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Monday, August 15, 2011

Ten Wine Tasting Tips

So you want to pull the cork on your own wine tasting adventure this summer, cool because there is still plenty of time to get some sipping and slurping in before the summer ends. It's makes for the perfect get-away weekend activity.

And is also a growing segment of the travel industry especially for folks who consider themselves a wandering-wino. One option you want to consider is a "wine-tour", many different businesses offer a tour experience, where everything is organized for you and you leave the driving to the professionals.

The desire for folks to want to get their wine-on, has in no small way been spurred on by the continued popularity of the film Sideways. The month of August is typically a great time of year when many folks are thinking about a road-trip or just a day-trip to one of the local wine-scenes in their area.

The vines are at their best [popping with color and ripening grapes] this time of year and the photo opportunities are abundant. It's still a great time to do, because football season has not fully kicked into gear, you've already picked your fantasy football teams and Baseball season still has not hit its stride with September and Octobers play-offs.

Some of the traditional hotspots for wine tasting are of course are still Napa and Sonoma counties in  northern California. While folks outside of California and the more adventurous may possibly be thinking of places like the Willamette Valley in Oregon or Walla Walla in Washington State.

If you looking for a wine-tasting adventure outside the U.S many folks rightfully turn their eyes to Bordeaux and Burgundy in France, Montalcino [Tuscany] in Italy and the a trip to Spain is not complete without a trip to Navarra, Panedes or the Rioja wine regions.

Some wine-destinations currently flying under the radar, would include New York's Finger Lakes Ava, Paso Robles and SBC's Los Olivos where there's a slew of newly opened tasting rooms in this cutesy down-town area. But don't forget about the one my newly discovered favorite wine-stomping grounds in the lovely state of Virginia, The Virginia wine-scene has some very nicely laid out wine trails, which will only help to maximize your experience, I would definitely give it a swirl.

1. Appointments:  This is one facet of wine tasting you will invariably run into and is often done because some wineries don’t have a tasting room or they don’t have the staff to accommodate a regular Mon-Sun tasting schedule [winery staff and winemakers are some of the busiest and hardworking folks I know]. So don’t be discouraged by having to make an appointment, as this can be one of the best times you will have tasting wine, 

2. Drink or Spit: Another good rule of the thumb to follow; make up your mind beforehand, if you are going to drink or spit, especially if you're plan to visit more than one winery on the same day.  Other wise the wine will sneak up on you and before you know, you could lose your bearings. If you don't feel comfortable spitting, I would recommend  you do a little practicing before hand so you can become more comfortable spitting in public [not as bad as it sounds]. If you don't see one in sight, just ask and one of the tasting-room staffers will be glad to get one for you. 

3.Designated Driver: Okay for Pete's sake do the right thing before you head out, choose someone to be the DD. Do you really want to endanger others, yourself and your friends by not taking the proper precautions before hand. A DUI won't be the worst of your problems if you drink and drive. 

4. Have a Budget:  We've all been there before so play it smart, if you’re like me it is far too easy to go overboard. I recommend the idea of taking a certain amount of cash just for your wine purchases alone. When you run out of cash, you can’t purchase anymore wine. So stay focused and fastidious about what you want to purchase and zero in the ones you just can’t leave without. 

5. Tasting-Room Etiquette: Don't feel bad if you don't like the wine, just pour it out and move onto the next wine in their line-up. Not every wine poured will be your cup of tea, so don't be concerned with drinking the whole amount poured. This is why most tasting rooms will have spit buckets near by. 

6. There's Water in my Wine Glass: I've seen this one a million times and some folks think it's a good idea. But I would recommend that while you’re in between pours that you don’t pour the water sitting on the bar to rinse your glass or allow the tasting room staff to do that either. Doing that will only dilute your next pour, ideally you only want to rinse wine with wine [isn't that why most places produce Sauvignon Blanc?].

7. Non-Retail Wines: One other thing to consider is to ask for the wines which are not sold outside of the tasting room; if they are of a good caliber I would recommend purchasing those bottles over a wine which is available at your favorite wine retailer. Some wine is allocated, thus you have buy what you can right then and there or wait on the "list"for a year or more. Which is what you will experience if you visit Turley Wine Cellars in Paso Robles as many of their wines are sold only direct to the consumer in the tasting room or you can buy them online if you are a "Mailing List" member. 

8. Ship or Hold:  This will mainly be determined by what method you may have arrived at your destination. For example if you drove, you can save yourself some money on shipping and the price varies greatly [which is something I can't figure out]. If you've flown to your destination, you will most likely opt to have your wine shipped home, especially since you can only take so many bottles back in your luggage without additional fees and carry-on well just forget about it. The smart thing to as I've discovered is one; try to fly Southwest Airlines [no extra bag fees]. The second thing, is too ask a winery for an empty case box, makes it real easy to get your wine home as an additional piece of luggage. 

9. Stay Cool: There's nothing worse for your new wine purchase than to throw them in the trunk of car during the heat of summer. I recommend grabbing yourself a couple disposable coolers and filling them with ice before you head out. For example; the temperature swings between lets say San Francisco and Napa Valley can be huge and your wine will pay the price if you don't go prepared.  

10. Wine Clubs:  So there you are in the wine tasting room where you will see and hear offers to become a wine club member. Many times it's a great opportunity to stock up on wine you won't ever see at your local wine store, because of limited production runs. This is especially true if you find the quality of the wine you just quaffed was quite amazing and you want to relive that experience again and again [since it maybe sometime before you are back that way again]. Another great thing about a "wine-club" is that if you live close by, you can really benefit from going to pick-up parties, concerts and various other "wine-lifestyle" activities many wineries having going on during the summer months. So don’t wince the next time you hear the words, "join our wine club" embrace the wine club and you’ll save on average 20-30 % off a wine you would most likely purchase anyways.

I hope you found these few tips helpful and will take the opportunity before the end of the summer to hit the tasting room trail. Until next time sip long and prosper, cheers everyone!

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