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Jul 13, 2012 12:57 PM

Wine Tasting Etiquette (sharing a pour ok?)


I plan to spend a few days in the wine country (as per other posts I have made) with two others. I am not used to paying for tasting (but don't mind too much, although it may add up if my record of 15 in a day in New Zealand is matched) but was unsure of the rules as to if the designated driver of the day wanted to try a small amount is it ok to pass a glass to them, or to share a pour? Are pours generous (I have heard they are)? I am not going to get drunk in anyway, I want to try the wines, so large pours will be wasted through tipping away if can't share etc.

Thanks, again, in advance

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  1. Completely 100% OK to share at non-appointment places - it's fully accepted everywhere I've ever been. Just walk up to the counter and state how many tastings you want. Frankly, if I encountered a winery that wouldn't let me share, I'd probably walk out.

    Some appointment places charge by person instead of by taste. Additionally, I (though many on this board disagree with me) feel strange taking up a tasting "spot" but not having my own tasting when it comes to appointments. You can still share though - it's my own hangups that make me feel like I'm imposing and not paying.

    Some credit the tasting fee towards wine purchases if you plan on buying any, some don't or have strange rules on how the crediting works.

    Many times wineries are informal, and they are somewhat flexible on the whole fee issue, but there are also many that are rigid about it - it just depends.

    3 Replies
    1. re: goldangl95

      Thank you very much indeed. Obviously wasn't on planning on turning up and buying a tasting to share with all and sundry, but certainly if pours are generous and there is driving to be done, I want to try the wine but no it isn't being wasted.

      Am sure by appointment is a bit different and doubt will visit many, as travelling after will not allow much purchasing at all

      Really looking forward to trying the different regions and wines, just need to try and sort a few key places I know/have read on, and then base my next tastings on advice from the people pouring, winemakers (are they ever there or is it more commercial? only napa like this?) etc.

      1. re: stanleyk

        I've shared at by appt places as well (Phelps); and some fees are $25, which can add up pretty quickly. The pours are not as generous as they used to be but still enough to share.

        Most places will waive the fee if you buy, and as has been mentioned, some times at the smaller places, they'll waive the fee if they feel like it, usually happens when you have a nice conversation with them.

      2. re: goldangl95

        I would say 90% of places charge a fee these days, and all will waive/refund if you buy a bottle. I don't know how Robert gets so many free tastings, don't expect that.

        A thought:
        If you're flying into SF, do some pre-tasting tasting in the east bay.
        In particular, if Rock Wall is open, they taste about 7 different winemakers, and the setting is exceptional. And you're near St George, taste there.

        My theory of tasting these days at the Sonoma places is to roll in and say "I'm not going to taste 10 wines. I like X style, give me the three I'm most likely to enjoy." If I like those, I might get cajoled into a couple more, and buy one. I get fuzzed out after about 15 or 20 tastes, and I've been to too many places that will try to give 8 or 9 tastes.

        I often taste with my girlfriend, and between the two of us we get one tasting. Everyone's cool with that --- because their cost is the wine.

        A lot of places are shifting to those magnetic spout things for pour control. I don't like generous pours.

        No one cares who the "designated driver" is. They expect you to have your act together and not drink too much, however you do that.

      3. I'm not used to paying for tasting either. In Sonoma, even at places that theoretically have charges, my impression is that if you're knowledgeable and spit they waive them. I don't think I've ever paid for a tasting except occasionally for special library wines. I gave up on Napa years ago.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Thanks again Robert, your knowledge is going to be invaluable I feel. I may need to do some reading up to be knowledgeable on the area, but I can hold my own in terms of a few other bits and bobs re wine

        2. If you are tasting with a view to buying, don't go to places that charge for tastings (rules out most of Napa these days). If you are tasting for fun with no intention to buy, perhaps it's fairer to stick to places that charge for the privilege. We find that a lot of places that say they charge actually waive the charge if we say "we are here to buy".

          For free tasting places, we think sharing a glass is more courteous than dumping excess wine (which for us would be the alternative). A lot of those places give pretty heavy pours if they see you are serious about wine and likely to buy.

          6 Replies
          1. re: zabriskiepoint

            Can you suggest good wineries that don't charge for tastings that are open to the public? (e.g. non appointment only).

            The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Heitz in Napa. But I'm sure there are more.

            1. re: goldangl95

              To me that's a strange question since I can't recall the last time I paid for a tasting. I think some of the very touristy places such as Benziger and Chateau St. Jean charge, but I only go to those for picnics anyway.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                It is certainly not true that only the touristy places charge, many wineries these days have an official policy of charging a fee if they are open to the public. In many cases, I think it's now due to the popularity of wine tasting as an event/activity instead of for the wine.

                They often wave when you buy a bottle, and they sometimes waive if they feel like it.

                Board favorites such as Preston, Porter Creek, Ridge etc. all charge a fee - and none of those would I call "touristy" of have stone facades or faux chateaus (from comment below). Actually most wineries I visit these days have some sort of fee.

              2. re: goldangl95

                Define "good winery"? And anyhow, isn't part of the fun exploring and finding interesting ones for yourself? The wine doesn't always have to be stellar for the experience to be worthwhile.

                There are dozens of wineries in Sonoma/Russian River that are open on weekends and do not charge. Just drive around and pick some at random. So long as you avoid imposing stone gateways and faux chateaux, you'll be fine.

                Iron Horse was fun last time we were there (quite a while ago) - nice location, loads of different wines, including very nice Champagne-style and Rose, generous pours.

                Completely different, but another one we like, is Swan - to us, it's a classic down-to-earth small-scale operation, and owner/winemaker Rod Berglund is frequently pouring in person, so you can get great insight into what you are tasting.

                Further (MUCH further) afield, Navarro is well worth a visit.

                1. re: zabriskiepoint

                  Navarro's my longtime favorite in the Anderson Valley, which is in Mendocino county so discussed on the California board and occasionally on the Wine board.


                  1. re: zabriskiepoint

                    I live somewhat locally, and with hundreds of wineries to choose from. Actual suggestions are always useful.

                    Iron Horse's wine are fine, but they charge a $10 fee:

                    Joseph Swan is on my list of places to try, somehow haven't yet - good to know about the tasting fee.