Wine 101 – Tasting at a Winery

by on March 1, 2012

You could probably learn everything you ever need to know about wine without ever stepping into a winery.  But that wouldn’t be very much fun, now would it?

Visiting wineries to go wine tasting can be incredibly fun, informative, and even motivating (if you ever need more motivation to learn about or drink wine).  Here’s what you need to know before you visit.

Plan your trip

You could get by without planning at all, but a bit of foresight will make the day much more enjoyable.  Some wineries are closed several days a week, and some wineries require an appointment no matter when you’re going.  Some wineries don’t have tasting rooms at all.  For multiple reasons, it makes sense to call ahead and make sure that they can accommodate you and whomever else you’re dragging along.

Read a few reviews, too, or else ask someone who’s been before.  Maybe a certain winery gets really crowded on certain days, so you’d be better off going there early or skipping it altogether.

What to expect when you get there

If you were going to dinner at 2 different people’s houses, you wouldn’t necessarily expect the look, feel, or atmosphere to be the same at both dinners.  Wineries are no different.  They vary greatly in terms of size, atmosphere, and personality.  The only real way to get to know a winery is to visit and talk to the owners and people who are working there.  Most of the time, they’ll be very nice and very helpful, telling you everything you’d want to know about their winery, their wines, and even their wine-making processes.

In terms of tasting fees, most wineries charge for tastings now.  Prices are typically $5-15, but they can go higher.  Always ask when you call to plan your visit.  In addition, many wineries will often refund your tasting fee if you buy a bottle while you’re there.  Don’t feel obligated to buy anything, although if you do like the winery and the wine, then it’s always nice to support them.  Remember, they’re a small business just like any other.

The process of tasting is pretty straight-forward.  You tell them that you want to do a tasting, and they’ll pour you a glass of wine.  Once you’re done with that one (either you drank it all or else you poured it into the bucket), they’ll pour you a second glass.  A typical tasting might be 5 or 6 wines, but this also varies from winery to winery.  Depending on how busy they are, the people pouring will usually talk to you about the wines and answer any questions you have.

Why go tasting

Personally, I forget that anyone even questions the reason for going wine tasting, but here it is: FUN.  Don’t misunderstand – you learn a lot, you discover great new wines, and you interact with some really cool people.  However, the day ends up being a lot more fun when you’re tasting wine.  I personally don’t need much more reason than that.  That said, you often won’t discover many of the smaller wineries and producers unless you go tasting, since they’re not typically carried by larger stores.

Tip:  Hire someone to drive you around.  If you’re going tasting for an entire day, and if you can at all afford it, hire someone to drive you around.  It really makes it a lot easier to have a great time, since you don’t have to worry about whether you’ve had a bit too much to drive.

If you’re on the fence at all about spending a day wine-tasting at your local wineries, then DO IT.  You will develop a new appreciation for wine and for the people involved in creating it.  And if I forgot to mention it, you’ll have a LOT OF FUN!

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