Tips for visiting wine country

By John ~ February 8th, 2008.

20080208_winery.jpgVisiting wine country is one of my favorite outings. The people are very friendly, the scenery is great, the atmosphere is refreshing, and most of the wine is good, too. However, there are some basic tips that can help you avoid problems and have great memories when you get back home.

Tip #1: Stay sober.
If you plan to visit a number of wineries in one day, learn to spit rather than swallow. Almost all tasting rooms have spittoons (aka dump buckets) for this purpose.

Tip #2: Make notes.
Take good notes of what you like and what you don’t like. Don’t depend on your memory after you’ve visited multiple wineries and tasted several wines at each stop.

Tip #3: No cheese or chocolate while you are tasting wine. Save it for later.
In one of our first wine country trips years ago, we came across a winery where the winemaker insisted that we eat different cheeses with each of the wines we tasted. We were not only impressed with the cheeses, but the wines tasted good, too, so we bought more wine than we should have to bring home. Boy were we surprised when the same wines that tasted so good at the winery with cheese tasted terrible by themselves and finished at or close to the bottom in our blind tastings.

Now, research at UC Davis has validated what we realized after our experience mixing wine and cheese. Reporting on the study, Shan Ross wrote:

“Eating cheese ruins the flavors of wine and makes fine vintages indistinguishable from cheap plonk, research has revealed. While the two are often served together in the belief they make a sophisticated combination, scientists have discovered even expert tasters could not distinguish between wines after eating cheese.”

And I believe that you can virtually ditto the above comments for chocolate.

20080208_tastingroom.jpgTip #4: Be friendly and polite and respect the time of those who work at the winery.
Remember, you are probably not their only visitor today.

Tip #5: Buy only one or two bottles.
When you find a wine you like, just buy a bottle or two to start with, not a case. Then take your favorites home and compare them side-by-side in a blind tasting. Then buy a case or two of your proven favorites.

Tip #6: Don’t put the wines you buy in the trunk of your car.
When do most of us visit wine tasting rooms and go on winery tours? Why, in the heat of the summer, of course. Do you realize how quickly a bottle of wine is ruined by summer heat? I tasted a wine that had spent only six (6) hours in the trunk of a car on a 90 degree day, and it was baked, totally ruined as a drinkable wine. I believe that wineries should sell insulated boxes or coolers that you can use with ice packs, you know the kind that you can squeeze to activate and place on a sprained ankle.

If the wineries you visit and buy from don’t offer this kind of protection for sale, be sure that you make arrangements for it on your own. This is also another good reason that we recommend that you only buy a bottle or two while at the winery instead of cases. At least then if you ruin your wine in the car, it’ll only be a few bottles. But remember, you want to get even the few bottles home safely so that you can compare wines and give the wines a fair chance in a blind tasting.

Follow these tips and I’ll bet that touring wine country will be some of the favorite times of your life. Please share any tips you have for visiting wine country in the comments.

Filed under: General Wine Information, Wine Travel

Reader's Comments

  1. Pressing Matters | Blog » Blog Archive » Around the blogs: Rules, racking, and tastings | February 15th, 2008 at 8:59 am

    […] John at Wine Peeps posts six tips to heed when you visit a winery. […]