Wine travel is growing in every market, and any fledgling wine lover should take the logical step and go on a wine tour.
Assuming you’re a wine tour virgin, it might seem daunting knowing what to expect on your very first wine tour, or even if you’re a seasoned winery visitor, sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of what to expect and how to plan.
We have put together a few suggestions (with the help of wine GIFs) to make your next wine tour your best wine tour!
- Book in advance – Last minute enquiries can lead to disappointment! Wineries have limited availability, so if you’ve got your heart set on a particular winery and/or wine tour, it’s best to book at ahead.
If it’s peak season or you are arriving by Cruise Ship, we recommend 6 months ahead to ensure you can get the tour you want.
2. Get an early start to avoid the crowds – It’s been said that if you don’t get an early start (especially on weekends) not only will you lose time, but there will also be more people around distracting winemakers and owners from giving you the one-on-one attention you want!
3. Spit or Swallow? Isn’t this what’s on everyone’s mind at a wine tasting? Well the answer is… it’s up to you, so don’t be afraid to do either. (Of course, if you’re going to spit, please use the spittoons!) If you’re not enjoying a wine, or just don’t fancy drinking the rest of it, don’t feel obliged to finish it – this is the only time in your life where spitting will be socially acceptable. And if you love a wine, it’s all yours to drink – you’ve paid for this tasting after all. Whatever you do, remember to pace yourself especially if you’ve got an all-day wine tasting event planned.
5. Size doesn’t matter – Contrary to popular opinion, size isn’t everything; especially when it comes to wineries. Often, it’s the largest wineries which are the busiest and least personal, thankfully our wineries are not huge, but large enough to be of interest.
Some of our favorite boutique wineries are XXXXXXXX and XXXXXX in XXXXX who offer relaxed visits, fun tastings and tours and even meetings with the winemakers.
6. Eat like a local – Always book in lunch between winery visits. Not only is it wise to line the stomach whilst drinking, but it’s also a fantastic way to sample the local dishes. Some wineries even have on-site restaurants in the middle of the vines and take careful consideration into planning a menu that matches perfectly with their wines. In our minds, this is an absolute winner. One of our favorite experiences is this Raplple Dapple during which you’ll be treated to a 5-course paired with local wines!
7. It doesn’t have to cost the world – It’s an easy misconception to think that wine travel will burn a big hole in your wallet, but this needn’t be the case. Wine tours should be fun, educational and filled with the best of memories – don’t miss out because of a seemingly steep price-tag. Try our tight ass tour for a low-cost day out in my back yard where the most renowned wine region is nowhere to be found.
8. The kids are alright – Surprisingly, wineries can make for a great family day out. You should always check whether wineries host children, but many are very family-friendly (especially in California). Lots of wineries offer family-oriented activities and workshops as well as grape juice tasting for the kids.
9. To buy or not to buy – A recent survey said that 88% of people will buy wine from a winery, but that doesn’t mean you should feel obliged to buy anything – you’re there for a tasting, which means you do just that. If you don’t like what you try, then don’t buy; if you love the wine then we recommend taking a bottle or two home with you.
10. Know how long to go for – We offer 1/2-day, full day and multi day tours. The things to consider are firstly how much time you want to spend and how much of a place do you want to see, Wineries can be combined with Distillery tours or any of our other tours
11. Know what kind of wine you like – You should always have an answer ready to the question, “What sort of wine do you like?” You don’t have to get too specific, but if you can provide your host with any information (even if all you can say is that you like dry wines), that will be a good starting point for them to be able to recommend you towards something best suited to your palate… and if in doubt, don’t be afraid to try something new.
12. Remember where you are – It’s easy to forget that you’re in a winery for a wine tasting and some people switch into the mindset of being at a bar or pub. Remember that you’re not, so be respectful to your hosts and other tasters.
Bonus tip: whatever you do, do NOT drink wine from the bottle.
- Have an answer to the question, “What kind of wine do
you like?” Many people who aren’t totally comfortable with wine find it
hard to answer on the spot. Think about saying something like, “I enjoy
all kinds of wines. Which would you start with?”
- Keep wines out of the hot car. The trunk is no place for your treasures.
· Related How-Tos
There has never been a better time to go visit a winery near you. All over the U.S., more wineries than ever are open and eager for you to drop by. Many of them plan special events during the summer and entire regions now are heavily promoting their wine trails.
Winemakers and winery owners are among the world’s most charming and interesting people, and they often give away samples of their art for free. Why wouldn’t you go? If you do, here are some tips on how to visit wineries, with some suggestions for winery etiquette.
1. Get an empty box for wine. Grab one at your local wine store or think about buying a Styrofoam wine carrier from the shipping store. Trust us on this. You are going to start buying bottles of wine that will rattle around in your car unless you’ve brought a box. You’ll thank us for this advice when your box is full (and this might have an added benefit; see below).
3. Take the kids, but, if you do, find something for them to do. Wine regions are very pretty in the on season, so green and lush, and winery people are nice, so it’s a shame for children to miss the experience. But tasting rooms can be boring for children, so ask right away if there are cookies or crackers, animals to play with or anything else for kids to do. Some, though not nearly enough, have basketball nets, bocce courts, coloring books or Play-Doh. Take along a Rubik’s Cube, which did the trick for our kids for a while.
4. Go early, especially on weekends. The thing that’s the most fun about a winery visit is chatting with the people behind the bar, who are often the owners or winemakers, especially at smaller wineries. They won’t have time to talk with you when it’s busy.
5. Be polite. Yes, this seems obvious, but we’ve visited hundreds of tasting rooms over more than 30 years and we’re always amazed how rude people can be. In a smaller winery, you are likely to be in part of someone’s home and possibly talking to the owner. And you’re probably getting wine free, or for a small charge. Be nice and show them the respect they deserve.
6. Try new, unfamiliar things. In many parts of the country, the grapes that grow best are native American grapes or hybrids. Perhaps the winery makes a Chardonnay, but it’s not as good as its Vignoles. If you stick to grapes you know, you could miss out on the regional specialties.
7. Have an answer to the question, “What kind of wine do you like?” Tasting-room personnel tend to ask this reflexively as an ice-breaker, but many people who aren’t totally comfortable with wine find it hard to answer on the spot. In any event, we’d be hesitant to answer it directly because we don’t want to try only the kinds of wines, we already know we like. Even if you think you only like dry wines, you should try some that are sweet, and vice versa. Think about saying something like, “I enjoy all kinds of wines. Which would you start with?”
9. Ask where the grapes were grown. Many wineries these days all over the country make wine from grapes grown in California or someplace else far away. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but when we visit a winery in, say, Connecticut, part of the fun of the visit is tasting wines made from grapes grown in Connecticut, near where we’re standing. If you don’t want to ask, just peek at the label. If it says, “estate bottled,” that’s a sign that the grapes were probably grown right around the corner.
10. Ask questions. Don’t be shy. If you ask simple questions like “Does this look like it will be a good year?” or “What food goes best with this wine?” the person behind the counter will appreciate your interest. Don’t try to show off with questions like, “Did this get any ML?” unless you really, really care about malolactic fermentation. There are no stupid questions — and, in any event, you can’t do worse than the visitor who once asked a tasting-room pourer whom we’ve known for years, “How long does the wine stay in caskets?”
11. Remember that it’s a tasting room, not a bar. If you want to drink a big glass of wine, buy a bottle and have a picnic. And even if you are not driving, be very careful about how much you’re drinking. People who have had too much to drink ruin the tasting experience for everybody.
12. Be careful how much you buy. It’s a nice gesture to buy a bottle or two, but you shouldn’t feel pressured to. Still, we tend to get carried away at wineries and buy more bottles than we intended. You’ll be amazed how quickly those bottles add up. Many wineries now can ship across state lines, so you can probably call and get those wines after you get home if you have non-buyer’s remorse later.
13. Keep wines out of the hot car. A car that’s sitting in the sun will cook your wines in no time flat. Find a way to avoid that.
14. Ask wineries how to ship your wine back. If you have bought a case or so at various wineries, you might find it easier to ship it back, so ask if there is a local shipping place that specializes in this. This might not be possible, depending on various state laws, so this is where your Styrofoam carrier comes in: Just pack it and check it on the plane with you. There are obviously some risks involved, but we have done this for decades without incident. (Check with your airline to make sure it has no rules against this.)
15. Finally, keep this in mind: The wines you bought at the winery will not taste as good at home as they did at the winery. We’re sorry to end this list with a downer, but it’s true. When you’re there, surrounded by the wondrous sights and smells of a winery, with the winemaker across the bar, pouring wine in pristine condition that has never traveled, the wine tastes special. You simply can’t replicate those conditions at home. But this is exactly why you should go taste wine at a winery this week.