Many people admit they know nothing about wine. Part of the fun is visiting a region that is known for its wine and learning all you can. Not everyone is a wine expert, and knowledge may not sink in right away. Sharing the wine experience with a spouse, family and friends makes for a memorable experience.
Attend Wine Tastings and Wine Pairing Events
Most wine tastings are free of charge. Before visiting a winery, call and ask if they take walk-ins, large groups or require reservations. If the vineyard is widely-known for its wine tastings and wine pairing activities, you may have to make reservations a few weeks in advance. Wine pairings give you a better idea of matching food with the right wine. The samples are usually prepared by a chef, so expect to be pampered.
Hooked on wine pairing, but want to try it at home? Check out the winery websites. Many of them include blogs and recipes that go well with their wines. You can keep track of winery events. And you can experiment with different recipes that go well with a certain wine.
Wine Tasting Etiquette
Plan on having a good time. People who enjoy wine will be showing up in large groups. Don’t be intimidated. Learn at your own pace. Enjoy what is put before you. Here are a few tips:
- arrange for a designated driver or hire a driver
- have something substantial to eat before sitting down to a wine tasting
- ask plenty of questions and take notes
- for total enjoyment, take the basic steps and swirl, sniff and sip the wine
Choosing and Purchasing Wine
Don’t feel pressured to purchase the wine you have sampled. In a winery setting, it can be quite overwhelming (as well as confusing) to choose a wine to bring home, but you don’t have to be a wine expert to enjoy wine. During a wine tasting, participants are given a list of wines. There’s pen and paper to help you jot down your favorites. Here are some basic, easy rules to guide you with your purchase:
- Do you love the taste of this wine?
- Will you drink this wine? Will you use it for cooking? Or both?
- Will you share this wine with others?
- Will you keep it for yourself?
It’s that simple. Once you’ve experienced a few wine tasting events, you will no longer buy your wines from the supermarket. By then, you will easily recognize what you like. You will no longer buy a cheap wine because you can now identify quality. Buying from a winery is your best bet.
Most wineries usually offer a wine club for their customers, and it’s an easy way to get acquainted with their different types of wine. If you can’t be in the area to pick up your favorite wines, the winery will periodically send wines to your home. Wine is also available for pick-up. Some wineries have special discounts, parties and events for their wine club members throughout the year.
A Few Friendly Wineries
While staying in the Napa Valley and Sonoma County, the following wineries were recommended by fellow travelers and locals for an incredible wine and food experience. A week’s stay was not enough time to explore the vineyards and wineries. Plan to take a lifetime.