Don’t you just hate it when someone stereotypes you? You’re blonde, so you must be dumb. You love to read, so you must be a nerd. You love wine, so you absolutely have to be an alcoholic … The thing about stereotypes is that we don’t like them applied to us (because we never want to think ourselves to be so predictable), but they sure do seem to fit when we see them in someone else.
Just like anywhere else in the country (the South and its rednecks, the Midwest and their farmers, New Yorkers and the mobsters), Napa Valley has its own stereotypes. Some are natives, others just visitors. When you go on a Napa Valley wine tour, look for these predictable John and Jane Does.
1. The Consummate Oenologist
Learned and knowledgeable, eloquent and savvy, the layman’s term for this guy is ‘snob.’ He or she casually drops terms like abboccato and edelfäule, making the rest of the folks in the tasting room feel like Neanderthals. While undeniably pretentious, these guys actually do have a wealth of information, and indeed love sharing it. If you can overlook the obvious flaws, they’re extraordinary resources for pairing foods with wines, finding hidden Napa Valley and Northern California wineries you’d otherwise never hear about, and even a bit of wine terminology you can use to impress your own wine club back home. Bear with ’em; they mean no harm.
2. The Wanna-Be Consummate Oenologist
This guy or gal got their first issue of Wine Spectator two weeks before their Napa Valley wine tour. They promptly stuffed their hipster brains with as much wine knowledge as possible and now believe themselves to be true connoisseurs. They also toss around lots of high-falutin’ wine lingo, like Égrappage and Invecchiato, but you’ll notice them using the same ones over and over, because that’s all they know. On the flipside, hipsters are always up for trying new things, making them very willing wine tour companions. They’re usually young, energetic, and fun, and liven the atmosphere of the tasting rooms considerably. Have fun with these folks — they’re the life of the party and you’ll undoubtedly make great friends. Plus, their energy will keep you going when you get worn out (which you likely will; walking those hilly vineyards is no joke).
3. The Greenest Newbies
These guys know as little as your wanna-be oenologist, but they actually act like it. Often overly-enthusiastic, they also will try most anything, and everything they try is the best they’ve had — ever. While you won’t learn any new wine-related information, these newbies do enhance and enlighten your experience on a Napa Valley wine tour. With fresh palettes and untrained taste buds, they offer a unique perspective on the wines offered in the tasting rooms. Instead of thinking their insights silly, see how their comments actually help your wine tasting experience. For example, ‘How sweet!’ or ‘That tingles in my mouth!’ might actually offer as much insight into the wine tasting experience as if they’d said, ‘doux’ or ‘acidic’. Enjoy their unbridled enthusiasm. Before long, they’ll be firmly in the ranks of the Consummate Oenologist.
4. The ‘Winos’ Who are Really Just Foodies
You’ll hear them in the back of the tasting room, desperately seeking a sweet red table wine to give as a wedding gift or a full-bodied Zinfandel to serve with Korean barbecue. It’s easy to get the impression that all these people do is drink wine! In reality, they’re actually foodies and part of their enjoyment of a meal is pairing it with the most perfect of wines. They’re also usually searching for excellent cooking wines — an incredible Pinot Grigio for their winter stews or an amazing un-oaked Chardonnay for that inviting new chicken dish they read about in Bon Appetite. Stick close to these guys — you’ll learn an incredible amount about food and wine pairings, as well as some useful terms and techniques, like how to use the acidity of a wine to balance out a recipe that’s too rich or sweet, or perhaps how to pair the right wine with your favorite cheeses.
5. The Winos Who are Actually Winos
Overwhelmingly, the men and women who take Napa Valley wine tours are smart and considerate. They come to tastings with satiated tummies and stay well-hydrated. They sip judiciously and consciously, pouring out what isn’t necessary for fully experiencing the wines. They use the spittoons provided, and are courteous and respectful of the tasting room staff, as well as their wine tour companions. There are, however, a small number of people who insist on not taking these precautions, and end up drunk on their wine tour. Though this is unfortunate, the professional wine tour guides, tasting room attendants, and other workers are experienced and quite savvy at handling these situations. Don’t try to step in. Just stand back, enjoy your wine tour and tastings, and let the pros take care of business.
6. The Unassuming Farmer
As you make your way around the highways and byways of Napa Valley, you’ll come across folks dressed in jeans or overalls, driving beat-to-death pickup trucks, and they’re most likely wearing funny farmer hats. If you’re from the rural South or Midwest, you’re used to these types, but people from the bigger cities and other regions of the country might be taken aback by their ‘rough’ looks. Indeed, most of these farmers are as at home in a fine restaurant or upscale tasting room as they are in the vineyards or operating a wine press. In fact, many are the winery owners, winemakers, or vineyard keepers with an unbelievable reservoir of knowledge and experience. Don’t shy away from their dusty clothes and rattletrap trucks. These guys are incredible. Get to know them as much as possible. They’re the wizards that make the magic.
7. The Unexpected Immigrant
For decades, Napa Valley has depended largely on migrant farm workers to help out during the growing, harvesting and winemaking seasons. A stigma began to surface that these workers were underpaid, given unsafe and unsanitary working conditions, and not allowed access to affordable housing, quality education, good healthcare, and other benefits that most American citizens take for granted. While there absolutely are migrant farm workers in this country that are subject to these types of conditions, that is simply not the case in Napa Valley. The vineyard and winery owners of the region banded together to form advocacy groups and protection groups to assure that immigrants working here are paid well (including benefits like paid leave and 401K retirement plans), and are provided with safe and sanitary working conditions, affordable housing, good education and healthcare systems, and more. In fact, many of the people you see here who ‘don’t look like Americans’ or have foreign accents are not actually farm workers at all. Many of them are winemakers, vineyard keepers, restaurant owners, and even vineyard and winery owners. Those who are farm workers in Napa Valley enjoy some of the best-paying farm jobs in the entire state of California.
Are you ready to schedule your Napa Valley wine tour and meet all these stereotypical characters? Visit Allure Wine Tours to set up your ideal wine tour today!