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Travel Tasting Room Tips

Jerry Meyer
Santa Barbara Private Wine Tours - USA

First, look at a winery map of the region you are going to. Figure out, at the very least, a trajectory that passes by, in order, the wineries you’d like to visit. This will be especially important when it is crowded. I’d suggest no more than 4 wineries in one day.

Second, call ahead and make a tasting and/or tour reservation. It helps organize you, and the wineries. Note that if you do not make reservations, many places that say “appointment only” can actually “accommodate” you on the spot with an instant appointment scheduling.

Third, go to the grocery store on your way into wine country. Buy a cooler, ice, and plenty of water. You will buy some wine, it is unavoidable, even if you don’t intend to. Wine will die in your car in the heat. The water is so you don’t end up with a headache at 5pm and ruin a great night of dining that should be ahead of you.

Many folks like to go to tasting rooms early to beat the crowds. Fine if that suits you and your taste buds, but be sure to ask for a “fresh pour” as some tasting rooms have been known to pawn off yesterday’s long-opened, and hence oxidized, bottles on you eager beavers.

Be polite. Period. A lot of the folks pouring for you, well, wine is their life. Try to learn from them. Jokes about the movie “Sideways” are absolutely forbidden, especially if you are about to taste what may be a lovingly crafted, and house favorite, merlot.

Ask what your pourer likes. He or she breathes these wines in, day after day, vintage after vintage. Ask for help, at any time, and about any wine topic.

As you taste, keep notes on what kind of grapes you prefer, fruit levels, regions, blends, vintage years, the type of winemaking, barreling preferences, etc. Various winemakers will no doubt, have selections that are akin to your “personal recipe”. When you visit a winery ask for samples that might meet those characteristics, but also make sure to constantly test your assumptions. Try styles, blends, varietals, etc. you’ve never had before. As you and your wine knowledge grow, certain tastes may fall in and out of flavor.

See if they have wines that are only available only at the winery. They think they are special. Try them and see.

The wines, sadly, may never taste as good at home as they do when you had them at the winery. That is OK. A winery is usually a gorgeous, lively place where the romance of making wine, coupled with proper serving temperatures, dashes of relevant tasting info, etc. synergize to make any vintage seem that much better.

Spitting buckets
Use them toward the end of your tours if you are feeling tipsy. Beware the backsplash. Tannins and proper eye function can be mutually exclusive.

Don’t taste to get drunk
There are great places to get hammered and have fun in wine country. Do NOT plan this as an option for an afternoon of tasting.

At the Restaurant
Feel free to bring a wine you bought at a local winery to dinner - just be ready for a corkage fee, and be sure to offer a taste to your server. This will be well worth the effort. Also, ring or check the web ahead of time to determine if it is a wine that the restaurant may already have on their list. If they do, opt for something else to bring.

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