Planning a trip to wine country and not sure what to expect? Check out Virginia Winos’ tips for first time winery visits!
1. PLAN: Plan out which wineries you will be visiting. It’s so much simpler when you know where you are going, where they are located, the hours they open and close, and their policies. Do you research before getting in the car. Most wineries have different sets of rules– make sure you know what the winery’s policy is before showing up and respect their rules!
2. TRANSPORTATION: Make sure you know who is driving. Designate someone to drive and be responsible. Wine country is beautiful and fun to experience, but should not be the place for partying! Tastings serve quite a bit of alcohol so be aware of how much you’re consuming and make responsible choices. There are many options for other forms of transportation if you’re planning to hop around to a few wineries also. Limo companies and bus tour companies are plentiful in this area, so for a birthday party or larger group you may want to consider using one of those services.
3. MONEY: Be prepared for what the tasting fees are. Most wineries list them on their website or give them a call before you arrive so there are no surprises.
4. BEHAVIOR AT A WINERY: Wineries are classy establishments. They are not your local dive bar or late night club. Behave like an adult, don’t drink too much and make a fool of yourself. It’s ok to enjoy yourself with your friends and laugh and talk, but make sure you are respectful of the service, the establishment, and the other people around you.
5. BEHAVIOR DURING A TASTING: Respect the wine educator. Most educators we have had in Virginia are incredibly knowledgable and love what they do. For many, it’s a part time gig that they enjoy– don’t make them not. When you are doing your tasting listen to the server, don’t talk over them– it’s rude and you’re missing out on half of the information about the wine you’re consuming. Ask them questions, be friendly, and treat them as you’d want to be treated. Another bonus of being friendly– sometimes you’ll get an extra wine or two that might not be on the menu, OR, if you don’t like a particular type of wine, they’ll probably substitute another option for you.
6. DRESS: Winery attire is really up to you. Obviously you should be dressed in an appropriate way, but most wineries don’t have restrictions on what you wear. There has even been the occasional winery trip we’ve taken after the gym or after a hike in exercise attire and we’ve been welcome with open arms. Really– we just don’t want to see anything you wouldn’t normally want to see in public.
7. OUTSIDE FOOD: This is a big one. Check with the winery before you arrive for their policy on bringing in food from the outside. These days the majority of wineries allow it, but occasionally one won’t or they will have restrictions on where you can consume it. For example, you might be able to bring a picnic, but can only enjoy it outdoors. No venues however let you bring in other alcohol including beer or liquor. You can only consume their wine!
8. CHILDREN: Again, another big one. A lot of people bring their children to wineries. There is usually land for them to play, entertainment, or families that come to gather with other friends and bring the kids. A lot of wineries have policies on where the children can be, and please make sure they are supervised at all times! We have seen it far too many times when children are loud or disturbing others and there is no parent to be found. Make sure that if you bring your child to a winery you respect the rules and the other visitors.
9. PETS: Always check what the pet policy is first. Some allow dogs both indoors and outdoors, some only outdoors, and some not at all. Always clean up after your dog and make sure that they are friendly and able to be around people, children, and other pets if you plan to bring them!
10. LARGE GROUPS: Most wineries have policies on large groups and ask that you make a reservation beforehand for tastings. Typically the group rate is a bit higher because they have to serve more people and designate a wine educator for your table. Make sure to call the winery ahead of time to make a reservation for a group, not the day of (large groups are usually considered to be 8 or more)!
Enjoy your trip to wine country!