11 Jun 14 Pointers to a Productive Vineyard Visit
There has never been a better time to go visit a winery near you. All over the U.S., more wineries than ever are eager and open for you to drop by. Many of them plan special events during the season and entire regions now are heavily promoting their wine trails.
Winemakers and winery owners are among the world’s most interesting and charming people and they often provide 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 tips 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 planning to start buying bottles of wine that will rattle around in your car unless you’ve brought a box. When your box is full (and this might have an added benefit; see below), you’ll thank us for this advice.
2. Chances are you will taste more wine than you expected to– those little tastes add up. Not only that, but if you’re not used to drinking wine early in the day (see below), it could catch up with you fast. In many of the newer wine regions, the wineries might be spread out, so there will be plenty of driving ahead of you.
3. 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 if it’s busy.
4. To feel the passion of wine and winemaking, it’s important to seek out the smaller places where you can spend some quality time with the people behind the bar. Ask our staff about the local area, we can help direct you to the best of the smaller local venues.
5. Yes, this seems obvious, but we’ve visited many tasting rooms, 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.
6. 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.
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?”
8. 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 tastes wines made from grapes grown in Connecticut, near where we’re standing.
9. Ask questions. There are no stupid questions.
10. Keep in mind 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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. (Check with your airline to make sure it has no rules against this.).
14. 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. This is exactly why you should go taste wine at a winery this week.