As summer approaches, we thought it might be best to recap on our Wine Country Etiquette, because as our parents told us growing up, “manners matter.” Use this blog to freshen up on your tasting skills or perhaps prepare for your first time out in the Valley.
PLAN YOUR DAY OUT
-During summer, many wineries in Dry Creek Valley are open to the public seven days a week. But there are some places where this isn’t the case. Use our Winery Map and plan your route ahead by amenities, varietals, location or even dog friendly locations. On this map, you’ll also find contact information to call ahead to schedule a personalize appointment for a more exclusive moment with the winery. If you are travelling with a group larger than 6, your best bet is to always call ahead. Especially with the smaller, family owned wineries, accommodating a large group is sometimes difficult if unexpected.
-With a 16-mile long Valley and 60+ wineries, you’re bound to see some places along the way that weren’t on the original itinerary and want to drop in. There is no problem with stopping by and sending a representative from your group in and explaining your situation, you could say something along the lines of, “we saw your winery on our route to XX winery and would love to taste here. We are a group of XX – would you be able to accommodate us now? Or we can come back after our next stop.” Respect the host if they say they are unable and simply plan to schedule ahead on your next trip.
-Plan for someone in your group to be a Designated Driver or hire one of your own. Cell service is limited throughout the valley so rideshare apps can be difficult to use to their full potential.
–Bring your lunch & snacks. Unless you are visiting a winery specifically for their food & wine experience (again, reserve these ahead of time!), then plan on bringing your lunch in a cooler. Before you bring out the cooler, ask the winery if it is okay if you can picnic there after your tasting. Do not bring outside alcohol. Some wineries offer selections of cheese, salami, bread and snacks but it’s best to be prepared for a day of tasting.
TASTING KNOWLEDGEABLY, RESPECTFULLY & RESPONSIBLY
-Taste in the suggested order of the tasting menu. Feel free to skip varietals if you have a strong aversion, but your palette will thank you for sticking with the winery’s tasting menu.
-Ask questions! If you’re unsure what a varietal is, where a region is, or what that one red fruit note is that you’re tasting, feel free to ask! There are no silly questions when it comes to wine.
-Swirl your glass. Sniff the aromas. Taste the wine. And don’t be embarrassed to ask for a spit cup from the winery. They will not be offended if you spit out wine. This is the responsible way to taste especially if you are tasting at multiple wineries. Same goes for pouring out wine into the dump buckets.
-Make room for other guests at the tasting room bar. Some tasting rooms can get crowded very quickly. When in duos, you can line-up behind each other or if you are in a group you can back away from the bar after receiving your taste to make room for others.
–Avoid wearing perfume, scented lotions or cologne while tasting. Smells strongly effect how you taste wines. Wearing additional scents will only impair this for yourself and for the entire tasting room.
-A standard pour at wine tasting is an ounce to ounce-and-a-half. This is plenty to decipher the nuances. Don’t expect a full glass of wine of each varietal on the menu. Many wineries offer sales by the glass if you are interested. Typically at the end of your tasting your host will ask you to “revisit” any wines. This is your chance to taste again and see if there’s anything you want to bring home with you!
-Clear your palate between tastes with either a sip of water, a bite of bread or other neutral foods.
-The best way to taste wine is to use four out of five senses – notice the color and hue, sniff for any distinct aromas, taste for flavors and feel the texture it leaves on your tongue and in your mouth. Tip: if a wine makes your mouth feeling like it’s dry – that’s the tannins playing around!
(Want to learn how to taste wine from the experts themselves? Join us at Winemakers in Conversation this July for an incredible summer food & wine experience. Use the code EMAIL25 for 25% off! Click here to learn more.)
-To learn more about the technique behind tasting wines – visit Wine Folly’s guide!
-Make notes as you taste. You’ll usually be provided with a tasting menu and pen for this very reason. This will be a great reference when you are looking to purchase wine or join a new wine club.
-Tipping your tasting room host is not so much an obligation as if you were going out to eat, but it depends on the experience. If someone at the tasting room has gone out of their way to make your visit incredible, a tip is appreciated but not expected. When tastings are private, seated or if a food component is involved you should plan on tipping your associate.
-If you have an experience above and beyond hospitality – remember and send a review to the winery via mail or email.
-Remember – have fun! Wine is fun, social, delicious, and not to mention the wine country views are not to be beat. Each winery has its own personality and style for you to experience. And it’s all waiting just for you, here in Dry Creek Valley.