Now that you’ve made the decision to go wine tasting, and chosen the wine region you are going to visit, it’s time to narrow the search down to five or six tasting rooms. There are three main factors you will want to keep in mind as you do the research – first of which is: who’s open when you will be there? Also, what wines do they have available, and are they in a price point you are comfortable with.
If you are going wine tasting on a Friday or a weekend day, you will likely have a plethora of wine tasting room options to visit. Going wine tasting during the week, Monday through Thursday, the number of open wine tasting rooms could be significantly fewer. Obviously, the day of the week will impact your options. One factor that can make the weekday tasting a positive experience is that you will likely have a more relaxed tasting and get a better feel for the property, the staff and the wines. Be sure to check the hours of operation via several routes – check the website or publication for hours of operation. Back that up with a phone call to be sure there have been no changes between publication and your chosen day. This is especially important if you will be traveling some distance to get there.
While you are on their website, be sure to also browse their line up of wines. This step should give you an idea of what kinds of wines they have, how much they retail for and may even have tasting notes. If the wine tasting experience is new to you and you are just beginning to learn what wines you like, look for a variety of wines available. This will offer you the possibility of variation to learn more accurately where your tastes lie. On the other hand, if you know you only like white wines or sweet wines or absolutely refuse to drink zinfandel, you will be able to add or cross off a given winery from that day’s agenda. Not a lot of point in going to a wine tasting room that offers nothing that interest you. On that note, however, isn’t that part of the appeal of wine tasting? You get to discover new wines for a rather small investment, and sometimes you might surprise yourself by liking wines you didn’t even know were out there!
When considering the retail prices of a winery’s wines, pay attention, too, to the pricing structure of tasting a wine flight. Many wine tasting rooms charge a nominal fee to taste a flight of wines. Some refund or waive the fee if you make a purchase of a bottle of wine. Others do not. It’s helpful to know this as you plan your agenda. The price of the tasting fee, the number of wines you get to sample and the price of a bottle should be in line with each other. Remember, the winery makes no money if you do not purchase wine. Once a bottle is opened to pour you a sample, it cannot be recorked and sold – it has been taken out of inventory. Even if no-one else visits them that day, that bottle is gone. They do not charge a fee just to gouge the customer. It’s a good practice to purchase at least one bottle, unless, of course, you really didn’t like anything!
Once you have determined which tasting rooms you will visiting, plan the route so it makes sense. You will waste a lot of time driving around when you could be tasting if you bounce all over the map. Pick the one wine tasting room that interests you the most and make that your starting point. Why? Because at each tasting room, you should engage in conversation with your pourer. They are not only there to pour their wines for you. As well as being on hand to educate you about their wine, and wines in general, they are your greatest source for information about the region. Ask for a recommendation on who else they think you should visit, and why. If you get the same recommendation more than once, add that to your list if it wasn’t already there. If the winery being referred to is not open that day, you might call to see if they are available for an appointment, or just plan a return visit to see them on a normal business day.
You are now ready to get out there and do some wine tasting! You’ve not only picked the region, but you also know which specific wineries you want to visit. What’s next? We’ll explore the steps needed to have the best day in the next article.