Erik Neilson on February 13, 2017 0 Comments Wine culture is something that is constantly in flux and changes with each passing year. While touring vineyards has long been a part of getting the most out of what wine has to offer, the popularity of “tasting rooms” has grown significantly over the course of the past decade or so. Tasting rooms offer a venue for interested consumers to try various wines and get a better sense of what the winery is all about, not to mention the fact that they provide a communal space ripe for interaction with like-minded individuals. In areas where wine production is particularly hot, it’s become common practice to go “tasting room hopping” from one venue to another so as to try as many different wines from a region as possible. As with any other type of group outing, however, it’s important to ensure that proper planning is in place so that you and your friends are getting the most out of your tasting experience. Ready to plan the perfect wine tasting outing? Here are a handful of tips to assist you on your journey. 1. Choose a Date and Location There’s nothing wrong with rolling out of bed and deciding to spend the day touring wineries on a whim. If you’re looking to involve other people, however, you’ll get a lot of mileage out of planning ahead. Start by choosing a date, which should be at least a week away to ensure that others’ schedules can line up. Next, the location you choose will play a huge role in the overall experience. If you’re lucky enough to live in or near an area where wine production is thriving, you can have plenty of fun in your own backyard. Touring wineries is a great way to travel, too, so you may want to consider visiting well known regions such as Napa Valley in California or Michigan’s Leelenau Peninsula. 2. Consider a Guided Tour For those who are completely unfamiliar with visiting tasting rooms, it may be helpful to consider taking a guided tour in the area you’re looking to focus on. Nearly all of the world’s best wine regions offer area-wide tours that focus on some of the most prominent producers, which is an excellent, low-stress way to gain cohesive knowledge about a region. In many cases, you may be able to save a great deal of money by taking guided tours considering the fact that package deals are often available. 3. Take Things Into Your Own Hands! Guided tours are certainly convenient, but they’re not for everyone. Some wine enthusiasts find them to be a bit rigid and “by the book,” as opportunities for exploration when on guided tours are rather slim. If you want to truly gain freedom and control over the experience, your best bet is to take things into your own hands. This can be easier said than done, as it involves a fair amount of planning ahead. Aim to visit at least three tasting rooms in a single day, and plan it so that they’re near enough to one another that you can either walk or take a taxi. There are countless scheduling apps available for iPhone and Android that can help make this process easier, and you can even sync schedules with your friends so that everyone’s on the same page. Learn How to Host Your Own Wine Tasting 4. Day-of Preparation Strategies Before you end up setting out on your wine tasting adventure, it’s important to ensure that you and your party are prepared. One way to get the most out of a tasting is to bring along a notebook so that you and your friends can take notes on each wine you taste and contrast/compare. Of course, it’s important to ensure that your party also has a designated driver, which can be made easier if you decide to take a guided tour. Many of today’s top tours feature “wine buses” that transport people from winery to winery, resulting in a fun, danger-free experience. Don’t forget that there are a lot of wineries located in areas rife with other types of entertainment. Be it an art museum, amusement park, local gallery or otherwise, try to take in as many aspects of the community surrounding your winery as possible. This is a great way to break up a day of wine tasting, as hitting too many wineries in a row without any respite at all can be a bit taxing. A word of advice on that note: don’t over do it. If you were to move from one winery to another over the course of 8 hours, you’d be drinking a lot of wine. Many people choose not to spit out their wine when tasting, which is perfectly fine and even preferable in some circles. If you’re going to be imbibing, however, be sure to pace yourself and drink plenty of water throughout. There’s nothing worse than ending up with a hangover from a wine tasting outing, and it’s easier to let happen than many people realize. Finally, be a gracious guest. Wine tasting rooms can be extremely busy, especially during peak season. You might find yourself waiting longer than expected to get a glass in your hand, but bear in mind just how much work the staff is doing to ensure that everyone has a great time. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about the wine, either. Whoever is pouring should have a good deal of information about the wine in question, so remember to make this as much a learning experience as it is a good time. 5. Final Advice: Never Set a Time Limit! You may think you know how long it will take to get in all the wine tours you’ve been researching, but it’s important to remember that timing can never be perfectly predicted. Setting a time limit — that is, having to be somewhere later in the day — is a huge mistake that can lead to cutting your wine tasting sessions short and not getting the most out of the experience. Give yourself plenty of wiggle room; take the next day off if you can, too! Wine tasting rooms continue to pop up all around the world, and there’s no better time than now to start enjoying the fruits of these winemakers’ labors. Plan ahead, and you’ll have an experience you’ll never forget.