Aug 17, 2016
It’s enough to scare off a casual connoisseur and perhaps provide a level of intimidation to exploring wine among experts at winery tasting rooms the world around. We’re here to tell you that most wine drinkers are a welcoming bunch, and there’s not better place to explore a new varietal and learn from an expert than the source.
Here’s how to act like you belong (and maximize your trip) during your next tasting room visit:
Don’t Try Too Hard
You either know a lot about wine or you don’t, and it really doesn't matter. There’s a good chance the person who works for the winery has more knowledge about the topic and would love to share with you. So pepper the tasting room staff with questions about what you are tasting, why it tastes like that (the winemaking and vineyard processes), and general wine information. They love to interact! Take advantage!
Buy a Bottle
There used to be a time that tasting at tasting rooms was free. It was a simple way to entice people to come in, explore a few wines, and sell them a few bottles. Smart business. However, in the age of mass touring companies chewing up the Napa highways and everywhere in between, wineries have mostly shifted to charging for the tastings. Wineries, especially the small ones, are not getting rich off this fee. They are simply covering costs. They still need you to buy a bottle to stay in business. So if you have a good time and think the juice is decent, always buy a bottle (and you’ll likely get your tasting fee refunded). If you love the wine, buy a case or join the wine club.
Learn How to Taste
There’s a reason people sniff, swirl, swoosh, and sip wine. There are so many complexities to the taste and aromas of wine, and these actions release them. People who work at wineries do this every day. And they’d like nothing more than to teach you the basics so you love their wines as much as they do.
Spit (at least a few times)
Wine tastings are not meant to be drunk fests. It’s ok to spit out some of your samples, especially if you are planning on hitting several tasting rooms in the same day. Sobriety is not a bad thing. Save inebriation for a bar later in the evening. Also plan ahead with safe transportation.
Be Honest: It’s OK Not to Like a Wine
Not every bottle will hit your palate right. It’s fine if you don’t like a wine. It’s even OK to tell the person behind the bar that it’s not your favorite. Even better: Tell them why (too fruity, dry, sweet, acidic) so they can better assist you in finding the right one for you. Just be respectful.
Drink Water and Eat Something
Water and food will go a long way to ensuring you last the whole day tasting if several stops are on the itinerary. Many tasting rooms offer snacks. If you are unsure if there will be food options along the way, pack a picnic. There’s nothing better than a lunchtime picnic on the grounds of a winery with a bottle of wine to enjoy the beauty.
Most importantly, just have a good time. Wine is an experience, and if you take it too seriously you'll miss out on the laughs, the scenery, and the people that make it taste so good!
Wineries to Visit
Conway Family Wines (Santa Barbara, Ca.)
A picturesque tasting room on the ocean is stuff dreams are made of. This tasting room is technically over the Pacific making it a must stop while in Santa Barbara. Conway’s tasting room is located on Stearns Wharf, setting up one of the most beautiful wine experiences on the planet. This family run operation features a wide selection of wines curated from the Santa Barbara County appellation. Good juice. Great view.
Bookcliff Vineyards (Boulder, Co.)
This boutique winery located in beautiful Boulder, Co., emphasizes how good Colorado wine can be. In fact, it’s Ensemble blend just took home top honors as the best overall wine in the state (2016). The tasting room is located in an industrial center, and can be coupled with a stop next door to Settembre Cellars for a full afternoon Colorado wine experience. Try the Cab Franc.
Ojai Vineyard (Ojai, Ca.)
One of the most interesting aspects of this tasting room stop is the ability to drink older wines. Ojai holds back vintages — often 10 or more years old — to allow the chance to take a step back in time to understand the complexities of aging. These library wines are always available for purchase, and if you happen in at the right time, one or two might be open for tasting. Plus, the tasting room is drop-dead gorgeous; a mix of old and new that will pull you in.
Fidelitas Wines (Woodenville and Red Mountain, Wa.)
This standout Washington winery brings the juice to the people with a popular tasting room in Woodenville, just minutes from the heart of Seattle. Or, if you want a true vineyard experience, its Red Mountain AVA facility will bring you straight to the vineyards. Either way, enjoy beautiful tasting rooms alongside beautiful Bordeaux-inspired wines.