Tasting Room Etiquette

Illustration by Megan Dunagan

Are you a newcomer to wine and tasting rooms? Don’t worry. We all need to start somewhere and, chances are, you won’t be the only one in the room. Being a novice could even work in your advantage and be the perfect conversation starter, especially if you’re trying to cozy up to the cute pourer behind the bar. Whether you’re planning an outing to local wineries with friends and family or a longer excursion to Napa, it’s always helpful to know what to expect. Here are some simple tasting tips from Orange Coast magazine’s dining critic Gretchen Kurz, to keep in mind as you explore the O.C. Wine Trail in this month’s issue. Remember to stay open-minded about the wines you try, have fun, and before you know it, you’ll be on your way to tasting like the pros.

DON’T SAY YUCK after you first taste a wine. Try at least two sips before you decide you don’t like it, then pour what’s left into the spit bucket. Without comment.

DO LISTEN as the tasting room staffer pours your wine sample. You’ll learn key facts and avoid asking for a repeat of the info you missed while you were being rude.

DON’T WEAR ANY fragrance. Ever. Even scented body lotion can destroy the room’s olfactory neutrality.

DO DESIGNATE a driver in advance. And bring along water for everybody. Tasting and spitting quietly is perfectly polite. Wine experts do it all the time.

DON’T ARRIVE with a large party without calling ahead. Unexpected invasions kill the room’s vibe. What’s large? More than four.

Bonus tip: Don’t know which winery to visit next? Ask your pourer for recommendations to learn about favorites. Many have knowledge of all the local wineries and can narrow the options for you. In larger wine country areas, they may know of off-the-beaten boutique wineries that have great wines. 

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