Friday, March 21, 2014

Planning a Day of Winery Visits

Finger Lakes Winery Map
Many of us are fortunate to live within an hour's drive of wineries and can decide to take a day trip to experience the current offerings. I find that there is nothing more exciting that to walk into a tasting room and be greeted by the words, "just released" and have the opportunity to taste the newest and best wines that the winemaker can produce.

Other's of us may decide to travel to a region to experience the wines produced there. It could be a vacation or a stop along a business trip. 

The key to successful winery visits is planning!

A map is essential to understand the relative locations of the wineries. But, don't stop there. I have driven miles into the backwoods to find a winery listed on the map only to find out that it is closed, although other information suggested it should be open.

Check the internet for the latest information on the winery. Look for hours of operation as these may change seasonally and look also whether there is a tasting room. I had discovered nice wineries listed on maps that do not have a tasting room. 

Armed with the assurance that the tasting room that will be open during the hours of your planned visit, don't stop there. Research the kinds of wines produced so that you know what to expect when you walk into the tasting room. The internet is a good place to accomplish this task as well. Often wineries will publish the wines available for tasting with reviews and descriptions. But, do not be afraid to stretch yourself a bit and taste different wines. 
Tasting Room at Veritas in Virginia

Tastings are not free! They can vary widely in cost from a couple of dollars to $50 for a tasting and tour or more. The website can prepare you for the options and also advise as to whether reservations are required. Yes, some wineries require reservations.

Some wineries, which offer a wide variety of wines, may offer different tasting experiences, for instance a reserve tasting which includes their best and most expensive wines, or a red or white only tasting. My preference is to taste the most expensive and supposedly best wines that a winery produces, so I usually do the reserve tasting. It is simple economics: I don't buy many wines that cost upwards of $80 plus per bottle and the tastings allow me to discover the differences in the construct and flavors of these wines. They help me to answer the question: is there a difference between $15 and $100+ per bottle wines?  The answer is: definitely!

Entrance to the Endless Summer Tasting Room
One last thought. Tasting rooms vary greatly. They range from small rooms in barn-like structures with a bar and some bottles of wine to those adorned with elaborate areas and beautiful artworks, like the one at Veritas in Virginia. Be sure to enjoy the ambiance, it says a lot about the owners and their approach to the wines. I like the smaller rooms where you can often find the owners or winemakers pouring the wines and talking about their characteristics and their vineyard.

-- Bob and Christina Doan, Elkridge, MD

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