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Sonoma Wine Tasting Etiquette

Are you ready to taste some incredible Sonoma wines? While the area is a bit more rustic and casual than Napa, it is quickly becoming a hot spot for wine enthusiasts from around the world. Whatever your wine tasting preferences are, you’ll find it in Sonoma—a place known for its distinctive Pinot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel. In order to make your wine tasting trip a success, here are some tips to help you plan ahead…

Be Prepared for your Sonoma Wine Tasting Experience

  • private sonoma wine tasting tourMake sure to eat beforehand and bring water. Even when you sip lightly, the alcohol levels can often add up before you know it. Staying hydrated is critical—drink as much water as wine.
  • Avoid coffee, chewing gum, and anything that interferes with your sense of smell. Especially avoid coffee or gum right before wine tasting, as it will affect your palate. Don’t wear heavy perfumes or shaving lotions. Smokers beware: remember to consider that the smell of smoke could affect the tasting experience for you and others.
  • Dress appropriately. Make sure to wear layers and comfy shoes. Temperatures in the Sonoma area can change from from foggy mornings to sunny afternoons. It’s smart to bring a lightweight jacket along, as wine caves are kept at about 55 to 60 degrees. Your shoes should be comfortable and closed toed for the dusty trips out to the vineyards.
  • Bring something to keep your purchases “cool.” Make sure to pack a cooler or Styrofoam shipper. Even if it’s a cooler day, wine can easily heat up if the sun is shining through the window of a parked car.

Once you get to the Tasting Room

  • sonoma wine tasting tourTurn off your phone! Switch your phone to vibrate and if you need to take a call, make sure to step outside. Talking on the phone could distract the tasters who are concentrating on hearing the descriptions of the wine and the answers to questions.
  • Feel free to ask questions and take notes. The winery staff is there to assist you. Taking notes can help you remember what you tasted. It can also be a signal to the pourers that you are serious about the tasting exercise, which could lead to a more personalized experience. Maybe you can taste a few wines that aren’t on the schedule!
  • Drink responsibly and do use the dump bucket. The police are adamant about enforcing the laws of the road. If you don’t use a limo or shuttle service, plan ahead to ensure your safety and the safety of others. Make sure to pour out (or spit) the wine after you have had a sufficient tasting. This will not offend the person pouring, and it will give them a heads up that you are ready for the next taste. Those who are new to wine tasting are sometimes surprised and even appalled to see other tasters spitting a mouthful of wine into the dump bucket! It is actually a very common and necessary practice among experienced tasters.
  • Sharing tastings is a good idea. Most tasting rooms have a fee for a certain number of pours. If your group is hoping to taste as many wines as possible, you could each order four different wines, taste each other’s, and experience eight different pours. You really don’t need more than a sip or two of each sample, as there are so many wineries to visit in Sonoma.
  • Be courteous. Many times visitors will receive special service from a particular winery. A nice way to show your appreciation for the extra service is a letter thanking them for their time. Also, while purchases at the wineries aren’t necessary, they are greatly appreciated. Many of the employees’ salaries on based on commission. Lastly, if you need to alter your plans or cancel a tasting, make sure to let the winery know in advance.

We hope you enjoy your Sonoma wine tasting experience to the fullest!

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