Tips for a great wine tasting experience

by Kat Collins of Blue Mountain Vineyards

We’re often asked by guests on how to have the best wine tasting experience. Expectations in wine tasting rooms are different than at wine festivals or in busy bars. A winery is not just about the wines, but about the “wine experience.” We want to pass along some ways to make this wine experience a great experience. Here are a few suggestions for a successful visit to a winery.

  1. Call the winery ahead of your visit to verify hours, and ask when is the optimal time to visit, especially if you have a larger group. Some wineries may have restrictions on group sizes.
  2. Hit the road with good directions. Many Pennsylvania wineries are in rural locations, and you may find yourself without mobile phone service at times.
  3. Speaking of hitting the road: get a designated driver. Yes, the tastes are small, but they add up over a day. If you visit four wineries that is roughly the same as four glasses of wine. Additional tip: If you don’t want to designate a driver, hire one of the limo or shuttle companies to drive you around. Make sure to check with the wineries that a limo, bus, or shuttle is allowed.
  4. Don’t try to visit every winery in one day. Realize that there are a lot of wineries out there; for example, there are nine wineries on the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail. Choose three or four wineries that you would like to try and take your time at each one. Rushing because you want to visit a lot of wineries in one day takes away from the experience.
  5. Don’t forget lunch. Many wineries have beautiful patios or decks where you can spread out and have a great lunch. But, if you’re going to drink wine with lunch, make sure it’s from the winery where you’re eating. It’s rude to drink wine from another winery or beer on someone else’s property (and many times it is illegal for a winery, under their license, to have other alcohol on their property. Blue Mountain Vineyards is one of them.)
  6. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. A good rule of thumb is to drink one bottle of water per winery.
  7. Dress comfortably and in layers in case it’s cooler in a cellar than when you are sitting outside enjoying a quaff.
  8. Bring a cooler with one or two ice packs if you are making purchases – even of red wine. Car temperatures can soar, so when you are at your second or third stop – or on the way home – your wine should stay at appropriate temperatures.
  9. Don’t wear cologne or perfume. Drinking wine is a sensory experience, and if you load up on the perfume, it could affect you or others tasting.
  10. Really taste the wines: Look at them, smell them, taste them, and take notes so you will remember your impressions of them. At most wineries, the wines for a tasting are presented in a particular order based upon the style of wine. If you choose not to drink a particular wine, that’s fine. Gently cover your wine glass with your fingers to indicate you do not want to taste a wine. It is so much more subtle and classy than declaring loudly, “I don’t like that wine.” Remember, it is perfectly acceptable for you to dislike a wine, however, keep in mind that the person next to you may very well enjoy it.
  11. Make use of the dump bucket. If you don’t want the rest of the wine in your glass, you can pour it into the dump bucket. It’s perfectly okay. In addition, it’s a good idea to discreetly spit your wine into the bucket or into a cup to pour into the bucket, especially if you are tasting several wines. Remember to pace yourself. The more you drink, the less you will be able to taste and remember about the wine.
  1. Also make use of the crackers or bread to clear your palate. Take a sip between tastings and use it to swill your glass. Don’t go too crazy; it’s not a substitute for lunch. It’s there to help you cleanse your palate and get you ready for your next wine.
  2. Ask lots of questions. If you’re not sure about a wine, or want to know the background, don’t be afraid to ask. A good wine tasting host will be approachable and informative and giving a wine some context can help you to appreciate it more. We welcome questions! We’re passionate about wine and love to share that passion with you.
  3. Lastly, venture outside your comfort zone. Don’t just stick with what you know. Leave your misconceptions at the door and try a wine you think you’ll hate. Worst case scenario, you end up spitting, but, you never know, you could discover your new favorite wine!

Keep these tips in mind and more than likely you will have an experience you will remember for years to come.