Wine - It's an Experience

Wine+Glass+in+Vineyard.jpg

A friend was recently talking about wines that he received from a winery’s wine club. He had visited this winery a few years back and really enjoyed their wines. So, he joined their wine club. Every six months he gets a shipment of wine and puts them away for special occasions. A very common scenario.

But, my friend recounted, the last few bottles that he’s opened were just not as good as he remembers.

At the winery, he said, the wines were simply outstanding. They were unlike wines he had ever tasted. They had unique aromas, complex flavors, soft tannins and a finish that seemed to just go on and on. He remembers the wines were amazing!

He talked passionately about returning to the winery soon. To seeing the vineyards, to stand in the quaint little tasting room and sip wine while chatting once again with the very friendly owner. He couldn’t wait.

This is a scenario that plays out regularly with us wine lovers. The wines are often not as good at home as they were when we purchased them at the winery. Are we storing them properly? Does the wine need more time to age? Or, did we wait too long to open the bottle? Why isn’t it as good as we remember?

Or could it have been the vast rolling hills of vineyards, the beautiful winery facility, the fun little tasting room stacked high with wines aging in their oak barrels, the owner standing behind the tasting room counter and telling great stories as he pridefully poured the wine?

I can’t wait for my next visit to wine county. I know I can depend on finding a bunch of outstanding wines and enjoying every moment of the experience. Cheers!

Where You Drink a Wine Affects How it Tastes

Cheers.jpg

Have you ever noticed that wines can taste really good at a restaurant, wine bar or especially at a winery? It's the whole experience, not just the aromas and flavors, that affect our sense of taste.

As I've discovered, a $15 bottle of wine, when served in a high-end restaurant (where they charge you $45 for that $15 bottle), will taste especially good. Somehow, the lavish surroundings, the great service and the wonderful company at the table just makes the whole wine experience so much better.

And, at a winery it can be even more powerful. You are typically in a beautiful setting surrounded by vineyards and being served by someone who is very knowledgeable about the wine or maybe even the winemaker. This experience can significantly heighten the taste of the wine.

This fact is well understood by the publications that do wine ratings. So much so, that they don't allow their tasters to review or rate wines at wineries or restaurants.  They ensure their tasters are in a neutral setting in order to allow them to focus only on the wine (which, by the way, they are tasting 'blind' with no knowledge of who produced the wine or what it costs).

So, keep in mind that the amazing bottle of wine you recently had at that fancy restaurant was probably made even better by all the other glamour around you. And, that's exactly what the wine experience is all about. Cheers!

Wine Q&A: Wine Tasting at a Winery

For some, going to a winery for a wine tasting is a bit intimidating. There are so many questions and concerns that keep people away, especially those who are new to wine and just learning. But going to a winery for a wine tasting is actually a perfect way to learn about wines.

Q: Isn't it intimidating to go to a winery if you really aren't a wine expert?

A: Far from it!  Going to a winery is a great place to learn about wine if you are just beginning. Your wine server is there to help you experience their wines and to educate you, if you are interested. You'll get an opportunity to taste a variety of wines from rosé to whites, reds and sometimes even a dessert wine. They'll help you to find the wine that's for you.

Q: Does it cost a lot to go wine tasting?

A: Wine tasting costs are varied. Sometimes you can find coupons for free wine tastings, or two-for-one tastings on-line, at your local hotel, or through other wineries. Without coupons, costs can be as little as $5 or up to $20. And, typically if you purchase wine, the tasting is free.

Q: How many wines do I get to taste?

A: Typically, a tasting at a winery will include 5 or 6 wines. But, if you show interest, or identify a particular style of wine that you like, they'll often pour others.  And, depending on the circumstances, they may also provide you with tastes of other wines not on the standard list, including some of their wines intended just for wine club members.

Q: So, how much do they pour of each wine?

A: A typical pour is approximately 1 ounce. That is sufficient to be able to have a couple of sips of each wine.

Q: I've heard they provide spit buckets for use during tasting. Do I have to spit?

A: No. The bucket on the bar is there if you choose to spit out the wine instead of swallowing it. It's also there to pour out the remaining wine in your glass if you are through tasting any particular wine.  And, don't feel bad about pouring wine in the bucket.  They won't care.

Q: Is there a lot of pressure to buy their wines after a tasting?

A: Not at all. The servers at wineries are not commissioned salespeople and do not provide any pressure. They are simply there to help you experience and learn about their wines.

Q: Am I expected to tip the server?

A: Not normally. But if you have someone that's gone above and beyond to give you a great experience at a winery, you can certainly show your appreciation by tipping.

So, go out and do a wine tasting. You'll find it to be a very friendly atmosphere and it can be a lot of fun. Cheers!


Wine Tasting Etiquette - Things to Avoid

Last time we addressed all the things you should do when visiting a winery and tasting their wines.  Along with all the things that you should do, there are also some things that you really shouldn't do while wine tasting.  Avoiding these will ensure that you have an enjoyable experience at the winery.

What you should avoid when wine tasting:

  • Don't put on cologne, aftershave or perfumes. You, and those around you, are going to want to smell the aromas of the wines, not strong personal scents.
  • For the same reason as avoiding wearing strong scents, don't introduce anything else into the tasting room that has a strong smell. So, don't walk in with a freshly brewed cup of coffee. Leave it in the car or outside.
  • Avoid chewing gum or breath mints.  These will really affect your ability to taste the subtle flavors of the wines.
  • When you arrive at the winery, it may be very tempting to take a walk in the vineyards, pick a grape, or poke around some of the other buildings at the winery.  Check with your host in the tasting room to see if tours of the winery are available.
  • Since wine tasting is an adult activity, leave the kids at home.
  • While winery dogs are very common, leave your pets at home.
  • Don't assume your tasting room host is going to be an all-knowing wine expert.  You may get lucky and have the winemaker as your host, or you may get a college kid earning some extra spending money. 
  • It's a winery tasting room, not a bar.  Conduct yourself with some sophistication. Avoid being loud and trying to turn the activity into a party.
  • Don't try to haggle over prices of the tasting or a wine purchase. Save it for the car dealership.
  • Never reach for the wine bottle and pour your own taste. Let your server do all the pouring.
  • If you are on a tour bus that is serving alcohol, avoid it.  If you arrive at a tasting room and appear to be intoxicated, you will not be served. It's against the law to serve someone who is intoxicated.  And, please don't walk into a tasting room with a beer, glass of wine or a cocktail.
  • If you choose to have lunch at a winery's picnic grounds, you may only drink wine purchased at that winery. No outside wines may be consumed on their property.

Following this simple list of things to avoid and those posted last time in "Wine Tasting Etiquette - Things to Do" will ensure that your visit is pleasurable for you, those working at the winery, and your fellow wine tasters.  There's no better way to learn about the world of wines than to get out into wine country and visit the wonderful wineries they have to offer. Cheers!