Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Spring Release Weekend: D' Vine Wine Tasting Etiquette

Listen up Wine Tourists!

Ya know, you weren't the first ones to "find" Walla Walla. Lewis & Clark got here way before you ever did. Same with Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisnhower (my grandma's cousin) and even Richard Nixon. However, you're the lucky ones as we now have lots of tasty wine to offer you - - perhaps that's the reason why Lewis, Clark, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Nixon never came back - - if they only knew?

We love you. We really do and we want you to enjoy yourself so you will come back. In fact, Walla Walla Spring Release Weekend is this weekend, May 2-4. Always the first weekend of May, this is the time for wineries to present the “fruits” of their hard labor. Recent news from other wine regions regarding limousine-riding bacchants taking advantage of free alcohol, will hopefully bring to our valley some insight on how to avoid these incidents, ensuring that both the tourists and the wineries have memorable, safe and successful events. One way of preventative medicine are tasting fees. Fees can assist the wineries overhead, as well as weed out the bacchanal from the oenophile (and it’s okay for two people to share one glass and pay only one tasting fee). There really aren’t any “rules” when it comes to visiting tasting rooms. There is no “wine etiquette police” ready to write you a citation. Just by using common sense and courtesy will get you a long way. Remember, using wine etiquette really isn’t any different as if you were an invited guest to someone’s home, but we’re giving you permission to spit.

When starting out for a day of wine tasting, pack in the proteins and hydrate-hydrate-hydrate! Pack water with you or whenever a winery has water to offer - - drink that H20! And as far as breakfast: now is not the time to crunch on some damn granola-cardboard bar. If your accomodations are only pinching out some poofy-foofy little "French" pastry (it can't be French if it's made in Washington), head to the nearest Le Mac Shac and get an Egg-0-MacMuffbutt! You get the picture - - protein-protein-protein! Hydrate-hydrate-hydrate! Proteins! Carbs! Proteins Carbs! Hydrate-hydrate-hydrate! And by the way, don't grumble when asked for I.D., be flattered you don’t look your age! It’s for your protection and the winery. In the mean time, hydrate-hydrate-hydrate!

Okay, now that we have you fed and watered - - after seven years of pouring wine to the masses during these event weekends, I have developed my small list of pet peeves that might give some insight on behavior to avoid while wine tasting.

Put down the cell phone and no one will get hurt:
You’re really not that important, are you? If you are, perhaps your secret service men can take your calls. Take your conversation outside and away from the tasting room. Entering a tasting room oblivious to others, with loud phone chatter can break the ambiance between staff and other visitors. You wouldn’t walk into your host’s house that way, would you?

Thanks, but I’ll pass on the glass of Eau d’ Toilette:
Nothing worse than a self-proclaimed wine “expert” that reeks of the perfume counter. If you really are a “wine expert," then you know that cologne, perfume and even fragrance enhanced hair and body products can offend the olfactory system. You may not be able to smell yourself, but everyone in the tasting room can, making their Merlot taste like grandpa’s “Old Spice.”

I love children, especially for breakfast with cream and sugar:
Seriously, I really do love children and have two adorable granddaughters that are four and almost three years old. Even one of the granddaughters has been wine tasting with me (she usually wears a tiara and a purple princess dress with purple athletic shoes). While wine tasting is a 21+ environment, wine tasting can be a fun family event with some planning and especially keeping in mind visiting larger wineries who are set up with pic-nic areas. But please be mindful of other adults who may have paid for a baby sitter to provide them an adult weekend away. Children can get bored, tired, hungry and when it's nap time, pay attention to them and don't keep tasting wine! How would you like to be kept from your nap? Please keep the little ones within an "eye's reach." The tasting room staff's sole purpose is not to be your nanny and monitor the children from climbing racks of barrels and playing with bottles of wine. So we should put the wine in plastic bottles and move all the barrels in locked storage because you don't want to watch your own children? (ummm - you know who you are.)

Pimp your ride, but un-pimp the attitude:
As you know, drinking and driving is dangerous, so a designated driver is encouraged. Hiring a limousine service is a safe and fun way to enjoy wine tasting with friends. However, being chauffeured in a limousine doesn’t give you carte blanc to get drunk and assume you are exclusive because you have the biggest-effing car in the parking lot. Eat well and drink lots of water (hydrate-hydrate-hydrate!) Most wineries are very generous with pours, so limit the number of wineries you visit in a day. Once you reach your sixth winery, the taste buds become fatigued and you probably won’t remember what you tasted anyway. Be considerate of individual public hours and don’t use the wineries for your free happy hour.

So now that I have told you my pet peeves, have I skeered (cross between "scared and steered") from wine tasting? Don't let it. Just remember, wine etiquette is pretty simple. Pace yourself and don't try and visit every winery just because they are “there.” Remember, chances are pretty great that the winery you may have missed on this Spring Release, will be here the next time you come back to Walla Walla.


Thad said...

Catie, hope you have a great time visiting wineries and tasting wine. I look forward to hearing about your experiences in the days that follow. Although we're not able to make it this weekend, we'll be visiting Walla Walla in early July. Enjoy the weekend!

mandi1949 said...

Wondering if there are tasting fees at all the wineries in WW. I know that the wineries in the Yakima Valley have a pass that you can purchase to waive these fees - Does WW offer anything similar?
Thanks for the help

Catie said...

Hi Mandi,

Thanks for writing. At this time there are a few wineries who have tasting fees and depending on the winery the fees vary. Also, there are some wineries that only have fees during special events. At one time, during the Barrel Tasting event, there was a pass visitors could purchase from the WW Wine Alliance, but it was eventually eliminated.

In my opinion I think an overall pass to waive the fees is not always the best idea, as each winery is so very independent from each other and of course, their overhead varies. One winery may have 8-12 wines for tasting while another may only have three wines available for tasting. Some wineries can absorb a huge amount of visitors and complimentary wine while others financially cannot.

Hope that info helps.

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