The first time that I visited a winery was under the tutelage of a good friend, Lori Morse. My husband and I were complete strangers to the experience and she was kind enough to guide us through. Here is what I learned my first time at a winery:
- It doesn’t matter how you are dressed but people in “smart casual” tend to get better service. That wasn’t something that Lori said but it was something that I observed.
- If you are curious about the winemaking and the agriculture aspects of the experience you can learn a lot. Don’t try to fake industry words unless you actually know them. (If your server/host/guide uses industry words, get the definitions. He shouldn’t do that unless he is talking to industry people. But hey, everybody slips sometimes, so be nice about it.)
- Most wineries charge for a tasting. Usually, it is about $5 and generally, you can have that fee waived if you buy a bottle.
- You can look around a bit. Wineries expect a bit of wandering but if you see something that you are curious about, a vat, a puddle, tiny footprints that lead to a wall and then disappear, ask.
- There is usually a list of wines and a guide as to how many you can pick or the server will let you know the deal at their winery. You aren’t expected to know this. It varies from winery to winery.
- You will get a bit of wine in your glass to start with. It probably won’t look like much but see if you can make it last for three mouthfuls. First, swirl it a bit. Then smell it a bit. Does it smell fruity? Does it smell weird? Does it remind you fo something that you have smelled before? Now taste it. Put a tiny bit in your mouth and move it around. It will probably taste terrible. You can choose to spit this out but most people swallow it. Second sip is where you actually taste the wine. This should confirm the things that you smelled. Third sip is just for fun. Or you can dump it out. There will be some sort of vessel on the counter for you to dump into.This video gives a great beginners’ tutorial. She is knowledgeable and fun. You will pick up a few wine words in context.
- After you try as much as they let you pick up any bottle that you want to drink at home. My favourite wines are wines that remind me of something from my childhood or a place where I have been. Occasionally a winery will have a strong enough presence that you will taste the wine at home and be reminded of the great view, the ambient light, the art on the walls, etc
- You can just pay your tasting fee and go. Or you can buy a bottle. It is up to you.
- There are often adorable little shops attached or integrated with the bottle areas. Wineries often sell gifts or memorabilia. You can buy these things but they do not count against your tasting fee. Ony wine purchases have this power.
Wine Tours – these are amazing services. My friends Mike and Terri run a local company called Roots and Vines Tour Company. If you are in the Okanagan you can experience a great tour led by folks with local knowledge. The benefits of going on a tour are: get guided through the process so there is no risk of embarrassing yourself, have a driver so you aren’t a risk on the road and you won’t get lost, make new friends, learn things that would have taken you months of research to learn on your own also, depending on your driver, entertainment. If you are lucky enough to get Mike, you will be entertained.
Now check this out: I love restaurant shows. Here is David Schwimmer who has learned a butt-ton of somm stuff.