Wine is produced in each and every one of the 50 United States. So, as wine making and wine tasting become more popular in the U.S., and wine regions continue to expand faster than my waistline, more and more of us have the unique opportunity to sample the wine bounty than ever before. If you’re planning to visit tasting rooms in Wine Country, USA anytime soon, there are a few things you should know to help make the most out of your experience.
1. Limit the number of wineries you plan to visit to three or four. It’s tempting to try to taste as much as you can, and to try and stop at every winery you pass by. But squeezing too many visits into one day not only limits your overall experience, it just might ruin it. Take your time, sit on the decks and soak up the view, walk the grounds, the vineyards or the cellar if permitted. Talk to the tasting room staff or the winemaker, if they’re around; they usually love to share their knowledge about wine and their personal stories with those who show interest.
2. Avoid wearing perfumes, colognes, heavily scented body/hair products and lipstick. Strong chemical aromas will mask or even alter both the aromas and the flavors of the wine… not only for you, but also for wine drinkers around you, so be considerate. Lipstick will immediately turn your pourer off. One look at you and all they can think about is the extra time and effort it will take to wash and buff your glass special so the next guest isn’t wearing your lipstick too.
3. Don't chew gum. It’s not school, but you’re there to taste, so that's all I have to say about that.
4. Leave the kids and dogs at home. It's not fun for children shadowing their parents all day as they drive from winery to winery, and no, tasting room employees don’t double as babysitters and won’t entertain them. So, while it sounds like Fluffy would have lots of grounds to roam, vineyards to explore and moles to chase, most wineries don’t allow pets on the property (as they often have their own). Exception to the rule: Do your research first and select one winery with picnic grounds and an outdoor activity like bocce ball, horseshoes or disc golf to keep the kids busy while you sip away (but still leave the dogs at home).
5. Be prepared to spend a little cash (or to swipe the plastic). Once upon a time, wine tasting was a free activity, but like my youth, those days are long gone. If you’re prepared to spend roughly $10 per person at each winery, you won't have any disappointing surprises. You're not obligated to buy anything, but tasting rooms are actually in business to sell wine. So, if you like something or enjoyed your experience, take home a bottle and take home the memory. Some wineries will even waive the tasting fees with purchase.
6. A little preparation goes a long way. Have a cooler on hand to store your purchases. It can get quite warm in the car while touring the countryside (think sauna). You'll want to protect the precious bottles of wine you bring home. Nothing will ruin your day faster than an expensive bottle of cooked wine.
7. Bring a lunch, buy a bottle and stay awhile. It’s not speed dating for wine—no need to rush off to the next. Pull up a chair and watch the grapes ripen. Slowing down never felt so good.
8. Remember the five S’s: swirl, sniff, sip, savor and spit.
9. Yes, it's OK to spit and dump, in fact, please do! Spit buckets are conveniently located on every tasting room bar (or you can ask for your own cup to be more discreet). Though spitting can be awkward and perhaps even messy for novice wine tasters, a little backsplash is much more desirable than a stumbling drunk. It might seem wasteful and perhaps even rude, but the best option (if you’re not driving) is to have a small taste of everything you’re poured and then dump the remaining wine instead of drinking the whole glass.
10. Keep in mind you’re a guest on someone else’s property. Wineries can be a dangerous place if you wander where you shouldn't go (remember Agustus Glup in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?). Wineries are often family businesses with the family living on the grounds, so don't open closed doors and always be respectful. Wine can be an aphrodesiac, but wait till you get home (or at least until off winery grounds) to take your clothes off. Many wineries actually have cameras in place, and the staff (while having great stories to tell for months) really don’t enjoy having to chase half-naked (and fully naked) people off the grounds… and yes, I do speak from experience.
Wine tasting is a fun activity and whether or not you follow these simple suggestions, you’re on your way to creating memories to last a lifetime. These tips will ensure a successful and embarrassment–free tasting experience. So, now that you now how to do it, all you need to is get out there and taste, enjoy!