Tips & Tricks for Better Wine Travel

No, I don’t ever get tired of visiting wineries. It’s something I continue to love no matter how many tasting rooms I’ve seen or flights of oaky Zinfandel I’ve suffered through. Even when the wines don’t shine, I still have a great time.

Part of the reason is that I love excuses to drink at 10 am know when and how to visit vineyards without the boisterous bachelorette party crowds, confusion, and traffic that often surround visiting well-known wine regions.

It’s just plain disappointing to arrive at a winery to discover you needed an appointment, or they’re only open on Sundays, or you have too many people in your group.

Luckily, because I’ve done all those things I’ve learned a few golden tricks to making the most of any wine travel opportunity whether it’s off or distinctly on the beaten path.

1.Go Mid-Week

This is my favorite trick to getting the best service and lots of surprises at wineries. On the weekends, these tasting rooms are flooded with big parties and don’t always have the time to guide patrons through their wines and tell the story of the winery, or special traits of the region. On weekdays, tasting room staffs have lots of time to chat and give the inside scoop on the winery and/or region. Plus, there’s often extra bottles open from the weekend that they can pour for nice customers.

If wine tasting on a Wednesday isn’t a possibility, try a three-day weekend where Monday is the third day, instead of Friday.

2. Do 5 Minutes of Homework.

Google is the wine lover’s best friend. A quick search will nearly always yield the information you need to plan a great tasting day including hours, directions, and requirements for reservations or large parties. Winemakers want you to visit and experience their wines, so this information is widely available. If you can read this blog, you have time to google your favorite Pinot Noir producer.

3. Don’t Haggle Over Tasting Fees.

Look, nobody likes paying for stuff. If I had my way, all yoga and charcuterie would be free but that’s not how the world works. Tasting room staff don’t make these rules, but they can break them. Often with a purchase (or just because they like you) staff can waive fees, but the Golden Rule for being forced to pay is nagging or complaining.

4. Ask Questions.

The more you ask, the more you’ll know. Seriously. Silly questions are de riguer in tasting rooms–everything from “Are grapes the only ingredient in wine?” to “Will Claritin help my hangover?” has been asked already so there’s nothing to hide when it comes to wine knowledge or lack thereof. Plus, asking questions leads to the best conversations, and secrets of wine country. What start as “stupid” questions often yield surprising results, included but not limited to, other wineries to try, a region’s best watering holes, or more wines to taste.

5. Don’t Be Drunk.

Seriously. It’s a tasting room, not a frat house. Yes, drunkenness is a result of wine tasting, but keep it together folks. Nobody wants to clean up after a messy crowd that inhales the entire cracker basket. Also, it’s just not safe. Limit your visits to three or four wineries per day, stay hydrated, and remember to eat real food.

Wine Travel Uncorked:

IMG_7338Laura Loves: Heitz, Chateau Montelena, and Trinchero Napa Valley for classic Napa tasting experiences without outrageous charges.

Oregon’s Ponzi Winery for gorgeous picnics and fantastic white wines.

Fun Facts: 2016 marks the 40th anniversary of the Judgement of Paris, a tasting that put Napa wines to the test against French bottles.

The Oregon wine industry is under 50 years old!