chill out. It was just this happy party, who forgot that others around them might just want to also enjoy wine and watch the sights go by, and not have to live in their party vicariously.

The group felt demeaned when they left the train, because the police had to escort them away. What did they expect, after being asked to cooperate with the train’s culture? The book reading group was just having too much fun. It’s as simple as that.

Party girls, I might have even been with you in days gone by. I’ve have my fun days, and I have no regrets… My Peter Pan days ended, when I began my job in the wine business, so I couldn’t be with you. When there’s alcohol involved, we just have to be more careful. We, in the wine business, have instructions on what to do, when people have lost control. Pre my job? Yeah, I might have been riding that train, high on… life in the fun zone, too. But not now. I have a responsibility to everyone at the party, not just one group… My parties have me managing 800 people. I need to have it go really right.

As someone who has had to professionally refuse to serve others, who were beyond the norm of sounds being generated at a place of business, it must have had to be done, for the sake of everyone’s comfort. (Comfort is also part of this… ) And, it must not have been an easy call, for whomever had to make the final decision. Weighing in as a person who has served a lot of alcohol, I’ve also actually threatened to call the police, when a customer refused to cooperate. It was the threat that actually turned her around. But, she pushed me that far, as I had my cell phone in hand.

This encounter was a perfectly healthy young woman, who had taken a chair set aside for someone with a handicap from our admin area, and was refusing to give it to a woman with a broken foot. The woman needed to sit down, but the person with high heels that no one should be wearing, had sat in that chair all night. I thought to myself, what if the woman with the handicap decided to turn me in for not complying? I had to go on record with the police department, which had issued my license for the night, lest the person who really needed the chair couldn’t get it from me. When you’re in a position of the parade, you darn well better know how to pull up the rear.

Courtesy is a common missing ingredient, when someone is confronted. From the story’s quotes, something was certainly missing.

UPDATE: A very interesting read, on September 04, 2015 7:00 p.m., by 

Telling it like it is: “It’s a national story. Last month, a group of 11 women (10 of whom are black) were escorted off the Napa Valley Wine Train, allegedly for loud and obnoxious behavior that elicited complaints from other passengers. The women were members of a book club who were simply having a good time.

“Been there. Done that!”

37 Responses to “The Removal of Wine Train passengers is a symptom of a bigger problem”

  1. Jo, Very well put and the media etc not knowing the reality of people out of control has made this purely racial, how unfortunate, actually awful. When I interviewed for working in a tasting room, the question they asked me a few times was – how would I handle someone whose had too much too drink – a difficult but necessary condition when it comes to alcoholic beverage consumption. I assume the people on the train were trained to deal with this in as courteous manner as possible.

  2. Kurt Burris says:

    There is a huge difference between the Wine Train and a tasting room. And to emphasize the point when the train stops at Grgich they don’t take them into the tasting room, they have a separate space as to not bother the people that are there to learn about wine (and hopefully buy some.) If you take reservations for large groups, be it in a restaurant or on a train, you are going to get parties, some of which may be noisier than others. If you allow limos to stop at your winery you better have a place for them.

  3. Tom Merle says:

    Excellent post, Jo. I would only add that there is another dimension to this situation. In today’s racially charged atmosphere, and due to all the abuses, African Americans have embraced a culture of victimhood and entitlement. Resentment of whites is simmering just below the surface and an incident like this quickly brings it the forefront. Not sure how we can lessen this antagonism and hypersensitivity. Mixed race book clubs 😉 ?

  4. Joanne Saliby says:

    Good one, Jo. We get many groups of young women from bridal parties, and mixed groups traveling together. This happens.

  5. Jo Diaz says:

    Exactly, Tom. I didn’t address the race issue, because for me, this one is a non-issue.

    And, cry race? Take a look at my immediate family. (Anglo, Puerto Rican, blended, Christian, Jewish, Protestant… We even had a Muslim, before the divorce. We loved him before, during, and after… still do. It just wasn’t the right fit for one of my daughters. However… none of it was about race; unless someone pulls that card, and my history then speaks for itself.

    This one is solely about courtesy. Someone says, “not everyone is comfortable here,” and everyone paid the same amount. So… “Could you please keep it down a bit.” I’d work on that, wouldn’t you?

    Common sense = common courtesy

  6. Jo Diaz says:

    Great points, Kurt.

  7. Jo Diaz says:

    Inevitable, Joanne, it’s going to happen. Will they cry discrimination? I hope not. I hope they have common courtesy and know it’s not about race. It’s about charm school — or not.

  8. Jo Diaz says:


    The media is way off base with this one; I agree with you. Let’s see them do a story on the correct behavior when at a wine event. That will be the day, but I bet I could get many vintners chomping at the bit to help with producing it. They will, however, not want to be in the limelight, so we’d have to hire actors. Wineries won’t want to lose one single customer.

    It’s a story that needs telling to counter balance this one. As I’ve been saying here, it’s about knowing how to act when you’re in the company of others – and I’ve NOT always remembered my best behavior, either. But if anyone ever told me to simmer down, I’d take to heart that I’ve HAD a lapse in courtesy and get with the program. Obviously, the party involved didn’t know that it’s a regular feature to stop the train and off load loud passengers. If they try to pull a law suit, this information will come forward and their case will be over in a Napa second.

  9. Alison Crowe says:

    Jo, so true that wineries just don’t want to wade into this one. Like Tom wrote today- “No Comment.”

    Please keep writing about all the wine industry nuances:

    -People getting cut off or asked to leave is a relatively common occurrence in tasting rooms, restaurants, bars and similar establishments. Those of us who work in these industries deal with these kinds of situations all the time.
    -Staff training is crucial- ABC/TIPS as well as cultural sensitivity. Did you know that in certain cultures it’s considered offensive to show someone the bottom of your foot?
    -Skilled professionals should know how to diffuse a situation without escalating it…unless absolutely necessary. And management should train people to know where those limits are.
    -Businesses who accept large groups should be able to handle them (i.e. why so many wineries don’t accept buses or limos- they don’t have the room and/or don’t want the liability).
    -And last but not least, customers need to be sensitive to the experience of others around them. Whether on the Wine Train or in a tasting room you’re “in this together.”

    Hospitality, like most everything in life, is a two way street.

  10. Great thread, Jo! Should be a “must read” for all “wine professionals”, whether in Napa or not! Interestingly, this incident just appeared in our Oregonian newspaper today, but as you can guess, it, too, spoke only to the ‘injustice’ issue — too bad!! Thanks for your always broader perspective ~

  11. Jo Diaz says:

    You’re welcome, Susanne. It’s very interesting to me that the comments are all from wine pros when know “the score.”

  12. Jo Diaz says:

    Excellent points, Alison. I’m inspired, since the comments are now already public, to create another blog tomorrow, which backs up what it’s like for people who serve wine and what our challenges are.

  13. Tom Heller says:

    The purpose of tasting rooms, bars, restaurants, and yes the wine train is to sell people wine. Too much wine, make people drunk. Drunk people can behave badly. Maybe, just maybe the wine train personnel sold these women too much wine. But isn’t that their job? The wine train has always projected a somewhat holier than thou image of “fiine dinging” , etc. To complain that the women passengers are crying foul unfairly, is absurd. This wasn’t the Tea Train or the Seltzer Train. Even the hushed dining room at the French Laundry has gotten rolicky and loud from too much over priced wine. I think the wine country hospitality needs to take a long hard look at itself, its goals, its treatment of others. Its customers

  14. Jo Diaz says:

    Tom, have you ever worked in a tasting room or at a wine event? Just wondering. It’s there that you really see consumer behavior…

    Manner are taught at home, then hospitality is more about serving people in a welcoming atmosphere, not controlling people who allow themselves to lose control. As Joan Rivers was so famous for saying… “Oh, grow up!” That’s what each of us are responsible for in life… Maturity. An industry not in the maturity business can’t teach that one. It begins at home.

  15. Tom Heller says:

    Yes Jo, I started at Ridge Vineyards in 1972 and I worked the tasting room there for three years as well becoming the winery’s first sales manager. I began my wine brokerage company in 1975 with my first clients being Tom Burgess, Warren Winieriski and Charlie Wagner. I have been to literally hundreds of wine events, from trade events I hosted, to Family Winemakers and the Wine Spectator Galas as well as the Zinfandel event at Fort Mason. I have boycotted all of these for more than a decade as they drunkfests that make Frat parties pale. These events are not really about wine tasting anymore. They are consumer trade shows that the organizers sell tables to struggling wineries eager to show their wares. Whether boycotting limos or cyclists as a means of crowd control, the purpose of these tasting rooms is to sell wine. Staff is on commission, just as food servers are in restaurants. The larger the sale, the bigger the commission, the bigger the tip. I think the “hospitality” industry in the wine country needs to grow up and be honest about the real business they are in. The consumers, whether on the wine train or the Coppola tasting room are there to have a good time. If it is their thirds stop, well you can probably sell them more wine

  16. SUE STRAIGHT says:

    Go, Jo, Go!

    I will ask anyone who is disruptive to leave my tasting room, because we are there to create an experience for EVERYONE (and sell wine), not just particular groups. I don’t care what color you are, if You are wearing Prada, if you are related to the owner – OUT!!!


  17. Jo Diaz says:


    You’re talking 40 years ago in a tasting room. Forty years ago, people weren’t climbing all over signs, the way they are now. (Go back and read how people were climbing all over the Napa sign this past weekend… I’ve been here 23 years and never seen ANYTHING like this.)

    Just as life has changes with the Internet, things have changed in tasting rooms.

    The staff I know and worked for are NOT on commission: not Hambrecht, not Mondavi, not KJ. Maybe Ridge had you on commission, but not the companies I’ve worked for, which also is Barefoot Cellars… Not tasting room, but I was a Northern California sales rep. My husband worked for two tasting rooms also, neither of which were on commission for the sales of the wine we sold. I never sold more wine on how far they had gone. In fact, the more serious wine buyers are out on Sunday, and they buy cases, because you offered them education. It has been my experience that the more wine they’ve had, the less they focus on tier pocketbooks. We both have had two completely different experiences.

  18. Tom Heller says:

    No Jo, Ridge did not pay me a commission…They didn’t want to sell wine even.. pretty funny actually. I do know many tasting rooms do pay commissions/spiffs for sales…I am blessedly mostly playing golf in a CC in Brentwood So. Cal these days. I have become equally tired of people with boorish behavior. Having said that, I find the blogosphere from the wine country response to the incident of the wine train troubling. The women on the train were not climbing on the sign on Sunday. We live in a world of entitlement everywhere, particularly in So. Cal. ” I am a very important person” or “do you know who I am”? I was never made for retail. I preferred the wholesale side of the world. But No Comment, and climbing on my Napa Valley sign are beside the point. The world has changed and your manners aren’t necessarily everyone elses.

  19. Bob Henry says:

    [Preface: I left this same comment on Tom Wark’s blog:

    http://fermentationwineblog.com/2015/08/the-napa-valley-wine-train-incident-no-comment/ ]

    Welcome to the “phenomenon . . . known as the Streisand Effect, after actress Barbra Streisand, who in 2003 sued to remove aerial images of her California home from the Internet, unwittingly spurring Internet users to find it.”

    [Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2015/08/20/u-k-wants-to-remove-links-to-stories-about-removing-links-to-stories/%5D

    Tom, I was unaware of this Wine Train incident, until your e-mail blast called attention to it.

    Excerpts from the Los Angeles Times (August 25, 2015):

    “Woman Kicked Off Napa Wine Train Says Still Humiliated Despite Apology”

    Link: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-wine-train-apology-20150825-story.html

    A member of book club made up largely of black women said Tuesday afternoon that they still feel humiliated even after the Napa Valley Wine Train issued a fuller apology Tuesday for kicking them off the train for reportedly being loud.

    . . .

    “The Napa Valley Wine Train was 100% wrong in its handling of this issue,” [chief executive, Anthony] Giaccio said in a statement. “We accept full responsibility for our failures and for the chain of events that led to this regrettable treatment of our guests.”

    The business, he said, was insensitive to the women.

    . . .

    Train officials refunded the women’s tickets, and have since invited the women, their family and friends to fill a train car. . . .

    . . .

    The book club doesn’t plan on taking up the Giaccio’s offer to ride the train again, she [Lisa Renee Johnson, a member of the Sistahs on the Reading Edge Book Club] said.

    . . .

    The women’s story came as Slate published the account of a Latina who said she and her friends, mostly Latino UC Berkeley graduates, were threatened to be kicked off a train after a noise complaint. That woman, Norma Ruiz, told Slate she also believes that the action was racially based.

    . . .

    Incidents such as the one Saturday occur about once a month, he [train spokesman Sam Singer] said. Most of the passengers who are removed from the train, he said, are white.

    Singer said the company could have handled the book club’s situation differently and that there was a breakdown in communication from the beginning.

    When booking the trip, the women told wine train workers they would be enjoying each other’s company and “we may be loud,” he said.

    From that point, he said, the workers should have taken measures to accommodate the women and seat them in an area of the train where they could enjoy the trip.

  20. Bob Henry says:


    “Let’s see them [the Media] do a story on the correct behavior when at a wine event . . .”

    As regards tasting visits to wineries by the public, already been done in the pages of The Wall Street Journal:

    “A Winery Tasting-Room Guide to Sipping and Spitting”

    Link: http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-winery-tasting-room-guide-to-sipping-and-spitting-1401469556

    ~~ Bob

  21. Charles Warner says:

    Well said, Jo.

    I believe we are also facing a cultural difference here that, in some ways, mimics racism. I live in Memphis and it is apparent every day that there are differing standards between whites and blacks as to what is appropriate behavior. I constantly notice that black women, especially when in a group, are much louder than I believe they should be, often to the extent that their behavior is disruptive. However, they do not feel their behavior is inappropriate as it is somewhat normal in their cultural milieu. So, when someone asks them to “tone it down” they become offended and, as Tom pointed out above, they often leap on the race card which is then picked up by the media as a salacious and titillating story.

    That said, it is the right of the establishment, be it a tasting room, wine train, or restaurant to enforce its rules as they see fit.

  22. Jo Diaz says:

    I agree, Charles, that when something unpleasant has occurred, it’s easy for someone to play the race card. This does come from a long history of it actually mattering. It’s also very HARD for someone to say, “I made a mistake.” It’s easier to call it something else. In this case, ignoring requests to adapt to the train’s culture, says… body language… they just didn’t care. They told one passenger, who had had enough, that it was indeed a bar. This was when the other passenger just couldn’t take it anymore.

    As it turns out, with the wine events that I produce (or the ones I attended before I became a producer), every single one of them as some issue pop up: Someone refusing to leave at the end, someone not giving a handicapped chair to someone who really needs it (when the non-handicapped person just decided to sit for the evening), anything not being nailed down is stolen… wine glasses right out of someone else’s hands; the list goes on, including overly loud people. This is done by all kinds of people, from all different ethnic backgrounds. So, in this case, knowing what I know about events and reading that they were warned three times, they just needed to play the right card… The comply one. None of this would have happened, if they had just adapted to the requests.

  23. Wine Guy says:

    Wasn’t there so I can’t know for sure what went down. But based on my Tasting Room operational experience I’m willing to bet that they came in a limo or van. That means…they might have been drinking right up to entering the Train lounge where as I recall, more wine is available as you cool you heels. All of us on the front lines know about the dreaded bachelorette invasions. Just sayn’.

  24. Jo Diaz says:

    I forgot about The Wall Street Journal story, Bob. Thanks for the memory jog.

    I’ve take it on with a story that continues to grow, every single time I relaunch it, because of it’s popularity. It was originally called, Road Warrior Survival guide. This is all of the craziness that I’ve seen at wine events, while on the road. As it turns out, it’s mostly about Anglos not being courteous. We ALL have our loud moments, especially when alcohol is involved. Road Warrior Survival Guide.

  25. Jo Diaz says:

    Bob, being in PR, I would have wanted to diffuse this ASAP, too. When someone uses the race card, it quickly becomes a slippery slope of he said, she said; and then has to work its way out in court. Even when found innocent, it drags everything out for a long time… A lot of damage happens. If judged by a jury of peers today, the media has caused a one-sided hornets’ nest, without giving any focus to the facts: They were asked three times to simmer down, because other people in that car with them had complained that their fellow passengers were just too loud. One woman even tried to take it on herself, and one member of the group has plastered her picture all over the internet. The group ignored four requests, one from the train company, and one form a fellow passenger. Then, once consequences happen, they wonder if it’s because of skin color, when asked to leave the train. In baseball, it’s three strikes you’re out. It seems to also be the wine train’s policy, as they issued a statement that this happens on occasion.

  26. Jo Diaz says:

    The commissions they get are for wine club sign ups… Future marketing. (My husband was a winery tasting room manager for a bit.)

    No, they weren’t climbing on the sign, that was someone else, proving the point that misbehaving is a norm in wine country or at wine events. Read my Road Warrior Survival Guide, for a litany of misbehavings, from consumers and the trade. Common Courtesy is really lacking, once wine is involved.

    I’m fortunate… My parents drilled manners into me, so I’m going to be about the most offensive person in the room, because I learn about courtesy a very long time ago. I’ve passed it onto my children, and they’ve passed it onto theirs. It’s about caring for others. This is a care of some people not caring about their car companions… Pure and simple.

  27. Jo Diaz says:

    Wine Guy, I wasn’t either.

    Let’s consider… when we go somewhere, where it’s more than we bargained for (like a club or a concert), we simply leave. The wine train doesn’t have “stops along the way,” and your car wouldn’t even be at every location waiting for you, either. All that was left for fellow car passengers was to tell the management, which they did. Three times, management asked the group’s offenders to settle down. Three times the directive was ignored. If I were on a jury, I’d listen to the facts and judge accordingly. The offenders would have to present evidence that they were being considerate, and other people in that car would argue that they weren’t. The evidence is there. I just had to read a lot about it, to get to the bottom and then the heart of it. It’s about being courteous.

  28. Wine Harlots says:


    Once the jury sees the Facebook post that the Wine Train published asserting that the book club was physically abusive, a libel that even the Wine Train is now agreeing is untrue, a verdict for the plaintiffs would be a slam-dunk.

    All the best,

    Nannette Eaton

  29. Jo…a thought provoking post. I agree that the women’s behavior should have been better. I know it’s a challenge to deal with individuals who’ve had too much to drink. But I don’t think it’s a simple as bad behavior by the women.

    Especially after reading, as Nanette alluded to, the NV Wine Train’s initial post about the incident (http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/black-women-%E2%80%98humiliated%E2%80%99-after-getting-kicked-off-napa-valley-wine-train/ar-BBm1EqN?ocid=ansmsnent11) where they claimed “verbal and physical abuse toward other guests and staff”…

    Discrimination is seldom blatant. More often than not, it manifests itself in insidious ways. The FB post makes me wonder how the women’s behavior was reported to the police, and perhaps how the staff responded to the situation. It’s not hard to see a peace officer responding differently to someone “who has had to much to drink” compared to someone “verbally and physically abusing” someone. The fact that it was simply untrue makes me suspect that bias/racism was a factor too.

    I’m the last person to play the race card. I never have. But I think I would be naive to believe discrimination in its many forms doesn’t exist.

    And it comes out in subtle ways. One might describe what is essentially the same behavior in a different way depending on whether they’re describing a person that looks like they do or holds the same beliefs, and an individual who does not.

    My .02

  30. Jo Diaz says:

    Wine Harlots, I saw that one too, and thought to myself, “Whomever felt abused must come forward.” I wasn’t there. I can’t judge it one way of the other. I’m sure there wasn’t a kerfuffle, but something did happen. I wonder what it was.

  31. Jo Diaz says:

    Martin, being in a very blended family, I’ve felt the sting more than once, of subtleties. And, the FBI had to be called in when there were death threats to our safety. I, like you, don’t think that way, but I do “things” on occasion.

    As someone who also puts on events, every single one of them, there is always someone or some party that I’d either like to eject, or have ejected. Wine loosens people’s inhibitions.

    There’s also a course I wish everyone in the world would take: The Psychology of Interpersonal Relationships. We can’t change others, we can only change ourselves, but that does have a rippling effect. If, when asked to pipe down (which was subliminal for – you’re not the only ones on this car), they had brought it down – out of respect for other human being present, none of this would have happened. They let the genie out of the box, demonstrating a laissez faire attitude, and then were shocked with the outcome. How many kids are sent tot heir rooms or given a time out for not “listening.”

    Thanks for your .02. It’s always appreciated.

  32. Randy Caparoso says:

    My other immediate thought: how stupid can the owners and/or managers of Napa Valley Train be? You simply don’t squeeze parties of that size in the same car as smaller parties, serve them wine, encourage them to have a good time, and then punish them for doing it. As a business, I don’t blame them for wanting to host large parties. But if you’re going to do it, you do it with some crafty planning — give the large parties some space, and make sure smaller parties seated nearby are okay with this… and if not, do everyone a favor and move the smaller parties elsewhere.

    It is, as you mentioned, just like managing tasting rooms: if you are not capable of handling large parties, then it’s better not to have them. But you don’t invite them in and kick them out later. The fact that this was a book club consisting of African-American women only compounded the problem. Ultimately, Napa Valley Wine Train has only themselves to blame for this. It’s shameful how these women were treated in this totally avoidable, and very badly handled, event.

  33. Jo Diaz says:

    The Wine Train, like a tasting room, has to ask people to leave on occasion. We have NO IDEA ahead of time what we’re getting into, Randy. I just had to finally, after three warnings, forcefully tell someone that she HAD to leave. I never saw that one coming, but I had to act, based on the performance of the person. This was a standing annual event for this book club… Many years of just being there. Who knew it would become what is was. I’m going to bring you to my events, and let you make decisions for who goes and who stays… You’ll see it from a different set of eye, I’m quite sure of it. Read my blog for today, with the industry pros who work with the public completely supporting the decision of the wine train personnel.

  34. Randy Caparoso says:

    As you know, Jo, I was in the restaurant business for over 25 years, mostly as a manager and/or part-owner. This means managing dining rooms with parties of 1 to over 100. I have *never* had to ask a party to leave because of excessive laughter or chatter; and believe you me, people have tons of fun, fueled by wine, liquor and conversation, in restaurants. The restaurant business is a business of expecting anythingn to happen — especially, as one of my mentors often told me, the “unexpected.”

    And so, to me, there are no excuses. I put the onus squarely on the shoulders of the Wine Train. When you are seating in small cars, you plan ahead. Having “no idea ahead of time” what’s going to happen? Well, I can see this if you have zero experience in managing dining rooms or train cars. Yeah, then it’s unexpected. But anyone with any modicum of experience knows better — large parties (no matter what color of skin, of course) do not “play well” next to small parties. It’s really that simple.

    As a business, you want want any kind of party — big, small, in-between. It’s not smart to turn away business because you don’t know how to manage them. That’s the best way to go out of business. If a restaurant, or a business like the Wine Train, is not smart enough to figure these basic things out, then they probably deserve the blowback they are getting.

  35. Richard says:

    Jo, on the one hand, I agree with your comments, on the other, I don’t. As many others have said, racism abounds everywhere in many forms; bias abounds everywhere in many forms – and neither is always blatantly obvious – in most, if not many instances, it is certainly couched as “something else” or even covert.

    I speak from experience – I am a “person of color” – part Native, part Spanish, part white, and part black. Most of what I have experienced is bias and/or fear rather than outright racism. On the few occasions I have experienced racism (of course this is my perception) it has either been from hayseed rednecks or from wealthy whites. I think most people might expect the former but be surprised at the latter.

    So, my question is, particularly as others have commented – given the tweets from the Napa Wine Train immediately after the event – was it racism? was it bias? or was it fear? Sometime the simple factor of fear can fuel a problem – fear of “otherness;” fear of job loss? and it very often comes across as race or bias. Is this what happened on the wine train? Since we were not there, we will never know… only the Napa Wine Train employee who kicked the women from the train knows is he did it because he is racist? perhaps s/he feared for his/her job? and that the others on the train would complain that “s/he did nothing!” if there were complaints? Again, we will never know.

    Unfortunately, in today’s highly charged 24 hour news cycle, the truth will likely never be discovered – though whether at fault or not, the employee and the Napa Wine Train will suffer; the women kicked from the train will never get over the ordeal; and everyone will be unhappy and left with a bitter taste. So, whether the Napa Wine Train is guilty or not, they certainly bear the burden for “perception.” Whether they did anything wrong or not, the perception of the women is that it was racism. And, while I am suffering from bias in saying this, I agree with the women. Perception is reality in today’s world.

    Last, before you ask, yes, I am quite familiar with serving wine to people – have done so on numerous occasions and have had to deal with both the boisterous, obnoxious, and the drunk(s). However, I had both eyes wide open – as should have the Napa Wine Train. They knew the women were there to have a good time and should have prepared appropriately.

    Having said the above, I applaud you for having the courage to put in your two cents – others should be shunned for there inability to comment or take a stand one way or the other… Think someone alluded to this comment or even said it – but “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing…” And while I am not equating this with evil per se, certainly if it was racism, it was evil. If it wasn’t racism, then we, as a society need to reach a point where we can discuss it openly and without bias and get to the truth, which, as I said, may never be known in this case.

  36. Jo Diaz says:

    Excellent points, Richard. As I’ve just written to Judy:

    “Neither of us was there, but I also just had to eject a person from a private party that I had put on, because she didn’t have the courtesy to leave… [This was only a few weeks ago.]

    “The party was over at 4:00 p.m. I suggested at 6:30 p.m. that it was over. I suggested at 7:30 p.m. that it was over. I suggested at 8:30 p.m. that it was over – and everyone invited was long gone. Finally, at 9:00 p.m., I said, “It’s time for us to leave, and that means you, too, NAME.” (I have witnesses, which would be the land owners.) She wasn’t happy, but finally left. Sometimes, when people are told three times to change a behavior, they just don’t get it and get wrapped up in their own little worlds.

    “Furthermore, there were people of color at my event. It happened to be someone Anglo that was told to leave after three strong hints that the party was over.”

    Also, I wrote: “I’m very clear there are racial issues every day in the media and life, and I know full well that they exist. There are four generations of color in my family that I love dearly and nurture. We all simmer down when told to…”

    As someone of color, I applaud your ability to see all issues. The wine train has also stated that this happens a few times each month. This group was told THREE times to simmer down. I don’t get – like the person I had to also eject – why couldn’t the first, second, and third times be enough hints? Why did it have to get to being ejected? The only answer I can come up with is just common courtesy, which is color neutral.

    So, having just had the same thing done to me, I get that a straw broke the camel’s back. I can’t see it any other way… it’s just common courtesy. My family has a lot of courtesy, and we’re pretty blended at this point, from Black to Anglo. We just try to be considerate.

    Thanks for weighing in. You’ve said it perfectly: “I applaud you for having the courage to put in your two cents – others should be shunned for there inability to comment or take a stand one way or the other… Think someone alluded to this comment or even said it – but ‘the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing…’ And while I am not equating this with evil per se, certainly if it was racism, it was evil. If it wasn’t racism, then we, as a society need to reach a point where we can discuss it openly and without bias and get to the truth, which, as I said, may never be known in this case.”

  37. Jo Diaz says:

    I agree, Randy, don’t mix a large group into small ones. That needs to be addressed. This group did have history and it would appear that a problem never existed before. But, I’d want to manage that better. I had large parties that would come to Dark & Delicious, and because we had a lounge for people to stop and rest, I had to PULL the lounge, because people began to arrive early and hosey the seats for the entire evening. Because they were selfish, I pulled the entire lounge. I should have sold VIP entrance, but was infuriated with their lack of consideration.

    Read about my having to eject someone from an event I just had. It parallels The Wine Train’s one; except that it was an Anglo person. Courtesy isn’t a racial issue. It’s pervasive.


    “…but I also just had to eject a person from a private party that I had put on, because she didn’t have the courtesy to leave…

    “The party was over at 4:00 p.m. I suggested at 6:30 p.m. that it was over. I suggested at 7:30 p.m. that it was over. I suggested at 8:30 p.m. that it was over – and everyone invited was long gone. Finally, at 9:00 p.m., I said, “It’s time for us to leave, and that means you, too, NAME.” (I have witnesses, which would be the land owners.) She wasn’t happy, but finally left. Sometimes, when people are told three times to change a behavior, they just don’t get it and get wrapped up in their own little worlds.

    “Furthermore, there were people of color at my event. It happened to be someone Anglo that was told to leave after three strong hints that the party was over.”

    Courtesy, that’s the crux…

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