You don’t have to live in California wine country to go wine touring! There are many amazing areas of wine in the United States, and there might be some vineyards and wineries near you in your own backyard. In fact, all 50 states grow grapes and produce wine.

As a wine tour operator, I have come across several situations and have put together a list of things to remember for wine touring, whether you’re touring in Napa, Willamette Valley, Oregon, the Finger Lakes in upstate New York or in your state. Enjoy!

  1. Dress comfortably and for the weather and the environment. Sometimes the idea of going to a winery sounds fancy to some, especially if you are going for a special occasion. The best thing to keep in mind is that winemakers are farmers first. Meaning, if you are going to a winery that is in the same location as the vineyard, it’s probably best not to wear stiletto heels. This doesn’t mean you have to wear hiking gear, but you’ll want to be comfortable (you can still be stylish) and have the proper footwear. We all know stiletto heels and soft grass don’t mix. *wink wink*
  2. Eat a good breakfast or lunch. This might be a given, however, I’ve run into this several times. Most wineries don’t have a full kitchen, which means you can still get a variety of breads and cheeses, but this won’t help you get ahead in the game. I recommend snacks while wine tasting to avoid over-imbibing.
  3. Drink plenty of water. A good rule of thumb is to drink double the amount of water you normally drink. Whatever you normally drink, only doubled. Wine is a natural diuretic and and dehydrator. Water also keeps your palate cleansed and ready to try new things. I always recommend drinking 16 ounces of water between wineries.
  4. Call ahead for “large” parties. Large parties for restaurants are different than large parties for wineries. If you have a group of six or more, it’s best to call ahead to insure the tasting room can accommodate your group. As a wine tour operator, we try to keep our groups to 12 or less and we always inform the wineries prior to the tour with an estimated time of arrival. Alerting the staff will allow them to bring in extra staff if needed to deliver the best experience possible.
  5. Make sure you have a safe driver! This is so important. Put your mind at ease and have a designated driver, or consider hiring a tour company to take you around. Nebraska Wine Tours takes guests to three locations for wine tasting. By the time you have visited all three places, you will have had the equivalent of ¾ of a bottle of wine in tastings alone. This doesn’t include any extra glasses you might have purchased while you’re there either. 
  6. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Most likely if you are visiting a winery, you’ll see wine names you don’t know. Don’t be scared of them! The best thing to do is to ask questions of the person pouring the wine; they are there to help you out. Remember they want to help you find something you’ll like, so don’t be afraid to say you have no idea what you want to try. Let the staff know what you typically like to drink, and they will help guide you to the things you might like best on their menu.
  7. Be open minded and don’t get overwhelmed. The best piece of advice I can offer for this one is not to rush your tasting. Think about the flavors you are smelling and tasting. The biggest part of tasting wine is through your nose; just think of how bland foods can taste when you have a cold. Same holds true for wine! Swirl the wine around in the glass and notice how it continues to change as you taste it. Most importantly, I always tell my wine tour guests to not only think about whether or not they like the wine, but if it’s “to buy for.” Look for things you’ll want to share at your next dinner party or with a group of friends!
  8. Bring a cooler! Make sure it’s empty, except for a few ice blocks. The cooler will hold the wine you purchase and keep it from getting too hot in the car while you are still on tour. I always have a couple of coolers available for our wine tour guests, and it’s one thing that most people don’t think of when preparing for a wine tour in Focus WIne Cellars.

By using these tips, you’ll be confident and ready to visit wineries like a pro!

Check out this recent episode of Wine Antics LIVE! I was a featured guest while we discussed this same topic!