Skip Nav
Harry Potter
Harry Potter's Butterbeer Made With Actual Butter and Beer
Fast and Easy
This Avocado Dressing Transforms Humdrum Salad Greens Into Something Spectacular
Fast and Easy
60+ 1-Pan Dinners That Are Ready in an Hour or Less

Tips For Visiting Wineries

5 Huge Misconceptions About Visiting Wineries

As a writer of food and drink, I have a pretty big blunder to admit. Though wine country is a mere hour away, I don't know the first thing about choosing a tasting room. On my last trip to wine country, I hit up three spots: one fantastic, another mediocre, and a third downright horrible.

If only I had known what I know now, after speaking with Tilar Mazzeo, the author of Back Lane Wineries of Napa and Back Lane Wineries of Sonoma, two helpful books that guide visitors to vineyards that are off the beaten track. After a lengthy discussion with her, I discovered that I've been approaching wine country all wrong. Not only that, but many of my perceptions about visiting wineries are completely incorrect.

Now that I'm much better equipped, I'm already plotting my next trip! Curious to know what mistakes you might be making? Read on.

  • You should buy from every winery you visit. "Nobody wants people to feel obligated to buy the wine, especially if they don't like it," says Mazzeo. But if you did enjoy the wine, compliment the winemaker by buying a bottle.
  • Winemakers aren't interested in talking to amateurs. "People think they have to show off their palates, but the passionate amateur is the person that every winemaker loves best," Tilar explains, recalling a time when a winemaker showed her how to better her retro-olfactory skills.
  • Weekends are the best time to go. "Locals do not go tasting anywhere in a tasting room on a weekend," she says, recommending Thursday afternoons and Friday mornings as ideal times.
  • You always have to think far ahead when booking appointments. According to Mazzeo, Napa is currently not issuing any tasting room permits, so many wineries can get a license only by requiring appointments. This means that often wineries can get you in, even at the last minute.
  • Napa and Sonoma have both gone completely commercial. There are still plenty of wineries in the area that have a lively tradition of small production, and are making wine as a craft more so than as an enterprise. In particular, she points to viticultural areas in Napa such as the Spring Mountain and Howell Mountain.

What tips have you learned from going wine tasting?

Image Source: Shutterstock
TFred423 TFred423 7 years
I am in the wine industry so I am fortunate enough to go to wine country quite often. I took my parents last summer for their first trip, they were nervous but enjoyed themselves. I encourage everyone to ask as many questions as you can-- the people in the tasting room and the wine makers love to educate people. I also encourage people to try all of the wines-- you never know what might be your next favorite. Become fans of the wineries on facebook, or join their email clubs to find out about special events. There is always something cool going on in wine country.
Soniabonya Soniabonya 7 years
I love going to wineries and have been up to the wine country several times, but tend to stay more in the Sonoma and surrounding areas of Geyserville, Healdsburg, etc. I've been to quite a few places all around CA and none of them are the same. I'm far from being a knowitall on wine, and tend to ask the dumbest questions (is this a poolside wine?) but I enjoy tasting because I get to broaden my horizons on different wines and regions, and get to talk to people from all walks of life. that makes the tasting so fun. and finding a good bottle of wine out of it is just a bonus :)
bluesarahlou bluesarahlou 7 years
Oh, and many great places don't take appointments. Appointment only wineries aren't always the better ones.
bluesarahlou bluesarahlou 7 years
I experiences in Napa were that the tasting fees are only sometimes waived when you purchase wine. I live in Sonoma County, so I rarely go to Napa anymore. I just feel its become a complete tourist trap. Overpriced wine, huge crowds, all that really turned me off. IMO there are just soooo many other places to go, where you won't be charged a buttload of money for a mediocre bottle of wine. Nowadays I stick to my area. I frequent Santa Rosa, Geyserville, Healdsburg, and the entire Dry Creek area. We also take trips up to Anderson Valley a few times a year. And I completely agree about avoiding the weekends if you can. We typically go wine tasting on Fridays. And if it's raining, that's even better! :)
belle28 belle28 7 years
I've only been wine tasting once, in Sonoma. It was a Saturday morning during the summer and it was ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS. Nothing was too crowded and I tried some good stuff and some bad. After going to about 5 different wineries, I only bought 1 bottle (next time I'll budget better). However, I did feel panicked on the way up there: half way up there I realized I didn't have my license. I was 21 years old, but could easily look under aged. I didn't want to say anything because it was a group of 8 and I didn't want to turn around. Luckily, I didn't have any problems :)
Plitvice Lake in Croatia
Hocus Pocus Filming Locations
Sexual Harassment When Traveling
Gluhwein Mulled Wine Recipe
From Our Partners
Latest Food
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds