Tips for tasting (and yes, please spit)

’Tis the season for weekend winery outings. The Yakima Valley is home to more than 80 wineries offering various styles of wine and experiences.

Friendly, relaxing and educational tasting room visits can bring out the best or the worst in some well-intentioned guests. The following are guidelines to think about before venturing out to the tasting rooms, regardless of your level of experience:

Cultura Wine.

■ Plan ahead. If you are going out with a large group, consider doing a little research. There is nothing more disappointing than being turned away at the door because you did not make a reservation.

■ Check the rules regarding children. Well-behaved kids are welcome in most tasting rooms. But as parents, it’s your responsibility to make sure they don’t become a part of someone else’s tasting experience. Call ahead to see if a winery is family-friendly.

■ Be unbiased. It’s OK if you aren’t into a wine or prefer one varietal over another. Simply let the staff member know if you prefer to focus on something specific (reds, whites, etc.). As a courtesy, let staff explain the context, origin and food pairings of the wines; you may become interested. This is the time to try something new or revisit something you didn’t think you would like. It’s just a taste; go for it.

■ Don’t smoke or wear heavy perfume or cologne. This affects your tasting experience and the experience of others around you.

■ Savor your sips. Visiting a winery is a special experience. Enjoy it. Rushing through and gulping down the wine with hardly a sniff defeats the whole purpose. Take your time. Don’t overestimate the number of tasting rooms you can visit in a day. A few quality experiences are preferable to unmemorable pours that will end up swirling together in your head.

■ Don’t be that person. Know-it-alls are, well, insufferable. Good conversation and discussion is encouraged, but recognize that not everyone in the room may have the same amount of expertise and may not enjoy your detailed account of every wine.

■ Keep your reactions in check. Exaggerated expressions or calling a wine disgusting shouldn’t be displayed in the tasting room. All wines won’t be liked by all people, but be respectful. If you don’t like a wine, simply dump it out or give it to a friend.

■ Don’t be afraid to spit. Tasting flights may include up to seven wines at some wineries. You can’t drink everything and truly evaluate each wine, especially if you plan multiple stops that day. All tasting rooms have spit buckets on the bar. Plan on using them.

■ Designate a driver and drink responsibly. Tasting little ounces adds up. By law, tasting room staff are not allowed to serve visibly intoxicated people regardless of who is driving.

■ Be a responsible friend. If a friend has over-imbibed, bring him or her water and discourage further consumption. An intoxicated person will be much more receptive to a friend cutting them off than a server. Everyone will appreciate your effort.

■ Buy wine. Most tasting rooms have a policy of waiving the tasting fee when a particular amount of wine is purchased. If you are unsure, ask. Wineries are in the business of selling wine, so plan on making purchases. If you can’t find a wine you want to take home, pay the tasting fee and thank your host or hostess for their time.

These tips should ensure a smooth wine country visit and afford you the ability to focus on making memories rather than sweating the details. It’s just wine. Enjoy it!


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