Have you ever gone to a winery for a tasting and been surprised that there is more to it than just showing up and getting free booze?
You rock up, not exactly sure where to go to begin, are asked a bunch of questions, and then are required to judge every wine you try expertly. All the while, being led by someone who is sharing something they (or their coworkers) have poured months of energy and care into creating. In many respects, visiting a cellar door or tasting room is just like visiting a friends baby. What do you do? Shake its hand? What if it is ugly? Below, we will give you the tools to navigate both the tasting room and a friend’s living room.
When you arrive at the winery, you are greeted with: “Would you like to try our wines (aka meet the baby)?” “No, I just drove to your tasting room to stare at you,” you reply. Of course, you are there to meet the winery’s “baby,” that is the only reason you came. Then, they ask if you would like to try the whites or the reds. Essentially whether or not you want to meet the boy or the girl, but unlike parents, wineries are a little less offended if you only choose one. In reality, wineries are asking which wine you prefer so that they don’t waste a pour on someone who won’t drink it. Sadly, you will have to meet all of your friend’s kids.
Next, the tasting begins. You are presented with the first wine (the baby) and the person pouring gives you some background what is in the glass. Typically they will share where the grapes were grown, the types of grapes in the wine, how long that wine has aged, and the what the wine has kept in (barrels, stainless steel tank,etc.). If parents did the same for babies, it would look something like this: “This is Jimmy, he was conceived in the back of our Subaru, he is a blend of my DNA and my husband’s, and has been aged for seven months in an open air crib.”
Once you hear their spiel, you try the wine. The person leading the tasting (aka the parent) asks what you think of the wine. No matter what you think, you don’t tell them you don’t like it (just as you don’t tell a parent their baby is hideous even if it has a misshapen head and is cross-eyed). If the wine tastes like hot garbage, you pull yourself together and give a polite “, wow that is…interesting” or “this is unique, unlike any I have ever had”. Wineries take pride in creating wines that are different than all others, so saying the wine is unique generally received well. It is about the same as telling a friend with an ugly baby “he has your eyes!”.
This back and forth continues until towards the end comes the tasting fee. No matter how excited the winery is to share their wines, they also know many of us only want free drinks. To counter this, they charge a fee to cover the cost of the wine poured. While fees can be bothersome, picture them as your gift for the baby. Whether you enjoyed your time or not, you are acknowledging that they took the time to share something they created with you.
Another item to keep in mind is that the fee is not how the winery makes money. The whole goal of the winery in this experience is to immerse you in their world and to create a connection with you, which ultimately leads to you buying wine and signing up for their club. Continuing the baby analogy – the winery wants you leaving saying “we need kids!” rather than “I will never have kids!” and never coming back. After paying, you slowly begin back out, as you are implored to follow the social media channels. Just like with parents telling you to follow the Instagram they made for their baby, most are full of pictures only the parents enjoy, but some can be genuinely entertaining.
That is it! You have completed the visit without offending anyone! So, now that you have a new perspective on the cellar door experience, go forth, taste wine and meet friend’s babies! (preferably not in that order)
Until next time… Cheers!