How to Go Wine Tasting

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A very cool selling point of San Francisco (as if it needed another) is its proximity to wine country. Especially because I live on the very northern edge of the city, it takes me less than an hour to get to Sonoma.

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I’m basically just trying to live on a farm in wine country at this point.

I had my first winery experience (I think) at 19 in Italy. We went to Chianti and… it was almost 7 years ago and the details are a little hazy. In college I took a wine tasting class (Vines to Wines) and was reminded on how to properly drink wine.

Wine is definitely an acquired palate. Most people traditionally begin drinking sweet white wines and has their tastes become more refined, they end up drinking drier reds as time goes on. I personally love most dry wines – both white and red – but red wine makes me sleepy and I like drinking cold things, not room temperature things so I usually order white.

How to Go Wine Tasting

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How to Go Wine Tasting

Make reservations.

  • Most cool, good wineries in Napa/Sonoma require reservations (i.e. Scribe). If you see a winery or vineyard has crappy reviews on Yelp, it may be because people are angry they didn’t have a reservation and were turned away.

Visit one to three wineries in a day.

  • Don’t get too aggressive with how many wineries you think you can visit. Before I did my first solid wine-tasting day in around two years, I thought 4-5 wineries in a day was totally doable. It is not. Do one to two, three if you’re feeling super ambitious, but you’re probably not even going to taste the wine at the third winery because you’re buzzed/drunk. Just putting that out there.
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Anaba Winery in Sonoma, California.

Don’t pretend to know everything about wine.

  • If you know about wine, AWESOME. If you don’t – just be honest with the person doing your tasting! You want to learn something and enjoy what you’re drinking. If it’s a winery that actually cares about their product, they’re going to hire knowledgable tasting room employees that can tell you about the wine. You might think you hate one type of wine (Riesling until I drank Scribe’s) but each wine maker does so many different things that you might be surprised.

Eat breakfast.

  • And remember to eat lunch, or at least pack snacks. Some wineries in Napa/Sonoma let you picnic on their property but it’s California so they have to have some stupid permit or something to allow you to do so.
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One of my favorite places in Northern California.

Have a designated driver.

  • Seriously, this doesn’t need an explanation. Also a bike does not count as a designated driver because Biking Under the Influence (BUI) is a real thing. I have ridden a bike (many years ago – okay, like three) after a few glasses of wine and I still remember it because I thought “Wow, this isn’t the best idea I’ve ever had”.

If there are tour busses, stay away.

  • Unless you want to do a wine tour on a bus, that’s totally cool. Then you kind of are at the mercy of the company and they probably have good deals with several wineries in the region. If you’re on your own, visit smaller wineries where you will get more personalized attention. I mean, I hate crowds and if a vineyards is basically a Disneyland with booze, you can count me out.

Chat with me:
Have you ever been wine tasting? What are your favorite types of wine? Do you have any ridiculous wine stories you want to share?

17 comments on “How to Go Wine Tasting

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Susie @ SuzLyfe on May 12, 2015 7:16 am

DESIGNATED DRIVER. Also, don’t sit sideways in the limo. That always ends badly….
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Ashley @ A Lady Goes West on May 12, 2015 8:53 am

Hi Cassie! So funny, because Chianti was my first wine-tasting experience as well when I studied abroad in college. Being that we both live so close to Napa and all the other lovely wine regions, it’s so easy to get up there. I like to have a driver when we go, because it makes it so much easier to sit back and relax. I would agree that 2-3 wineries is plenty. Also, restaurants in Napa/Sonoma get busy, so make a reservation. And at lunch? Skip the wine hahah! I’ve also been to Anaba and loved it. But Far Niente may be the prettiest of the wineries I’ve been to in Napa. Love this post! I could go wine tasting every single weekend, but alas, the hubs isn’t always down hahah.
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Alyssa @ RenaissanceRunnerGirl on May 12, 2015 9:03 am

I went wine tasting for the first time in the Hunter Valley near Sydney, Australia. I was also 19 or 20, and had been at school in the UK for the past two years (and raised in a family where our parents gave us small glasses of wine with dinner if we wanted) so I already knew that, like my mom, I like white wines but not reds. In fact white wine and champagne are pretty much all I drink now at 23. That said, we went to probably 8 different wineries as well as a small town for lunch with a chocolate and cheese company, and by the time we got there we purchased a king’s ransom of dark chocolate under the influence of a healthy buzz!
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Erin @ Her Heartland Soul on May 12, 2015 12:31 pm

I went wine tasting in Carmel and it was so much fun! We did like 5 one day though and yeah, we were trashed. It was a lot of fun though! haha
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Tara on May 12, 2015 1:02 pm

I love your tips! My husband and I love to go wine tasting everywhere we travel and live! In Napa V. Sattui has always been our favorite, but we find wineries everywhere that we love! It is such a relaxing way to have a daytime date and most wineries around our currently location are kid and pet friendly so we can take our little miss and crazy puppies out for a picnic and still enjoy some wonderful wine! Such a great way to spend the day!

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Jessica M on May 12, 2015 1:30 pm

Ive never been wine tasting… but i defintaley want to try it. We have a lot of wineries around where I live
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Sam @ PancakeWarriors on May 12, 2015 1:47 pm

Eat breakfast has to be the best tip! Love how fun this looks! I would love to learn more about wine!
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ganeeban on May 12, 2015 1:48 pm

…You take a ‘Napa,’ you don’t move to Napa! My fave SATC quote…haha! Your post is spot on in regards to Napa and Sonoma, good tips too! It’s definitely on the pricey side of wine tasting and Napa has their share of bougie spots, but it’s ALWAYS a good time out there! Despite the cost, but if you plan ahead for your trip, you should be good! I’ve been obsessed with Cab Sav for years, but I’m starting to love a glass of Chardonnay! I’m growing up! xoxo, ganeeban
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Katie (The Muffin Myth) on May 12, 2015 3:42 pm

Ahhhh, wine tasting! So much fun! If I lived near wine country I’d be all over that business. I was in Paris last month, though, and we did some pretty good wine tasting at wine bars there – not wineries, but still amazing.

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Lucie Palka on May 12, 2015 8:43 pm

Those are some good tips on wine tasting. I’m lucky to live in the Niagara Region, where we have our own little wine country here! Getting a designated driver is a good idea. I get tipsy quickly, even at a wine tasting. Luckily in Niagara, you don’t need reservations, but if there are tour buses, you won’t get the same kind of service! I started on sweat whites, as you mentioned and not I love Merlot! However, I have a sweet spot for IceWines!

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Lauren on May 13, 2015 1:54 am

I love being so close to the wine country! My mom finally retired and moved out of SF to Sonoma, so we are on the hunt for great wineries. She has a few near her, but I would love to know if you have any favorites! Happy to meet another SF blogger!
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Chris on May 13, 2015 8:42 am

You forgot the most important part… pinkies up! And you failed in your photo. Hahaha just messing. I had NO idea BUI was a thing… you for real??
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Jessica @ Nutritioulicious on May 13, 2015 12:45 pm

ah, wine tasting! This post is bringing back memories of my trip to Napa several years ago. So relaxing, great food, and so much fun!

[…] and Sancerre from my Scribe shipment last month. The rose (aka summer water) is left over from a trip to Scribe with my friend Chrissy in […]

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Marisa @ Uproot from Oregon on November 3, 2015 11:19 pm

Referring to this post now while I get a trip together for some friends!!
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Cassie on November 14, 2015 12:19 am

Yay! Can’t wait to hear all about it :)

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