If you’re a wino like me, then you’ll also agree that there are few better ways to enjoy a weekend, or a trip than with wine tastings. I don’t know about you, but I find it so much fun (increasingly so as the day goes on, if you catch my drift) winding through the hills, stopping at different wineries, and getting to treat my tastebuds to the spectrum of delicious flavors and bursting notes in glass after glorious glass…. but as you can see, I’m already getting carried away.
I’ve learned the hard way during my most recent winery trips (in Portland and Sedona) that there is a right and a wrong way to do wine tastings. So I put together my list of pro-tips to help you make the most of your day, and still be able to enjoy your dinner plans (or brunch the next day).
1. Do your research.
Okay duh, but let me elaborate. Especially if you’re going to a major wine region, be prepared to have to make some choices. There will be dozens of wineries to choose from, all offering different tasting options, so it can be difficult to figure out where best to spend your day to maximize your views, your money and your wine drinking time. Otherwise, you might end up like Avu and I, wasting time driving around, and getting lost after stopping at a random vineyard we found along the way.
Once you’ve read about the region, and you’re still trying to pick and choose where to go, take a look at planned wine tours in the region for inspiration. Whether you’re actually taking a tasting tour with a company or not, they usually publish their itineraries online, and you can browse them to see which vineyards you might want to visit in a day based on how popular they are and how far apart they are. You can mix and match, or even follow a specific tour itinerary, just on your own time.
2. Make a game plan (that includes a map)
This obviously plays into tip #1, but there’s more to it that I want to stress. When you’re driving around in farmland, your cell reception might not be the greatest. So I recommend planning your stops, and your route ahead of time, and if you’re using your smartphone or GPS, plug in your stops before you go, so you can avoid getting lost and spend less time traveling, and more time sipping. This is another lesson Avu and I learned the hard way… and had our trip cut in half after a wrong turn landed us stuck in the mud and stranded waiting for AAA for hours. (It actually ended up being a hilarious experience. Watch my insta highlight from our Portland trip to see how it all went down.)
This step is also important because we’re talking about drinking here. And if you’re going to more than one winery (which, why wouldn’t you be?!) all those ‘tastes’ are going to add up fast. So take that into account when you’re planning, to determine if it makes sense to have a designated driver, or perhaps go through a tour company after all, which provides shuttles from place to place.
Another important step in this planning process is budgeting. These wineries are going to be offering up their best, freshest wines and I guarantee you you’re going to want to go home with a least a bottle (if not ten). Plus, we all know wine makes a great gift for so many occasions. But it’s easy to get carried away. Last time Avu and I went wine tasting, we walked away with several hundred dollars worth of wine that we probably didn’t need. We could have been a lot more frugal about it if we had done our research on the prices at these wineries, and set a budget for ourselves. Another thing to keep in mind here, is that many wineries will wave the cost of wine tastings when you spend a certain amount. You’ll want to factor that in when deciding whether or not to take a tour (where the wine tastings will already be paid to the tour company up front).
3. Eat a big breakfast
Again, this is going to be a day of drinking. Start off on the right foot by having a big, carb heavy breakfast in the morning. It will jump start your stamina for the day, and help soak up some of the alcohol, so you can enjoy the wine and not just the buzz.
4. Plan meals & snacks ahead.
The last time we went tasting, we did not do this and we REALLY regretted it. By the end of the day, we were thinking about our stomachs more than anything we were tasting. This takes some planning, because depending on where you’re going, finding food may not be very easy, especially if you’re driving way out to vineyards in a rural area.
While selecting the wineries you want to visit, check and see what kind of food and snack offerings they offer for purchase, and decide if you want to factor that into your budget. Otherwise, pack a cooler full of healthy snacks, and something more substantial like sandwiches. Then, make a game plan for when you’re going to stop to eat. Maybe plan for a picnic lunch half way through the day, or pack hearty snacks to eat between each winery stop.
5. Bring a lot of water!
This is another thing that becomes harder to think about when you’re a few glasses in. Hydrating is crucial for getting through the day, as well as enjoying the next one. Any winery will provide water… but I suggest bringing bottles in the car with you. Make a plan to drink at least one bottle or glass between tastings. This will not only help you stay hydrated, but it will help clean your palette between tastings. You don’t want to drink water while you’re tasting, in between wines, because the water will likely dilute the flavors of what you’re tasting. But if you chug in the car on the way, your mouth will be clean and balanced and ready by the time you get to your next stop.
6. Take pictures
I don’t need to tell you this, but there is sooooo much about wine to learn, and so much great insight you’re going to get while wine tasting. Winemakers are passionate and kinda nutty. Most of them are obsessed with their craft and excited to share their knowledge with you, so you can develop a greater appreciation for what you’re enjoying, and how it came to be. Eating in the moment is one of the core values here, so I really take this to heart. Take a lot of pictures and take a lot of notes. There are also plenty of apps out there for tracking and rating wines that you taste, to either share with others or just for your own record. For anyone who wants to develop their palette, and figure out what they like and why (much more sophisticated than ordering “house red”)…this is the way to start. Some great wine apps out there include:
7. Wear a neutral lip color
I wore bold red lips the last time I went wine tasting and it was a pain in the butt. After every tasting, half of my lip wear was on my glass, and my color was faded or smeared. So let’s just say I did a lot of reapplying… Do yourself a favor and wear a nude lip color or stain.
8. Protect your teeth with a Crest white strip at the end of the night.
After a glorious day of wine tasting, the last thing to take care of is your teeth. You’ve likely sipped on a variety of wines throughout the day, many of them red, which as we all know, can stain your teeth really badly. I like to end a day of wine tasting with a set of crest white strips (after chugging a huge glass of water), as a counter active measure to all that dark red wine.
I hope these tips help you make the most of your next weekend wine tasting tour. Do you any other tricks up your sleeve? Let me know! In the meantime, daydream with me over my bucket list of winery tours I want to do at some point…
ETL Wine Tasting Tour Bucket List