Life is better on the corner, the place where great wines meet reasonable prices!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Travel Tuesday: Ten Tasting Room Tips

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. ~ Robert Frost

Wine tasting as a "vacation focus" is a growing segment in the travel industry. It's something I can personally attest to; seeing most of my own vacations have become wine-vacations. And even though it was nearly ten years ago and as cheesy as that sounds, it could be said the continued popularity of the film “Sideways (2004)” continues inspire folks to plan similar trips. 

The month of May is typically the time of year when many folks are thinking about a quick road trip. With the upcoming long Memorial Day weekend looming many vineyards and wineries will open up their tasting rooms to the public and some, for the first time all year. 

For example one of my favorite wineries on the Orgundian Trail is Patricia Green Cellars, which has a fantastic Open-House Memorial Day weekend. If you happen to be in the area, you should definitely make a point to stop by to taste some the best Pinot Noir in Oregon.

When you do go wine-tasting, it’s typical to be allowed to sample a handful of wines for a fee [I know shocking right?]. Some are a upwards of $50 per tasting for some of the top producers in the Napa Valley like Opus One. But  most tend to be in the $10 range per person and you’ll typically sample 3-4 wines. As a bonus some will let you keep the logo-ed Riedel glass, if you like having an assorted stem-ware collection.

Many wineries offer educational tours of the facilities which are terrific for first timers who’d like to get "beyond the bottle". And please be aware that many of these opportunities need to be booked ahead of time, so please plan accordingly.

1. WINE CLUBS: So there you are in the wine tasting room where you will see and hear offers to become a wine club member. It's a great opportunity to stock up on wine you won't see at your local grocery store or in your favorite wine shop. But you will often pay a bit more than retail.

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 "cool" activities many wineries having going on during the summer months.

So don’t wince the next time you hear the words, "would you like to 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.

2. Hot Days: Since were on the topic of purchases it's good to remember to bring a large cooler with you to keep your wine cool while it sits in the car, keep the windows cracked open a little, it can get real warm in wine country.

3. Planning: I’ve read Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher former Open that bottle Columnists at the WSJ, who I think have oddly recommended it's best to "not have a plan". Instead they've encouraged folks to randomly drive through wine country and just show up to any tasting room you may find open. Uh, okay while this may sound great in theory, in my experience it will most likely end in disappointment.

From my many trips to wine country; even a little planning will go a long way to maximizing your experience. Not only for you and those with you, but everyone else you may encounter. Managing expectations is a prime key to the 

4. Maps:
Order your wine country map ahead of time [or print it out] and bring it with you on the trip. This will allow you preview the wineries you plan to visit before your trip, so you are somewhat familiar with the area and it helps you visualize your itinerary for each day, even if you have GPS. 

It's is helpful to locate and/or group wineries with relatively close proximity. Lastly, make some dinner reservations ahead of time; this will save you a lot of frustration and make you look like a genius. The OpenTable app, is a great resource for making reservations.

5. APPOINTMENTS:  Don’t be discouraged if they are by appointment only, it's not an obstacle. It’s simply a tool to manage their time more effectively and these arrangements can be done easily via email [winery staff and winemakers are some of the busiest and hardworking folks I know].

But on the flip side this can be some of the best times you will have tasting wine, because often times the winemaker or proprietor is the one hosting your appointment and they are very eager to give you their wrapped attention and can interact with you on a much more personal level.

Make sure you keep your appointment, call ahead to remind your host of your arrival and show up on time and if you have to cancel please call them at least day ahead, that is just good form.

6. The Barrel Room: Another thing to keep in mind, is that some appointments are located in their barrel-room. A place which is often a very cool 57 degrees and while great for maturing wine, it can be a little uncomfortable. So I'd take a jacket with just in case, even if it's 80 degrees outside.

This happened to Mrs. Cuvee and I once while at Patricia Green Cellars in when we were still wine-tasting newbie’s. The other couple who were at the appointment were quite cold; they especially since they had only sunny-day garments, my wife and I fared a little better with our sweaters, but it was still cold.

7. ARRIVE EARLY: Another good rule of thumb regarding tasting room visits is to get there early [the popular places will fill up fast and this will minimize your experience]. I can not stress this point enough, because as you may know some wineries are "super-popular" and you may not make it to the [tasting-area] bar at all. 

Most tasting rooms will be open by 10 or 11 in the morning and they start closing up by 5 in the evening, this why I recommend only going to 3 to 4 TR’s a day, it’s no fun rushing through a tasting.

5. DRINK OR SPIT:  Stay hydrated, and make sure to have a designated driver. They should most likely not be sampling any wine at all. But, if you do I recommend spitting everything, and having a large breakfast. And for everyone else remember you really only there to sample [taste] the wines and not drink them.  

6. Pours: 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. By the way, if you’re in-between pours please don’t pour the water sitting on the bar to rinse your glass or allow the tasting room staff to do that either. In my experience this will only dilute your next pour; ideally you only want to rinse your glass with wine or just ask for a new glass.

7. TASTING MENUS: In my experience if I have a choice between the reserve tasting and the everyday tasting, I go all-in on the reserve. If you’re on the tasting trail with someone else, try sharing the tasting.

*Another point to remember is many times the tasting fee will be comp’d if you make a purchase.

8. SHIP OR HOLD:  This will mainly be determined by what method you may have arrived at your destination. For example if you drove to wine-country, you can save yourself some money on shipping.

If you've flown to your destination, you will most likely opt to have your wine shipped home, unless you've flown via Southwest or Alaska Airlines who offer a 2nd bag which can be checked for free.  

If shipping home I would recommend sending it to a work address, because the shipper will need to have someone sign for your wine.

If you only plan to buy a few bottles you can easily put it in your "checked" luggage, [just watch the weight] which I have done successfully many times without anything other than my clothing protecting them from breakage. I brought nearly a case home in my luggage from Italy and not even one casualty, knock on wood.

9. WINES NOT SOLD RETAIL: One other thing to consider is to ask about the wines you may have tasted, which are not sold outside of the tasting room. I would recommend purchasing those bottles, over a wine which is available via your retail wine store shelf. 
10. HAVE A BUDGET:  This is a very good idea; because it is far too easy to go overboard. This will cause you to really be more focused and fastidious about the wines you just can’t live without and save you some headaches down the road.

Get this widget

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...