Dezel’s Tasting Room Tips to Sip by

Tasting Room Tips

Hello Friends,

Spring is here, the sun is shining, and the flowers are blooming, and Dezel knows that many of you will be coming out of hibernation and planning weekend trips to Virginia’s award winning wineries to sample the new releases. With good positive feedback from readers about my Top 10 Wine Events and Festivals posting last month, I decided to throw together some tasting room tips for you, which will hopefully lead to a pleasurable tasting experience for you and others. Of course, even with these tips and the best of preparation, it is largely up to the Virginia wineries to have a friendly and knowledgeable staff on hand to make you feel like part of the wine family. Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are a few tips to having a great time while visiting Virginia tasting rooms this spring and summer.

Review the tasting sheet for descriptions of the wine

  • I will start off with something that I stand guilty of – well, sometimes. Before leaving out for your wine tasting adventure, limit or do not use any perfume, cologne, or lotions. Although pleasing, they will definitely affect your ability to pick up the aromas of the wine, which will in turn alter your perception of its taste. And if it affects you, it can certainly ruin the experience for others too.
  • Before leaving out to go wine tasting have a good breakfast or lunch and bring a few bottles of water with you. Actually, packing a cooler with snacks and water is a very good idea.
  • Plan ahead, friends! Many Virginia wineries have limited hours, and some even go by appointments (especially for large groups and tours), so pick up the telephone and give them a call to make sure they will be open and ready to pour.
  • Here is one I wish I had in my back pocket: a Designated Driver. This is a prudent decision for a carefree day of wine tasting. If everyone wants to taste, there are also many local tour services available that are fun and affordable. I recommend trying Deidra at Virginia Wine Adventures.

Listen up - lots of great info will be shared with you

  • If you plan to picnic, call the winery you plan to picnic at and ask if they allow baskets. A few wineries are no longer allowing guests to bring food. You can also call the winery and find out what types of foods they offer - a cheese, sausage and baguette platter will usually do the trick.
  • When you taste, follow the flow from white wines to reds and then dessert wines if applicable. Wines are tasted from light, to drier, to sweet for a reason. You would not want to start off your tasting with a big tannic red and then try to fully enjoy a light fruity white wine – that big bad red won’t allow it!
  • When tasting, refresh the palate with plain crackers and water if available. If the winery offers cheese samples during the tasting save the cheese for later. Cheese can hide flaws in wine, and reduce your ability to detect subtlety. Simply put, you do not want cheese or perfumes affecting your sense of aroma and taste.
  • Some people will say that they are a red wine or white wine person; others may like only sweet wines. Keep an open mind and open palate and try everything if it doesn’t kill you or give you a migraine. You might just find something new that you like, and if it is all together not your style, do not feel ashamed to pour it out or spit.

Ask questions, you can learn a lot during a tasting session

  • Very important: always look at your wine. The color can give hints about the quality and age of the wine, and remember, always swirl, sniff, and sip every wine. As you do these things, think about the color, aromas and flavors – is the color attractive and brilliant, are you smelling apples, pears, apricots, cherries, or hints of vanilla, are the flavors consistent with the aromas?
  • Ask questions: be Curious George the Wine Lover. Wine tasting is your opportunity to not only educate your palate, but to learn more about the wine making process at the winery you are visiting. In most Virginia tasting rooms you will find a warm and knowledgeable staff, winery owners, and if you are lucky, the winemaker(s) themselves, ready to make your tasting experience memorable. Most wineries know the importance of a good staff - it provides repeat business and word of mouth promotion. Not all wineries are created equal, however, so if you encounter someone in the tasting room trying to rush you through your tasting, or not at all interested in the wine they are pouring, write or email the owners.
  • All wineries will have a tasting sheet listing what is being poured. Take the time to review the tasting sheet and as you sample the wines, see if you can pick the suggested aromas and flavors out in the wines.

Take notes – jot down what you liked, loved, and may buy

  • If you are on the bubble about a bottle purchase, ask for a second sampling to confirm your thoughts of the wine. Usually after a tasting, your pourer will ask if there is anything you would like to re-taste. But if they do not, ask politely.
  • Do not feel pressured to drink all the wine in your glass, especially if you are visiting a number of wineries. No one wants to get tipsy, right? Feel free to sip and spit or sip and swallow a little and throw the remaining wine in the dump bucket provided by the winery.
  • Some wineries, not all, have a tasting fee; usually a souvenir glass and great service is included with this fee. As mentioned below, some wineries will apply these fees to a bottle purchase.
  • Some wineries have a two tier tasting fee, one for tasting their everyday wines, and another fee for their reserve wines. Some wineries waive a tasting fee per bottle purchase, so be sure to ask about this before tasting. It just may help you decide which tasting option is best for you.

Smile! You are sure to make a friend in VA's tasting rooms

  • Spring and summer are busy times for Virginia wineries so try not to crowd the bar. If you're in a tasting room that is obviously busy, back away from the bar after completing your tasting to give others a chance to be serviced. There's nothing worse than fighting a crowd when trying to taste. Sometimes it is just the nature of the beast, but deal with it like the dignified wine lover Dezel knows you are!
  • I know I said in no particular order, but, last but not least is to have fun while enjoying Virginia wine at the source this spring and summer!

Inspired by mirth wine and having fun – Happy Sipping, friends!

Stay tuned friends ...Cellaring, and more to come !!!

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