Wine Tasting Tips
Tips for Optimizing Your Wine Tastings During a Limo Wine Tour
If you’re new to the wine tasting scene, a Napa Valley wine tour is ideal for getting to know about all of the different wines and learning about wine culture. But going on a tasting tour for the first time can be intimidating, just because you’re not sure exactly what to expect and how to act. Relax! Here are the tips and hints you need to pull off your wine tasting tour in Napa Valley like a seasoned pro.
Learn the Art of Tasting Wine
Wine tasting itself is a 4-part process.
- First, examine the wine for color, opaqueness (opacity), and viscosity (thickness).
- The second step is smelling. You’ll learn to detect three separate aromas: the primary (first impression), the secondary (tastes and aromas that appear after the initial impression wanes), and the tertiary (the “aftertaste” or lingering impression after finishing the wine).
- The third step is tasting. Wine connoisseurs sometimes keep the wine in their mouths for several seconds, so take your time. One technique is to take one long sip to clear and prepare your palette, followed by a few short sips (2-3) to taste the wine. You’ll notice that wine has primary, secondary, and tertiary tastes, just as it does aromas. It’s perfectly okay to spit, swallow, or even dump the remainder of the wine from the glass into a spittoon. It’s not considered rude — that’s what those things are there for!
- The fourth and final step is to evaluate the wine and make good notes. After visiting a few wineries and tasting several wines, you won’t remember what you liked, didn’t like, and why without great notes. Wineries or your limo wine tour service often provide wine tasting sheets for just this purpose.
Don’t get intimidated while others toss around terms like oenology, viticulture, and assemblage. Study a wine glossary beforehand, or just jot down the words as you hear them so you can look them up later. Or, just ask! It’s much better to be open and honest about your lack of knowledge than to try and pretend, and end up looking silly. Everyone started with no knowledge, building their vocabulary through study and experience. They understand you have to start somewhere. Wine lovers are passionate types who love sharing their knowledge (as well as their opinions) with others. Asking them questions just gives them the opportunity to indulge and show off their knowledge. You’d be doing them an honor, in most cases.
Pick the Right Time of Day for Your Tasting
Everything you eat, drink, and smell during the day, up to the point you sniff and sip your wine at the tasting affects your experience with the wine. That makes early morning tastings (most begin as early as 10 a.m.) ideal for evaluating wine. However, many people get sleepy sipping wine, making a later wine tasting tour a better option. Determine whether you’d like an early tasting, followed by perhaps a nap and dinner, or a later tasting, dinner, and an early bedtime.
Determine What Kinds of Wineries You Want to Visit
There are about 500 wineries to visit in Napa Valley, and well over 600 if you include some of the Sonoma wineries in your tour. This only includes the wineries that have tasting rooms — there are many more that don’t offer tours and tastings. That means you have to be quite selective about exactly what kinds of wineries you want to visit.
Do you want to see all of the big, grand producers or would you prefer to stop by only small, mom and pop types? Maybe you want to plan a tour around your favorite wine, like the best merlots, well-kept Cab Sav secrets, or popular chardonnays. Determining what kind of tour you prefer helps you select the ideal itinerary, assuring you get plenty of what you want without wasting time on things you aren’t especially interested in.
Don’t Go Hungry
Even if you’re primarily spitting out the wines, you’ll be ingesting a lot of wine over the course of a tour. Go on a full stomach so that the wine has minimal effect. For example, begin your tour with a hearty brunch or lunch at a local restaurant, followed by your wine tastings, finishing with an ample dinner. It’s also an excellent idea to munch on something refreshing, like strawberries or fresh bread during the tour, and to keep hydrated by sipping water regularly. Limo wine tours like those at Allure come with bottled water and refreshments.
Remember — local law enforcement is well familiar with people who tend to indulge at wine tastings and hit the roads. A guided limo wine tour with a professional driver is the best way to assure your trip ends happily, with a few new additions to your wine cellar back home, instead of behind bars. We can assure you, the food and drinks there aren’t up to Napa Valley’s impeccable standards.
Most wineries don’t have a “dress code,” but many of the local restaurants you might want to try do. It’s really better to dress up slightly than to get into a situation that makes you or your hosts uncomfortable. For example, wear a comfy button-up shirt, and keep the top couple of buttons unbuttoned. But stow a tie and jacket in a tote so you can put it on if you feel like the atmosphere is a bit upscale. In terms of formality, think business to business casual — no tuxes, but probably not blue jeans, either.
If you’re using a limo wine tour service, they can advise you of the expected dress codes for all the places you’ll be touring. For instance, if you’re only going to wine tastings, you’ll probably dress a bit nicer than if you’re planning walking tours through the vineyards, which might call for jeans, T-shirts, and athletic shoes or boots. Be forewarned that the rolling hills that literally define the topography of Napa Valley make for lots of up-and-down if you’re a city slicker used to straight, flat sidewalks.
Consider that darker color clothing won’t show a stain if you happen to dribble some pinot noir down your front. Avoid floppy sleeves that might knock something over, and tie back longer hair so that it’s out of your way (and your companions’ way) when you sip and spit. Bring a tote for anything you need to carry to keep your hands free for sipping and nibbling on fruits and cheeses or sipping water. Be advised that evenings in Napa Valley (indeed, anywhere in NorCal) are notoriously chilly. The saying goes, “The coldest winter on earth is a summer evening in San Francisco”. Even on the warmest summer days, evening temps will drop low enough to warrant a jacket or sweater.
Skip the Cologne & Perfume
According to research, 80% of your sense of taste actually comes from the smell of what you eat and drink. Inhibiting your ability to smell greatly affects your enjoyment and experience at wine tastings. Not only that, but what you slather on also affects your companions’ enjoyment and ability to truly experience the wines, too. Skip the smelly stuff, and try to bathe beforehand in shampoos, conditioners, soaps, deoderants, and body washes that aren’t heavy on the aromas.
There Isn’t a ‘Right’ or ‘Wrong’
How can the Napa Valley region support 1,000 different vineyards and wineries? Because there are so many varying tastes to accommodate! Some people prefer a sweet dinner wine, while others opt for a dry, savory blend. Some wines are ideal for serving with hors d’oeuvre and finger foods, while others pair perfectly with a hearty ham or beefy brisket. There are as many “good” wines as there are people to taste and enjoy them. So, don’t be afraid to be the only one who loved that sweet Riesling or the only one who hated that crisp Sauvignon Blanc. As with artwork, music, and fashion: beauty is in the eyes, ears, noses, and mouths of the beholder.
Spend Some Time With the Folks Running the Show
The best plan for a wine newbie is to spend as much of the wine tasting tour as you can learning from the knowledge and insight of those around you. Your best sources of information are the tour guides (the limo drivers are Napa locals, full of excellent info on the wines, wineries, region, restaurants, people, and more), tasting room attendants, and workers or owners at the wineries, vineyards, and restaurants where you go. Don’t hog their attention — others want to enjoy their experience and learn, as well. But definitely spend a few minutes getting to know them and learning what they have to share.
Above all, have fun during your limo wine tour in Napa Valley. Don’t go into it thinking that everyone there is a stiff-shirt snob. While Napa folks definitely take their wine seriously, they are actually hardworking, down-to-earth farmers at heart. The atmosphere is quite different than that of Paris, Miami, or the sheik California hotspots, like Frisco or LA. Days start early, consist of vigorous work in the dirt, broken up by some hard-earned fun enjoying the wines and the people. Days end early, as well. If you’re into the night life, plan to overnight in Frisco instead of Napa, or Berkeley if you prefer a younger, hipper crowd. Napa Valley natives rise and retire with the roosters.
Finally, as a rule of thumb, always buy a bottle at “free” wine tastings, though a purchase isn’t necessary at paid tastings. The exception are the really inexpensive tastings (especially at the small, mom and pop establishments), where tasting charges are only $5 or $10. By the way, it’s perfectly okay to tip your wine tasting attendants, drivers, and others who serve and assist you. If you get good service, reward it and show your appreciation with a generous tip.
Or, just purchase an all-inclusive tour at Allure Limo Wine Tours. These packages include accommodations, restaurant bookings, a customized Napa wine tour, and a professional driver with all the knowledge and expertise to get you where you’re going with a healthy dose of tips and advice.
What are you waiting for? Call Allure Limo Wine Tours to set up your Napa Valley Wine tour today! You can also check out these other helpful links below.
Best Reasons To Take a Napa Wine Tour This Fall
Wine Tasting Tips
Napa Valley Winery Map
Best Wine Tours in Napa
Napa Valley Facts
Napa Travel Tips
Why Ship Home Wine Bought in Napa
Napa valley Food Pairing Tips