The first thing that comes to mind when turning 21 is Vegas, but what most people forget about is wine tasting. Wine tasting is a classy gateway to inebriation that also allows you to get in touch with the outdoors. The beautiful vineyards that span the property of the wineries are incredible to marvel at and really force you to appreciate the beauty of nature.
I recently turned 21, along with a group of my closest friends, and we decided to take an hour-long trip from UC Davis down to Sonoma, California for our first wine tasting experience. One of my friends, who did most of the planning, lives on a winery and has gone wine tasting before. She helped teach us some of the wine tasting etiquette prior to our trip by presenting us with this article to read. Her parents helped us waive our tasting fees at the wineries we visited, and even provided us with lunch at their winery! Here are some important lessons that I’ve learned from this experience and the specific wineries we visited.
Lesson #1: Don’t drive. When discussing wine tasting, one always seems to forget that it takes transportation not only to get to and from the location of the wineries, but also between wineries. To avoid calling on our friends who don’t drink as DDs (which would be completely inconsiderate and should never be done), or forcing some of our friends to not participate in the full-wine tasting experience to be in the right state to drive, we ordered a party bus. This is definitely the best way to go wine tasting. Everyone gets to enjoy the full experience and bond together during the drives. Nobody can be forgotten or left at a winery when head counts can be done on the whole group, rather than just by the individual caravan of cars. In addition, you can even drink while on the bus. Can someone say morning mimosas? We could!
Lesson #2: It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We arrived at our first location, Larson Family Winery, eager to begin our day. We began by snacking on pretzels and bread dipped in the winery’s own BBQ Sauce, Garlic Vinaigrette Olive Oil, and Olive Oil. These were absolutely delicious, and my group of friends bought all of the Garlic Vinaigrette Olive Oil that was displayed, plus some from storage in the back. Onto the actual wine tasting. We were lucky enough to be able to sit outside next to the large span of grapevines growing while tasting our wine. The location was absolutely gorgeous and the weather warm. This winery poured some pretty generous servings that we all enjoyed until the last drop. We were then reminded that we were visiting three other wineries that day and did not need to consume all of the alcohol that was placed into our glasses. Part of the wine tasting experience is actually tasting and enjoying the wine! Don’t go overboard when you first begin. You want to be able to purchase the wines that you really like, and you won’t be able to tell which ones you enjoy if your palette is numb.
Lesson #3: Go with people you have fun with. Wine tasting is not like a trip to Disneyland where you can just run around and do crazy things together (although that is part of it). At our second destination, Little Vineyards Family Winery, it was made apparent how much real quality time you get to spend with the people that you go wine tasting with. We enjoyed a delicious lunch while tasting our wines here. Our time here was much different than when visiting any other wineries because we knew the owners. Our wine tasting occurred while enjoying our lunch, allowing us the opportunity to learn more about the food and wine pairings. Little Vineyards is my favorite winery that we visited, the location is stunning with rolling hills covered vines and soothing music playing. The whole place is warm and cozy, making you feel at home in a cabin in the woods. I also happen to prefer red wines, which is the only type of wine made at Little Vineyards.
Lesson #4: Be prepared. Our next stop on our wine tour of Sonoma was a Deerfield Ranch Winery, a wine cave. When I first heard the term “wine cave,” I had no idea what to imagine. My description of the wine cave is a massive cold building, built like a maze, full of barrels from floor to ceiling covering every wall. It was expansive and impressive to say the least. We meandered through the wine cave, following our guide, until we came to a table full of wine bottles and glasses. It is at this point where I am forever grateful to have brought along my sweater. Most of us girls were wearing dresses and would have frozen into popsicles without being prepared for all types of weather or wine conditions. It is at Deerfield Ranch Winery that we drank a wine with 17.9% Alcohol! Who says you can’t get drunk off wine?
Lesson #5: Bring money, a lot of money. Although our trip was not that expensive because we had all of our tasting fees waived, every girl ended up spending way more than originally expected. Not only do you taste the wines, but you also purchase the wines! These wines are not your 2-Buck Chuck, or even your $10-a-bottle college budget splurge. These are truly fine wines, made in smaller batches, usually by families, who work hard to create a unique and pleasant taste. Our group did most of our purchasing at our last winery, Imagery Estate Winery. Imagery was by far the busiest winery of the day. Luckily, our reservation brought us into a private tasting room. Here we tasted our first Rosé of the day, along with the best white wine I’ve ever tasted, the White Burgundy. I think that we bought the most wine here for two reasons: one being we really enjoyed the wines, two because we realized it was our last chance. Everyone has a little bit of FOMO, fear of missing out. We didn’t want to buy a wine at an earlier winery in case one we liked more was at a later winery, but then we realized we had no more wineries to visit! If you find a wine that you like, buy it. Don’t hope for something better to come along later. Just be prepared to spend a lot of money if you happen to really like a lot of wines.
Lesson #6: Relish in the experience. Wine tasting is an all day affair. Even if you don’t realize it, it is exhausting with all of the adrenaline, the wine, the heat, the walking around, the picture taking, and the spending. Many girls napped on our bus ride home (another perk of not driving) or once we got back home. We had enough time to recuperate from the day’s festivities before going out that night, but most girls, myself included, decided to stay in and hang out. It is very difficult to think about slamming drinks for the purpose of getting drunk after sipping drinks for the purpose of enjoyment. Instead of making that transition, relish in the experience that you shared with your friends and allow your body to recover.
I highly recommend everyone spend a day wine tasting with friends and family. It is an incredible experience that cannot be replaced. You can get a taste of the “good life” as motivation for your hard work in school to get you to that tax bracket that allows you to enjoy the finer wines in life. Thank you to all of my friends who shared this experience with me; the memories will stay with me forever!