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Unwritten Tasting Rules

Showing up in a party bus, making faces after sampling a wine or bragging about your 4,000-bottle cellar will not put you in the good graces of any winery. Here are tips from Wine Enthousiast on how to avoid the most irksome tasting room behavior.


Reconsider rolling in with a large group. Alicia Ekeler-Valle, tasting room manager at Lieb Cellars on the North Fork of Long Island, suggests doing a little research if you plan to bring more than six guests. “There is nothing more disappointing than being turned away at the door, because you did not make a reservation or arrived in a vehicle that is not permitted,” she says. A big group can overtake the tasting bar, change the atmosphere with loud chatter and prove tricky to corral throughout the day. “You will be able to better appreciate each tasting room if you can take your time and relax.”



Check the rules regarding children. “Well-behaved kids are welcome, but as parents, it’s your responsibility to make sure they don’t become a part of someone else’s tasting experience,” says Thomas Fogarty, owner of Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains, says. “As a parent of a four-year-old and a six-year-old, I try to remember that the only people who find my kids adorable as I do [are] my wife, and maybe the grandparents.” Call ahead to see if a winery is family-friendly.

Follow restaurant etiquette as a guide. If there’s a host stand, says Ekeler-Valle, then check-in first. Were you brought to a table with a server? Place your order with him or her, and be sure to leave gratuity. Is it a big open space with a very long bar? Then you can assume that you’re free to roam. “Pick up on the vibe, and you will be destined to have a great time,” she says.

Be unbiased. “‘I just love Cabernet Sauvignon, but I can’t stand Merlot’ isn’t a thing, no matter what you were told,” says Fogarty. It’s okay if you aren’t into a wine, but try it and let the staff explain its context, origin and food pairings. “[And] run through the whole flight in the order we suggest,” he says. “A lot of thought went into the selections and the order.”

Savor your sips. “You don’t go to a tasting every day, so give it time to be a special experience,” says Eric Bruce, hospitality manager at Lenné Estate in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. “Rushing through and gulping down the wine with hardly a sniff defeats the whole purpose.” Also, don’t overestimate the number of tasting rooms you can hit in a day. A few quality experiences are preferable to numerous and unmemorable pours that’ll end up swirling together in your head.

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