Helpful How-tos

Whether you are a wine-tasting novice or seasoned pro, there are guidelines for how to enjoy wine in tasting rooms while also making sure others get the most out of their experiences. Wineries and vineyards are incredibly welcoming and excited about sharing their wares with guests, so show your appreciation by observing these words of wine-tasting advice.

Tasting Room Procedure

You can sample specific wines, but in most cases you will be offered a “flight.” These can be a series of several different Pinot Noirs or an array from white to red. Each winery does it a little bit differently. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand what’s going on. The staff is there to help you through the journey, not judge your wine knowledge.

There will be a fee. Usually it is somewhere in the range of $10-$20. Sometimes this fee will be waived or reduced if you end up purchasing bottles of wines you enjoyed. The fee also might include a small cheese-and-meat plate, but not always.

You may stand at the bar if you want to chat with the pourer or you can find a seat. Either way, you are encouraged to take your time. Don’t feel as if you have to rush through the process. After the samples, you can choose the wine you liked the best and purchase a glass to sip with friends.

If you are with a large group, call the winery beforehand to make sure the attendants can accommodate your party. Some vineyards prefer to have a private tasting for groups of eight people or more.

Tasting Wine

There is no wrong way to taste wine, but if you are at the winery for an education, now is your chance to get one. Here’s the general flow of the tasting procedure:

  • The attendant (sometimes even the vintner himself or herself) will pour you a small glass of wine.
  • Look briefly at the color and clarity of the sample, noting it for later comparison with other vintages.
  • Swirl the wine gently in your glass to observe the viscosity of the wine. Beginners should leave the glass on bar for this part. If the wine leaves “legs” or trails on the sides of the glass, it will likely be full-bodied.
  • Sniff the wine to see if you can pick out notes of fruit, oak or spices. If you can’t put your finger on the aromas, that’s fine. The professionals are great at discerning scents, but it’s not vital to the tasting experience.
  • Finally, sip the sample, letting it roll around on your tongue. Note how it feels there, for example whether it makes your palate tingle. There are attributes more experienced tasters will consider, such as the wine’s balance, complexity and harmony.
  • Spit the wine into the bucket provided at the bar. If you want to last through a day of wine tasting, it’s best not to swallow the samples. However, if you will only be visiting one vineyard and plan to stay a while, you can drink the samples.

Tasting Room Etiquette

Although McMinnville vineyards and wine bars are relaxed places, following these basic rules will go a long way toward making sure everyone has a pleasant time.

  • Don’t wear fragrances. It makes it difficult for tasters to recognize flavors.
  • Don’t bring your dog. Some wineries welcome pets, but most don’t.
  • Don’t show off your knowledge. If you have some, wait until people ask for your thoughts.
  • Don’t get drunk. Seriously. Moderate your intake by spitting and dumping.
  • Do designate a driver and plan to include meals during your wine-tasting tour.
  • Do tip the hospitality associate, particularly if he or she offers good service and wine education.
  • Do dump out the sample if you don’t like the wine. It’s not a big deal.