The first few trips to a wine region can be overwhelming. Established AVAs typically have hundreds, if not thousands, of wineries operating within their boundaries. But wine tasting trips can also be the best way to gain real insight into a wine region. Tasting many wines produced within a single region gives enthusiasts the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the terrior, compare micro-climates, have in-depth conversations with staff and winemakers, and develop a deeper understanding of the unique benefits and challenges of growing wine in that region. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve gathered from my own tasting trip experiences:

1) Don’t feel like you have to drink the whole pour. That’s why they have dump buckets! Some tasting rooms are pretty generous with their pours. If you have several wines to get through at each winery, you’ll be drunk before you know it. This also dulls the palette, so you won’t be able to tell whether you really like the wines or not. Personally, I only take more than one sip of a wine if I’m pretty interested in buying it and I generally spit out my tastes to prevent fatigue. Spitting out your tastes is not at all rude, but a lot of novice tasters have a hard time with the idea of it and I generally don’t see it happen much among tasting room guests. If you’re uncomfortable spitting out your tastes, definitely limit your sips and dump the excess. 

2) Save money by sharing tastings. If you’re going with a close friend or significant other, consider sharing your tastings to save money and drink less. Tasting rooms are very supportive of responsible consumption, so I’ve never encountered any attitude or issue when ordering a single tasting for two people. Some wineries offer free tastings, some charge but reimburse the fee if you buy their wines, others charge a tasting fee whether you buy or not. Whichever rule you encounter on your first stop will generally be the prevailing rule at all wineries in that area. 

3) Don’t feel obliged to buy. Remember that you’re not obligated to buy wine at every stop. Especially at those wineries that reimburse your tasting fee with the purchase of a bottle. The wines are generally going to show best in the tasting room. As impartial as even experienced wine enthusiasts try to be, you can’t help letting the atmosphere, friendly staff, glowing descriptions of the wine, and the fact that you’re on vacation in a beautiful setting cast at least a small bias over your judgment.  So, if you’re not in love with any of the wines, don’t buy them. A $15 tasting fee and leaving a winery empty handed is still cheaper and less disappointing than getting a $35 bottle all the way home and finding out you really don’t care for it.

4) Ask for recommendations. Deciding which wineries to visit can be daunting, especially when you don’t know anything about the region and the winery names aren’t familiar. I encourage people to visit the unfamiliar places (it’s not that exciting to go taste wines you buy at home all the time). But, when you stumble on a winery you like a lot, ask the tasting room staff for other recommendations in the area as they’re likely to point you towards wineries that craft wines of a similar style.

5) Mix in other activities & attractions. Wine regions tend to also have some great restaurants and other artisanal products. A nice lunch or a cheese tasting at a local creamery can stave off palette fatigue. 

6) Take your time and start early. Tasting rooms open as early as 10am, which sounds early for an alcoholic drink, but if you break up the day with other activities, get into some conversations with tasting room staff, and like to take pictures, the time can slip by rather quickly.

7) Visit wineries of different sizes. Try to take a tour at a large production winery and a smaller one. It’s interesting to see how the winemaking process is scaled.


Like this article? Read Angelique's other article, "How California Turned Me into a Wino."

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