Summer travel plans are well under way, and wine country vacations are easier than ever to plan now that almost every state has at least one winery. Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of a winery visit.
Plan ahead, as many wineries are “by appointment only.” Consider booking as few as one or two wineries a day — rushing around will detract from your experience. Keep in mind that smaller wineries may limit their tasting-room hours. Call ahead or check websites. Also, get in touch with state tourism offices for brochures and maps of the area you’re visiting.
An important tip is remembering that the tasting room is not a bar. Asking for a larger pour is poor tasting-room etiquette. If you find a wine you enjoy, buy a bottle and grab a picnic lunch. Many wineries have beautiful picnic grounds where you can slow down, relax and take in your wine region experience.
Hire a driver or have a designated driver. You are only being poured a “taste” at the winery, but keep in mind that such tastings add up by the end of the day. If your travel budget can afford it, hire a driver, join a local tour or use a shuttle service. Look for services that will pick up and return you to your hotel.
Don’t ignore the local products. There’s no need to taste chardonnay in every state in the U.S. Instead, explore grapes specifically suitable for the region’s growing conditions. If you stick with only familiar grapes or your favorites, you may miss out on excellent regional specialties.
It’s OK to spit. Don’t be intimidated — use the dump bucket. If your style is to explore fast and furiously as many samples as possible, then get to know the spittoon. Tasting the wine and pouring the remainder into the bucket is good etiquette and smart.
Ask questions and take notes. Tasting-room employees are not just there to pour wines but to answer questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and add to your knowledge of grape growing and winemaking.
After a few days of wine tasting, you may find yourself overwhelmed trying to remember exactly which vineyards and wines were ones to remember. Don’t worry about fancy details or notes. Just a few words jotted down on the winery business card can later jog your memory.