Tips for Visiting Wineries...
Here are some tips anyone can learn that will make your wine tasting experience even more enjoyable. A winery is not just about the wines, but about the "wine experience." We want to pass along some ways to make this wine experience a great experience. So here are a dozen of my top tips we have learned on how to have a great day wine tasting.
- Choose a Designated Driver. Yes, the tastes are small, but they add up over a day. If you visit four wineries that is roughly the same as four glasses of wine. With today's laws, that would put most people over the legal limit. So, decide who's going to drive before you head to the first winery. Don't assume that "someone will be sober enough to drive" at the end of the day. Nothing ruins a great day at the wineries like a DWI arrest, or worse.
Additional Tip: If you don't want to designate a driver, hire one of the limo or shuttle companies to drive you around (i.e. Grapeline). But beware, that even though you took a tour, someone still might have to drive once the tour shuttle drops you off at the end of the day. So think ahead, book a night at Wilson Creek Manor or stay at a hotel in town where many shuttles can drop you off directly.
- Don't Try to Visit Every Winery. In Temecula Wine Country, we have over 30 wineries. Do the math! Choose three or four wineries that you'd like to try and take your time at each one. Wine tasting is about more than just the wine. Rushing because you want to visit a lot of wineries in one day takes away from the experience.
- Don't forget Lunch. Many wineries have beautiful patios or decks where you can spread out and have a great lunch. But, if you're going to drink wine with lunch, make sure it's from the winery where you're eating. In most cases, they'll even lend you glasses. It's rude to drink wine from another winery on someone else's property (and many times it is illegal for a winery, under their license, to have other wines on the property. Ours is one of them.) At Wilson Creek, you can make reservations at our Creekside Grille Restaurant by calling (951) 699-WINE (9463).
- Drink water. A good rule of thumb is to drink one bottle of water per winery: It's a great idea because the water keeps you from becoming dehydrated (and more intoxicated) by the wine.
- Avoid wearing perfume or cologne. Yes, it's a minor point, but a key one. Sure you might want to impress a date by smelling really nice, but it really interferes with the tasting experience (for you and others around you). It is confusing when you are trying to pick up the berry aromas in a wine.
- Go through the actual tasting process. Typically, you want to taste from light white to heavy reds, leaving the sweet wines to the end. The saying is "white before reds and dry before sweet." If you drink a dry wine after drinking a sweet wine it will usually just taste bitter. And when you taste, do not forget the process:
- SEE: Look at the wine against a white surface. Is it colorful or brownish? Key word is "clarity."
- SWIRL/SMELL: Hold the glass by the stem, always. Then swirl your glass to aerate the wine (getting air into the wine). Swirling opens up a wine and releases those aromas and flavors.
- SLURP: You can either just taste, or many like to slurp. Take a small taste and while the wine is in your mouth simply breathe through the wine. It's like sucking up a spaghetti noodle, or a reverse whistle. This aerates the wine in your mouth and involves your nasal senses more.
- To rinse or not to rinse. You do not have to rinse between tastes. Water can ruin a healthy Ph balance in a glass that wine leaves for the next taste. The only time suggested to rinse would be from a red wine to a dessert white wine, so that the white wine does not look pink. Finally, rinse after your last taste if you are taking the glass with you.
- Don't finish wines you don't like. If you try a Cabernet, and it is too tannic or acidic, pour the rest out. Every tasting bar has a dump bucket for just this reason. If you want to just taste a particular varietal or just reds or whites, you can do that.
- Don't finish every good wine. Swirl the wine, smell the wine, taste the wine, then dump the rest out. No need to drink the whole taste sometimes. It's not considered bad etiquette and you will be able to visit more wineries in a given day.
- Use the crackers. The bread and crackers are there to refresh your pallet so one taste does not blend into another taste. Don't gobble a plate or bowl of them, just take a bite between tastes so your pallet is set-up and ready for the next wine.
- Ask questions. Once you get to the tasting bar, don't be a passive taster, who just stands there and says nothing. Engage the wine server. They are excited about the wines and want to share that excitement with you. Remember, a winery visit is about the full experience, not just the wines. You never know, the servers may pour you a wine that is not on the menu, or better yet, do some barrel tasting. Connect with the servers and they will likely remember you the next time you visit. I typically like to ask the servers what wineries THEY like to visit, so I get the inside scoop of a region I am unfamiliar with.
- Venture outside your comfort zone. Occasionally I like to move outside my preferred types of wine. Sometimes the wine server mentions an outstanding Chardonnay or Viognier, etc. So, I go for it, and venture outside of your preferences. You may be not be disappointed. Don't stick to what you are familiar with or what you prefer. Take some risks.