You’d think visiting a winery is straightforward enough: eat a decent meal beforehand, stay hydrated and try not to get too drunk! Well, those things are important, but there’s more you can do to prepare yourself for visiting a winery, especially in the Columbia River Gorge. Here are our best tips:

A couple examining a glass of red wine on their tasting tour

1. Don’t wear heavily scented aromas

This is not recommended when visiting the winery. For one, the aroma will compromise your own experience, and can also affect those around you. This means perfumes, colognes, lotions and even lipstick!

2. Ask tons of questions

People love to talk about the wine they grow. After all, this was a labor of love. It’s fine to admit you’re a novice, and your pourers are happy to answer your questions, even if they’re coming from a complete “newbie”. Here are a couple ones to get you going:

  • What varietals does the winery specialize in?
  • What current release is their favorite, and why?
  • What food pairings do you suggest? (this can inform you if you intend to bring some wine home)
  • Do they sell this bottle from where you’re from? Or, are they able to ship it?

3. Don’t be afraid to use the “dump bucket”

The wine tasting set up, with dump bucket in the middle

The wine tasting set up, with dump bucket in the middle

Some people think they have to drink every sip of every wine…not true! Using the dump bucket is not an insult in the slightest, even for wines you like. Pourers understand you’re looking to try as many as you’d like. Also, for ones you aren’t fond of, they’d encourage dumping…there’s no need to down a glass of something you don’t like.

This also encourages you to try new varietals, and wines you wouldn’t normally order. Some people claim they don’t like Pinot Noirs, and then they try “that one” that completely changes their mind.

4. Taste the wine properly

You’ve seen the “connoisseurs” do it, and though it may look intimidating, the wine tasting process is not very complex. It’s generally a five-step process, but you can even do it in three:

  • Look: Hold the glass up against a white or bright surface. Is it colorful, or more brownish? You are looking for translucency and clarity.
  • Swirl & smell: First, be sure to hold the glass by its stem. Then give the glass a swirl to aerate the wine – this releases the scents and aromas.
  • Sip: Some people actually “slurp” here – it sounds tacky, but it’s actually a way of aerating the wine further and experiencing the scent in a different way. Here, you are examining how the wine feels in your mouth, as well as how it goes down.

5. Respect the buying process

Be open to buying a bottle. Granted, there is nothing that says you have to, but if you’ve asked for multiple samples of one particular type, you might be best inclined to just buy a bottle for yourself. Some tasting rooms will even waive tasting fees or provide discounts if a bottle is purchased.

Also, please know it’s not good winery etiquette to haggle for wine bottles. As one winemaker says, “it’s not a car deal, it’s a bottle of wine”.

What do you think? Ready to explore?

The Pacific Northwest produces some of the best wines in the entire United States, specifically within the Columbia River Gorge.

We offer tours of the Columbia River, as well as those geared specifically towards wineries. We promise you’ll sample some of the best wines you’ve ever tried! To inquire about upcoming cruises, get in touch with one of our agents.

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