There is no better way to spend a summer afternoon than sipping your way through wine country. With over thirty wineries making nearly every style of wine imaginable on Long Island, everybody can find at least one wine that they’ll love.

Even if this weekend is your first visiting the wineries, it’s easy to taste like a pro and get the most out of your experience. These are just a few tips I always offer to people heading out East — and they apply to any winery in any region.

Bring Friends and Have Fun. Wine is absolutely best enjoyed with friends. Get a group together and have a great time. But, remember that you aren’t the only people out there. Don’t get fall-down drunk, and try not to be too loud or noisy. It ruins the atmosphere for everyone else

Don’t Try to Visit Every Winery. With 30+ wineries on Long Island, it can be tempting to visit all of them — but those little tastes really add up. It’s much better to pick three or four wineries and take your time at each. Wine tasting is about more than just the wine. Rushing because you want to visit every winery on the North Fork in one day takes away from the experience. You’ll enjoy it more if you go slow.

Bring a Picnic Lunch. A picnic lunch among the vines is one of life’s great pleasures. Many wineries have beautiful patios or decks where you can spread out and have a great lunch. But, if you’re going to drink wine with lunch, make sure it’s from the winery where you’re eating. It’s rude to drink wine from another winery though.

Dscn4383Don’t Wear Perfume or Cologne.  If people are there to swirl, sniff and sip a winery’s lastest releases, they want to smell the wine and all of its complexities…not your cologne. You’ve met that guy — but don’t be that guy (or woman).

Don’t Drink Wines You Don’t Like.
If you take that first sip of a reserve chardonnay and it’s just too oaky and buttery for your taste, don’t finish it. Every tasting bar has a dump bucket for just this reason. It’s okay to skip any of the wines on the tasting list too. If you want to just taste a particular varietal or just reds or whites, you can do that.

Ask Questions. At most wineries, the people pouring the wines are passionate about them and have a lot to offer. Ask questions. Tell them what you like and don’t like. If they are good, they’ll be able to tailor your tasting to your personal tastes. And, if you get lucky, they may just pour you something special that isn’t on the usual tasting menu. Get to know these people, they’ll remember you the next time you visit.

Buy a Bottle to Take Home…If You There is One You Like. Some people believe that you absolutely need to buy at least one bottle of wine at each winery. That’s ridiculous. Never feel pressured to do so. It’s silly to buy a wine you don’t like. Of course, if there’s a wine you really love, why wouldn’t you want to take some home?

Remember to Choose a Designated Driver. Sure, the samples you’ll be drinking are small, usually an ounce or so, but they can add up. Decide who’s going to drive before you head to the first winery. Don’t assume that "someone will be sober enough to drive" at the end of the day. Nothing ruins a great day at the wineries like a DWI arrest, or worse. If you don’t want to designate a driver, hire a limo or bus company to drive you around.

This is just a sampling…so let me know what other tips you’d offer to people as they head to wine country.