After you tour a winery, you usually end up at the wine tasting room. Alternatively, the wine tasting room may be the place you spend all your time during your visit if you prefer not to tour the winery or if a tour isn’t available.
The wine tasting room, which can be very simple or very elaborate, is the winery’s reception area for visitors. You’ll see a bar where samples of the winery’s wines are available for tasting. The people behind the bar who pour the samples are usually knowledgeable about their wines. These people might also be knowledgeable about wine in general, depending on the individual. Tastes of non-alcoholic beverages, such as grape juice, are usually also available for children or nondrinkers.
Keep the following information in mind if you plan to visit a wine tasting room.
Tasting fees: Many years ago, you could taste wines in tasting rooms for no charge, but today the norm is to charge visitors a small fee for each taste, varying from a couple of dollars up to $10 for very special expensive wines. Sometimes wineries charge you for the glass that you use instead of charging for the wine, and you get to keep the glass. Sometimes you can apply the entire tasting fee toward the cost of a bottle that you purchase.
Choosing wines to taste: Depending on how many wines a winery has, certain wines might be available on certain days, or all the wines might be available for tasting all the time. Sometimes instead of tasting the wines one by one, you can taste a flight of wines, a group of several wines (generally three or four) that you sample side-by-side to understand the differences among them.
Usually, the tasting room personnel expect you to request a particular wine or type of wine to taste. Their goal is to serve you something that you’ll like so you’ll decide to purchase that wine. Be prepared to discuss your likes and dislikes in wine so they can help you find a wine that excites you.
Special offers: Many wineries have certain wines that they sell only in their tasting room, not in wine shops or restaurants. These wines are usually small-production items, such as wines from unusual grape varieties or experimental blends. It’s a good idea to ask whether any such wines are available, because this is your only chance to taste them — and you sound like an insider for asking.
While you’re at it, ask whether the winery has a wine club. Wine clubs are mailing lists of wine drinkers to whom the winery makes special offers from time to time (for instance, the winery might give them the opportunity to buy tasting-room-only wines or to attend special events). Usually membership is free, with no commitment on your part to buy wines.
The gift shop: Many wine tasting rooms also house a gift shop. The gift shops can be terrific. You'll likely find wine books, wine gadgets (corkscrews, no-drip pouring aids, coasters, and the like), glassware, aprons, t-shirts and other clothing, and baseball caps. These items can be great mementos of your visit, not to mention thoughtful gifts.