You've got your winery maps, eaten some food, packed a lunch, snacks and water, got your special offers, and have an extra cooler for any wine purchases you might make, and now it's time to hit the road and visit a winery.
When you arrive at the winery, you will see signs directing you to the tasting room. Don't be tempted to poke your head into any of the other buildings or walk in the vineyard. They'll let you know if tours are available. So head on into the tasting room. Once you enter the tasting room you'll be greeted by your host behind the serving bar and asked "Are you here to do wine tasting?" After a resounding "Yes!" you'll be presented with a menu of tasting options. This is a good point to present any coupons or special offers to see how that may affect your options.
A winery's tasting menu is usually a single list but occasionally you'll have the option of either tasting their standard wines, or for a slightly higher price, you'll have the opportunity to taste their premium wines. The tasting menu will vary depending on what the winery produces and what is still in-stock. But, generally the list will start off with the lighter flavored wines (whites and rosés) and work up to the bigger bolder red wines, and sometimes you'll finish with a late-harvest (sweet) dessert wine.
Be open minded with the list of wines that are being offered. You may believe that you only like whites or only like reds, but here's your opportunity to try some other wines. This is a great way to broaden your wine experience and discover new wines. But, you can certainly tailor the wine tasting menu. If you know you just want to try red wines, you can go straight to them and skip all the others. And, be aware that sharing a single tasting glass with another person is often acceptable. But ask just to be sure.
Now it's time to taste! You'll be presented with a glass that you'll use throughout the tastings that you choose. With each taste, your host will generally pour approximately 1 oz of wine in your glass. Yes, 1 oz. It's just a taste. Take note of the color of the wine, give it a swirl and smell the aroma. Then, sip a bit of wine letting it briefly stay on your tongue. At this point you can swallow, or if you choose, you can spit the wine into the provided bucket. It's perfectly acceptable and a good option if you are doing a lot of tastings within a day. But, make the 1 oz pour last for two or three sips. You'll want to take note of your first impressions and then return for another sip to confirm you impressions. You might also want to take some simple notes as you go. Usually the menu presented to you is available for note taking.
O.K. So you've had your first sip! The journey has just begun. And there's so much more to experience while at the tasting bar. We'll get into that next time. For now, cheers!