Winery Etiquette: How to Swirl & Sip With the Best of Them

The United States has really carved out its niche in the wine industry, with wineries popping up in North Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Oregon, Washington, in addition to California’s long-established vineyards. For many people, wine is new and hasn’t been accessible beyond grabbing a bottle from the grocery store and hoping and praying it was good.

Going to wineries isn’t just for the rich and famous or the elite. Everyday people are flocking to local wineries. But if you are one that hasn’t been, check out these tips to ensure your first trip is lots of fun!

1. Do your homework. Check out the winery’s website for things like rules and hours. Do they allow children or dogs? Find out before you get there so you can make the most of your visit. Some wineries are very family-friendly, with grass for kids to run around and play in. Others are quiet spaces where they’d prefer you leave your kids and dogs at home.
2. Keep numbers reasonable. Thinking of grabbing a big group of friends to go to a winery? Perhaps you shouldn’t. If you have more than the amount of people that can fit at one picnic table, find another activity or split your group up. Also, some wineries actually require you to make a reservation if you have over six or eight people doing a tasting. It’s very hard for your wine educator to do a tasting for a very large group of people.
3. Listen and put down your phone. You may want to take a quick picture when you first approach the counter, but after that, really pay attention to the person pouring the wine. The educator is doing their job to educate you about wine. They can share a lot of wonderful, useful information with you. Ask them questions; have fun with them!
4. Tasting the vino. You’ll have about 1 -2 ounces to sip. Sip it slowly and don’t throw it all back at one time. If you like it, let the wine hit all parts of your mouth. If you happen to not enjoy the wine after first sip, swallow what’s in your mouth and pour the rest into the urn. DO NOT SPIT.
5. Tipping. If you learned a lot of great information and had a personable wine educator, tip them a few dollars. You’ll want to carry a few singles in cash for this purpose. You’re not obligated to tip, but it’s a nice touch.
6. Kinder Care. If a winery does allow you to bring your children, make sure to keep an eye on them. Now’s not the time to practice free-range parenting. And definitely never bring them up to the bar. And really never set your toddler up on the bar or counter. There is no wine – red or white – that will go with your child’s diapered butt. Be sure to bring coloring books or other child-friendly activities and snacks for them to enjoy.
7. Foodstuffs. Many wineries have items for sale like baguettes, crackers, cheese, and salami. Lots of places allow you to bring your own food. Be sure to find out if the winery allows outside food. If they do, this is a great time to pack a picnic basket full of goodies for your group to enjoy. I recommend chocolate, cheese, and bread.
8. Know your limits. After you’ve done the tasting and picked up a bottle or two to enjoy at the winery, be mindful of how much you’re consuming. Please don’t get drunk; don’t be THAT guy or gal. If you do feel a little light-headed, get yourself a baguette, drink some water and just chill out for a bit. There’s no shame in taking a breather.

A day trip to a winery can be lots of fun once you “get” the rules and culture. Whether you’re looking to do a girls’ trip or a day of family fun, a winery can provide you with relatively inexpensive entertainment. Also, you’ll be supporting a small business. A quick internet search should tell you where the wineries are. Dress comfortably and get ready for a day of relaxation and vino!