Visiting wineries? Mind your manners
And if after tasting you're buying, be sure to bring a cooler. It's hot in Eastern Washington.
Special to the Seattle Times
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WITH SUMMER finally here, a lot of folks are planning visits to winery tasting rooms. Here are some guidelines that should be observed to make your experience special, while respecting the rights of others:
• Plan ahead. Before you start your trip, familiarize yourself with a map of the region. Visit some winery websites and read up on the wines. Choose a designated driver. Don't try to visit more than two or three tasting rooms before lunch, and another three or four after. Minimize driving times by choosing clusters of wineries. If you are dining out or need lodging, have reservations before you leave home.
• Have a bite. Most tasting rooms offer six or more wines. Though pours are small, it adds up. Don't taste on an empty stomach. Drink lots of water. Keep munching on something — crackers, celery, carrot sticks — throughout the day. There are dump buckets (sometimes paper cups also) available for spitting. Use them. Spitting is not wasteful, impolite or ugly. It is standard wine-tasting procedure. In fact, spitting makes you look like a pro.
• Focus. Constantly switching from white to red, dry to sweet and back again will quickly wear out your palate. So one day you might do just white wines; another day just reds. Or you might focus on a particular grape variety or blend — Rhône reds for example.
• Do a little research. You will ask better questions and retain more of the answers. If you are lucky enough to have a winemaker pouring, and he or she is not too busy, ask about grape sources, favorite vineyards, winemaking techniques, the ageability of their wines or even something as simple as how they got interested in wine.
The real experts on tasting-room protocol are the folks who work in them. Here are some of the things they would like to tell you in person, but probably can't. A bit blunt perhaps, but honest:
"Don't bring children, especially in strollers!"
"In a busy tasting room, please get your pour and move away from the tasting bar to make room for others to enjoy as well. It's irritating to try and taste when people refuse to move and harder for those who work the tasting room to keep people moving."
"Don't chew gum. Also, please minimize the amount of perfume or aftershave that you put on when going wine tasting." (Yes, for yourself and others, do not use any scented body products when wine tasting.)
"Save your high heels for going out to dinner. Many cellars have open grate metal walkways and slippery floors. And while you sit in the tasting room looking pretty, everyone else heads into the vineyard with the winemaker."
"I like coffee as much as the next person, but not while wine tasting. Please don't walk in the door drinking your Starbucks or Big Gulps."
"Sharing a glass to avoid a $3 tasting fee is tacky and a sure sign that you aren't there to buy. And just because your dog can fit into a purse does not mean you should take it everywhere with you."
"Don't pull your glass away or raise it up mid-pour. I can't tell you how many times I've poured wine on the bar or floor when someone pulls their glass away."
"Turn your cellphone off before entering the tasting room."
And one more from me. It's summertime. It gets hot in Eastern Washington, and shady parking spots are rare. Bring a cooler if you plan to buy wine and keep it in your car.
About Wine Adviser
My column is all about sharing the joy of exploring all the world of wine. I want to guide people to make inspired choices, and encourage them to try as many different styles of wine as they can. I will always seek out the best wines at the best prices. Wine Adviser runs on Sunday in Pacific Northwest Magazine.
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