Wine Tasting
by Dave

Man tasting wines on his date
Whether you're completely lost when it comes to wines or a true connoisseur, wine tasting has all the makings for a great date! It starts off with a scenic drive out to wine country, followed by tours of beautiful wineries, enjoying a nice picnic, sampling unique wines, and getting a little buzzed along the way. What more could you want?

First off, figure out whether there are any good wineries within driving distance or if you will need to think about tasting at a local wine shop. I've included a few sites in the Links section that will help you find nearby wineries and of course you can always look into it online. This date idea is geared to tasting at a winery but even if none are within range, keep reading for information that will help you on any tasting date.

All wineries are not created equal, it's important to find reviews about potential spots using the search engines and sites like yelp.com in order to find the best wines and tours around. Interesting tours and beautiful scenery are what separates tasting at wineries from your local wine shop, but remember that the large, beautiful wineries don’t necessarily have the best wines and the better winemakers don’t always have impressive facilities. Find at least one winery with a great tour and concentrate on the final product for the others. If you can find ones that overlap, so much the better! Don’t try to visit more than 3 wineries in a day, you'll just end up getting drunk and not being able to taste the wines later on anyway. A good approach is to drive out and see a few, then have a late lunch, visit one more and head home.

Tours vary in quality but will generally take you around the grounds, explaining the entire winemaking process from grape selection to casking. Feel free to ask plenty of questions, tasting room staff are usually friendly, knowledgeable, and happy to help beginners understand what's going on. As a rule, tastes include 4-6 wines and are small, about an ounce each. White wines are presented first, followed by reds, and then dessert wines.

Etiquette

  • You may ask for a second taste of a wine, but this should only be done if you're deciding between two for a purchase. Not because you liked it.
  • When a fee is charged, it is perfectly acceptable to share a tasting.
  • Don't reek of perfume or cologne, it will hinder your enjoyment of the aroma and possibly others around you.
  • If picnicking at one winery, do not open a bottle from another.

Most wineries have a sheet of tasting notes, explaining the available wines. Read them to see if you can discern any of the flavors listed as you taste.

The Anatomy of a Taste

  1. Examine your wine, noting the color. Whites will become darker with age while reds lose color, appearing more brownish.
  2. Briefly swirl the wine around your glass to mix it with oxygen and release the aroma.
  3. Sniff the scent, first from a distance and then by putting your nose right in glass and inhaling deeply.
  4. Take a sip, but don't swallow just yet. First, move the wine around in your mouth few a few seconds to expose it to all of your taste buds. Concentrate on the taste and try to discern different flavors.
  5. Swallow, noticing how long the taste lingers afterward, this is called 'the finish'.

Remember that as you drink more your sense of taste will become diminished. Because of this, tasting rooms generally have a vat or cups used to spit wine out in order to get the taste without the effects. There will also be a dump bucket where you will pour out any wines you don't care for or don’t wish to finish. Also, be sure to cleanse your palate between tastes with bread, crackers, or other neutral flavors, or water. These also help to absorb the alcohol. Along these lines, you may also cleanse your sense of smell with a sniff or two of roasted coffee beans, which many tasting houses have available.

These days, about 2/3 of wineries are charging for tastings and that number is expected to keep rising. Also, people in western states are less likely to find free tastings, and larger wineries charge more often than smaller ones. Fees are generally in the $5-$10 range but can be significantly higher in some areas (Napa Valley) and special tastes of high-end wines are generally offered for a higher price. A good portion of the wineries that charge for tastings will apply the cost toward a purchase from their store, ask about this when calling. If you do attend a complementary tasting and like the wine, it's good form to purchase a bottle or two of your favorites. Remember that while free tastings are great, don't ever go to a winery with mediocre or poor reviews just because the wine is free. You will regret it.

When tasting, the most important thing to remember is that there is no right answer. It's supposed to be a fun experience and you shouldn't stress about liking an unpopular wine. You might love a wine that the rest of your party hates, and you'll be right! For you. So have fun!

I know I'm not alone in thinking that wine-lovers look pretentious and completely ridiculous when they talk about and taste wine, but it's actually kinda fun to do it the right way occasionally. This video provides some good tips.



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Tips

Bring along pen and paper to write down the wines you like. If you want to drink more or are going with friends, consider a limousine or wine tour bus.

Cost

Tastings: Free-$30

Links

Find Local Wineries
Find Local Wineries

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