The Tasting Room Experience

"You can't always get what you want, But if you try sometimes, well you might just find, you get what you need!” ~Rolling Stones

Fall is fast approaching, for many the last hurrah for clear skies, and warm temperatures, but some of you may still be looking to do some wine tasting while the weather is pleasant. Here in Oregon, the weather has already turned chilly, and the days are getting shorter. Perhaps you took a tour, grabbed a groups of friends, or it was just you and the Mrs. off on wine-tasting adventure for the day. You most likely were not the only one with that idea, which means some of the more popular destinations are going to be quite busy.

I've experienced this more than once myself, and I either wait and politely wade through a sea of thirsty vino-sapiens, or I attempt to find a winery far off the beaten path. Somewhere the crowds may have glossed over when they planned their wine tasting route for the day, one that does not service Limo Buses and the like, if you know what I mean.

My strategy for a successful wine tasting trip is pretty simple really. I typically try to avoid weekends, I like to go mid-week or when it's not the high season. If I know the place I'd like to taste will be crazy busy later in the day, I'll go there first right when they open. For a better experience (if offered or required) I book tasting appointments in advance. Some wineries provide enhanced experiences which I've found are very much worth the price of admission.

With the advent of Social Media in today's world "everyone's a critic," and they'd like to have their opinion heard by the entire world. Often it's a good thing, but other times because of improper planning or unrealistic expectations some folks take to "rant" sites like Yelp to voice their displeasure. Still, other folks will use other platforms such as Twitter and or Facebook to let these businesses know they're not pleased with their perception about the quality of service.

Still, you can't just pin it on the customers, sometimes the folks in the tasting room (who are human) make decisions when interacting with customers, which can put the winery in a bad light. There are always two sides to the argument, but I believe both customers and tasting room attendants bear equal responsibility upon their own shoulders in the tasting room experience.

So before you blow your cork, spouting off on social media, slow-your-roll just a moment, take a breath, step away from the situation. Enjoy that glass of wine, while sitting on their patio overlooking the vineyards, it will help you to gain some perspective on the things that really matter.

Which is why I put this list together in such a way as to speak to both sides of the tasting bar. I've never worked in a tasting room, but I've poured at many other events and at a wine tasting bar in La Jolla. So I think I understand both sides of the coin, pretty well. By all means, if you have something you'd like to add, please do so below in the comments.

1. Customers (tasters) need to manage their expectations. Walking up to a tasting room door five minutes before they close up for the day is a recipe for sour grapes, this is a practice I'd avoid.

2. Customers should call ahead, this is common courtesy. You do this to assure yourself that the winery is indeed open, that way you don't drive all that way for nothing, as not all wineries operate on the same schedule either, so plan ahead. 


3. Customers do well to remember like I said above tasting rooms can be hectic places for both the consumer and the staff. Speaking of the tasting room team, it's easy for a tasting room staff to become overwhelmed by even 2-3 groups of folks visiting at the same time, so please be patient. If you see limousines parked outside, be prepared it's going be a bit of wait making your way to the counter.

4. Customers (tasters) should remember you're there to taste and not to drink this is an important distinction. These are samples, to help you form an opinion about the wines being tasted and to hopefully help you make more than a few purchasing decisions.

5. Tasters, please have a designated driver who is either committed to spitting or to not sampling wines at all.

6. As a wine 'tasting' customer, please remember to stay hydrated, this point can not be stressed enough.

7. If it's needed/required to make appointments ahead of time, please do so. This is an excellent way for you and the winery to be on the same schedule. And while winemakers need to be good stewards of their time, because they have a lot going on in the winery and vineyards [behind the curtain] - and it's possible for an "oops" to occasionally happen. So always call to confirm the day of the appointment, is welcomed and appreciated.

8. Tasting Room attendants should never bad-mouth their neighbors (other wineries) that's poor form and a very tacky move.

9. Tasting Room attendants should do their best to acknowledge each new customer who walks through the door with a "Smile, hello, I'll be right with you!" This honestly works every time and if you'll be delayed further just excuse yourself a moment to let new arrivals know you'll do your very best to accommodate them soon.

10. Tasters [customers], please remember when you belly-up-to-the-bar other folks may have come in behind you, and they would be really happy that you've made some space for them.

11. Lastly, please remember this should be a fun experience, follow some basic guidelines of common courtesy, plan ahead and everyone will have a better experience in the long run.

Bonus: Wineries I know you've probably have heard this before; but don't you think the Tasting Room should be a 'cool' environment where you can fairly evaluate each of the wines sampled? I've been to far too many tasting rooms which are hot and uncomfortable. That's not a fun experience.

Until next time folks, I hope you all remember that life is short, so sip long and prosper cheers!

Comments

Anonymous said…
Love this! Thanks for taking the time to write this. It helps EVERYONE have a better experience.
Carl Tiedemann said…
These are great points and hopefully helpful to all. Enjoy your blog. Cheers
Carl Tiedemann
Bill Eyer said…
Nothing like a little straight talk about the basics of wine tasting, before folks hit the trail!

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