This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this topic. 99% of you know everything I’m about to write. And agree. And act this way. But I still feel compelled to write about it.
Why? Maybe it’s because pumpkin-picking season is upon us on Long Island and wine country roads are clogged with local agritourists. Maybe it’s all of the bar-masquerading-as-a-tasting-room stuff I’ve been reading. Or maybe it’s that I’m becoming more and more like my father every day in that I simply expect people to act the right way in every situation — including visiting wine country.
Most of the time, they do of course. Most patrons I share tasting rooms with seem to be having fun — while also being respectful and responsible. That’s what makes wine country so much fun for me and my family.
But it only takes a bad berry or two to spoil the cluster. I’ve witnessed some abhorrent behavior too. And I’ve been told stories — by tasting room managers and winery owners — that frankly stun me.
Now before I delve into how I think one should behave when touring wine country, a bit of a disclaimer: I understand that there are some wineries that actually encourage the type of behavior I’m lamenting with this post. But, I prefer to think of them as bars or clubs rather than actual wineries.
There are rules — some written, some unwritten — that every visitor should adhere too. Doing so will make touring wine country more fun for you, your fellow customers and for the wineries. The wineries want you to have fun — and hopefully buy some wine. But they also want you to be safe. Most of them anyway.
Here are a few tips to ensure that you get the most from your visit — safely.
Designate a Driver. It might seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. The tastes you’ll be poured by most wineries are small, only an ounce or two, but they can add up over the course of a day. Make sure that you choose your designated driver before you arrive at 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.
Pace Yourself. You’re excited about your visit wine country — and why wouldn’t you be? — and want to pack as much in as possible, but again those little pours really do add up. Pick three or four wineries that you want to visit and take your time at each, rather than racing through 7 or 8 in one day. Wine tasting is about more than just the wine. Enjoy your friends, the setting and the conversation.
Bring a Picnic Lunch. There are great restaurants on both Forks and several wineries offer at least some sort of food, but one of the things I enjoy most about a winery afternoon is having a picnic lunch next to a vineyard. Many wineries have beautiful patios or decks where you can spread out and have a great lunch. Remember though that if you’re going to drink wine with lunch, make sure it’s from the winery that is hosting you. It’s rude to drink wine from another winery on someone else’s property.
Also note that agritourism-focused wineries may not want you to bring outside food in because they’d rather sell theirs to you.
Don’t Wear Perfume or Cologne. This is a pet peeve of mine — and something that may not bother you as much, but if I’m tasting wine, I want to be able to smell the wine — not the cologne the guy next to me has drowned himself in. You’ve met that guy. I know you have. I actually hope you’re not that guy. Just be considerate. Smoking falls into the same category for me. As a non-smoker I don’t understand the addiction, but I don’t think smoking has any place at a winery.
A Tasting Room is Not a Bar. Like I said, some wineries may operate like bars with cover charges and DJs, with people packed shoulder-to-shoulder, three or more deep at the tasting bar, but they aren’t. Be respectful of those pouring wine for you and don’t ask to be “filled up” when you’re tasting. If you want to drink to get drunk, head to your local watering hole with your designated driver in tow.
Buy a Bottle to Take Home…If There’s One You Like. It always surprises me to hear that some people feel guilty if they don’t buy a bottle of something. That’s ridiculous. It’s your money and you should never feel pressured to spend it on wine you don’t like. Of course, if there’s a wine you really love, why wouldn’t you want to take some home?
I guess these all boil down to simply this: Have fun. Be smart. Be respectful. Be safe.