Okay, you've booked the perfect wine country itinerary to impress, but you've never really been to a formal wine tasting before. Don't sweat it. Just follow our Top 10 tips on enjoying your first wine tasting.
10. Figure Out Who's Coming
It's always good to know the exact number of guests you'll be arriving with before you book your reservation,. This allows your host to be properly prepared and ensure there's space available for your entire group. You can always update your reservation online via our website up until the cancel lead time.
9. Plan Ahead - Book a Reservation
Now that you know who's joining you on your adventure, it's time to book your reservation, especially if you are a group of more than 5 people for most of our properties these days. Why? Because many of our properties are not only small, they tend to be the most popular and have limited space, especially during the peak summer months (June through October).
Many are also mandated by local visitation ordinances that you MUST book ahead or they cannot welcome you onto the property. The good news is that you can book right online, 24/7/365 on CellarPass. Don't take the chance of walking in as the hidden gem you thought would have room for your group, might be hosting another large group already and will have to turn you away.
8. Dress for Success
That doesn't mean 3-piece suit or the latest designer dress, but do make a statement that you want to dress the part that you are fashionable-in a good way. That means dress like you are going out to a nice restaurant as it not only makes for better photos, but showing up in sweatpants will be frowned upon by most hosts. What we would recommend it staying away from wearing white as there's always that one drop of red wine that will leave its mark on your fashion statement.
7. Don't Wear Perfume or Heavily-scented Body Products
You never know who will be sitting next to you, it could be a serious wine collector, professional taster- or someone that is just really sensitive to heavy scents. Either way, it's a downer if you show up and smell like you took a shower with your perfume, cologne or Axe body spray as that will no doubt effect everyone's tasting experience around you as wine is not just about taste, but very much the aroma characteristics.
6. Plan Your Meals
Yep, it's your first trip to wine country and you want to hit every winery and tasting room possible, but that's not going to happen if you don't plan for it properly. Skipping breakfast and then skipping lunch will no doubt lead to you not having a great late afternoon or evening. We strongly recommend you have a light breakfast, load up on water and whatever you do, don't skip lunch! The good news is that many properties are offering food pairings or charcuterie plates that you can nosh on along the way. And yes, continue to drink plenty of water throughout the day- at least 2 liters in the summer and fall seasons to stay hydrated.
5. Be Conscious of Others
Just like you, dozens of others around you have planned their special day- or weekend getaway in wine country. And you wouldn't want them to mess up yours, so don't mess up theirs. Wine country is a place to not only enjoy the amazing wines, but it's a mecca of local food and other activities. Besides our 5 tips above, get to know those around you as wine makes for one of the best catalysts for conversation. Find out where they are from as you'd never know, now matter where you are visiting from, they, too, might live in your hometown as well.
4. Take Notes
After visiting 3-4 tasting rooms, with 3-4 wines at each, it all starts to sound like one another, especially if you are trying to recall your trip weeks, maybe months later. We recommend you take pictures of the bottles you like and add notes. That way when you are at your local wine shop, you can quickly find the bottles of wines you like and pick up a few for your next get together with friends and family.
3. Drink Plenty of Water
You probably realize now that we've mentioned water a few times now, right? Well, because water is very important to drink throughout your trip to wine country, no matter time of the year. Like any alcohol, it consumes a vast amount of water in your body to process and there's no easier way to ruin your trip than to forget to drink one glass of water for every two glasses of wine and end up sick.
You'll not only feel great, you'll look great. Water is also a great way to cleanse your palette between different wine varieties. Water should be readily available during your tasting. If it's not there, just ask for it and your host should be happy to oblige to serve you. And the added bonus is that you'll make it through dinner, which is ultimate goal for the day after all. Before you leave for your next destination, re-fill your reusable water bottle so you can rehydrate along the way.
2. Talk to the Educators
Like the guests around you, people from all over the world love wine country- and so much, they work in the wine industry. There are actually a few that rotate between the northern and southern hemispheres to enjoy harvest time nearly all year around. You'll see folks from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia working in tasting rooms in California and visa versa at wineries and "cellar doors" in the southern hemisphere.
You'll also find many educators are also semi-retired folks with fascinating backgrounds. These folks are a treasure chest of local facts, they know which trendy restaurants to checkout and can offer some interesting fasts about the wine industry as many also grew up around where they work. Plus, they all love to chat not just about wine, but also about sharing some of their background and their own career goals, which can be anything from becoming the next star winemaker, day trader, famous artist, band member and everything in between. In fact, you may have the latest rising sommelier right in front of you- you never know!
1. Sit Back, Enjoy the Experience
We saved the best for last and besides drinking plenty of water, it's not about how many wineries or tasting rooms you go to, it's about the experience. We watch so many people forget that they are on the vacation and are more on a goal to dominate wine country by claiming to visit so many wineries in a single weekend. First of all, this is never something that any winery will smile at, they'll actually take you less serious. We recommend to all of our high-end guests, never plan more than 4 wineries or tasting rooms on your journey a day, in fact 3 is best.
Why? As we mentioned earlier, there's so much more to wine country than just wine tastings, there's so many other cool things to check out. There's the food scene, local museums, vistas to Instagram, shopping, and of above all else, down time. At the end of the day, remember, you are on a vacation, not world domination. Plan on spending 90 minutes at each property, leaving anywhere from 15-20 minutes between each stop and you'll quickly realize that you'll stress yourself out, trying to visit more than 4. And last time we checked, stress should never be any component of an amazing wine country getaway.
You've planned weeks or in many cases months to take a getaway to wine country and we hope you enjoy (and use) some of our helpful tips shared here.
Like our tips or have some of your own? Post them to our Facebook page?
Local Insider's Tip
Many visitors think it's impolite to not consume all the wine that is poured in your glass, nothing is further from the truth! If you don't like the sample, simply pour it into the "dump" bucket! If they don't offer one, ask for one! You'll not only look like a seasoned pro, but it helps your host understand what you liked- and especially what you did not.