So you’ve got some free time coming up and would like to visit a winery? That’s terrific! Wineries love having guests stop by for wine tasting. It’s a great way to get a feel for the winery, in general, and see if you like their wines. A discount wine merchant might have great prices on your favorite wine, but (in my humble opinion) there’s nothing like visiting that winery to give you a true appreciation of everything it has to offer.
I don’t know of any winery that will have all their wines available at a distributor… the idea is to get you to try a wine and enjoy it enough to want to come in for a wine tasting. It’s not any sort of “Bait and Switch”… it’s simply a way for wineries to expose their wines to the public. Wineries still have the wines you enjoyed through a distributor, but there are so many others that it allows you to hone in and find that wine that “sings” for you… makes you smile from first sniff to last drop.
When you make the decision to visit a winery, do a little research before you arrive if you’re able. Check out their Hours of Operation… check out their Tasting Cost… make sure you have driving directions to the winery programmed into your phone or GPS… and make sure you have their phone number in case you get lost. If you’re visiting a Virginia Winery, there are many helpful apps I’ve found, but none more helpful than Virginia Wine In My Pocket (I know… Shameless plug, but I use this app ALL the time!). It’s the best $3.99 you’ll ever spend on an iPhone or Droid app (again, IMHO). Look it up… if you don’t like it, feel free to leave a comment and tell me why.
The day of your winery visit, don’t wear perfume or cologne. This may seem like a silly comment, but the scent you wear could very well affect the way the wine tastes to you. It can also effect the way the wine tastes to others, so please consider refraining from splashing that cologne or spritzing that favorite scent. Remember, your favorite scent may change and if you’d linked it to a wine at your tasting, the taste of the wine could seem “off” the next time you partake…
Bring water and bread, especially if you’re planning to visit more than one winery that day. Water will help keep you cool and hydrated and the bread will help to soak up the alcohol that you’re drinking so you don’t feel quite so intoxicated, especially if you’re going from winery to winery. It’s not going to make you any less drunk, so don’t use this suggestion as your way to keep wine from affecting you.
BRING YOUR ID. It doesn’t matter how old you are; ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Controls) requires (in my own paraphrasing) that you have your ID with you if you are going to consume alcohol. Not all wineries will ask or require that you have your ID on your person, but come prepared. This law was driven home to me when I attended a company holiday party a few years ago at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and was NOT allowed to drink because I’d neglected to bring my driver’s license. If a winery requires everyone show their ID, then it’s helpful if you come prepared.
Once you get to the winery, turn OFF your cell phone and pay attention to the person who is guiding your wine tasting. In most cases, you will be learning a great deal about the wines at each winery. Take advantage of this attention and ASK QUESTIONS about the wines. The only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask….
Take your time to taste each wine but be mindful of your surroundings. If you arrive at a winery in the middle of a rush and have a large group of people behind you, please be considerate of their time (as others were when you arrived) and pay attention during your wine tasting. Everyone wants to have time to savor each wine at a wine tasting and those pouring your wines want you to enjoy your visit as much as possible. If you’ve finished your wine tasting, but haven’t decided what you want to purchase or drink, be considerate and take a step back so that others can take your place at the bar and enjoy their own wine tasting experience. It’s The Golden Rule.. do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Do tell others about your experience at wineries. Word of mouth is so important to small businesses and if you’ve had a great experience at a winery, let everyone know about it! Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and (yes, again) Virginia Wine in my Pocket are terrific avenues for sharing your experience. Additionally, if you didn’t enjoy your tasting at a winery, consider sending them a private message and let them know how they can do a better job at reaching their customers. Whether good or bad, YOUR opinion matters in this industry and you should always feel that you have an avenue for voicing concerns and raising issues if a visit doesn’t go as you expected. Maybe the winery was overwhelmed by visitors and events that day… maybe the volunteer doing your tasting wasn’t yet comfortable with the volume of wines they were describing… maybe it was pouring outside and stuffy in the tasting room, or too crowded, or too cold. Whatever the case, share your opinions. It might change how things are done or handled in the future.
ENJOY YOURSELF! Ultimately, you’re at the winery because you want to try the wines they offer. Have a good time, chat with the people who are pouring your wines, and relax. It’s not rocket science… it’s WINE!