12 Things You Must Do to Have a Great Winery Tour Weekend
by Peter Svans
1 - Plan your trip and call ahead
You've got your winery map in front of you. So plan a route and be realistic about how long it'll take you to drive from winery to winery. Can you really cover 50km of twisty road in 30 minutes? Be honest about what you can do in one day and more importantly, what you can enjoy in one day. It's not race to log the most tasting notes in 48 hours.
And most importantly enjoy the day.
Call each winery a few days before your weekend. Not all small wineries open every day and some close altogether over winter.
Plan your trip and leave time to enjoy your stay at each winery. About 1 hour should do.
2 - Line up a designated driver
You've probably already figured out where you want to stay the night. But you still need to get from winery to winery. Find someone who doesn't drink or is willing to not drink this one weekend. It's just plain easier and safer for you.
3 - Wear something comfortable and dark
For shoes, leave the stilettos and designer heels home this weekend. Wear something you're comfortable walking and standing in. Not every winery will have space for you to sit down so you may be standing most of the day.
And wear comfy dark clothes. Dark clothes hide whatever you or more likely someone else spills on you. And it's easier than having to change or walk around looking like Spot the dog for the day.
4 - Go easy on the after shave or perfume
A huge part of what you taste comes from the smell. That's why food always tastes flat when you've got a blocked nose. It's much easier to pick up the spice in the Merlot when you're not battling with the Old Spice from the person next to you.
5 - Have a decent breakfast and plan a good lunch
You'll stay sober longer and you'll get the best from your days away with a decent breakfast under your belt. It's no fun getting smashed by 11am on the first day when you've still got a dozen wineries to visit.
Get a decent breakfast and leave time for a good lunch. Either bring your own picnic basket and eat out in the vines or eat in. If you've planned lunch at someplace small and far away then please book ahead. Often it'll be the only thing for miles and remember, plan ahead and you'll enjoy your weekend away much, much more.
6 - Get there early
We know, from experience that afternoons are busiest. So try and get out of home and be at the first winery bang on opening time. Whoever's behind the bar will have more time to spend with you, you'll have a better time and you'll learn more.
7 - Taste the wines in order of lightest and driest to strongest and sweetest
Tasting fine wines is just like enjoying a fine dinner. You start off with a light entrée and you finish with the sticky date pudding. Just imagine what your prawn cocktail tastes like after your ice cream? Start with the light whites and finish with the ports.
8 - Learn to spit
If you swallowed everything you tasted in one day on the road, you'd be hammered by lunch time.
Learn to spit. It's an accepted and expected thing to do in the wine world.
But please... practice at home first.
9 - Don't stress about taking tasting notes
Remember you're out to enjoy your weekend and your wines and not check the boxes on a score sheet. Grab the wines you like on the day (please keep them out of the boot on a 40C degree day). And get yourself on the winery mailing list. Most wineries will have a newsletter and tasting notes online. So don't worry about scribbling notes that you'll probably lose on the way home. Once you're on the mailing list you can order your favourite wines anytime.
10 - Keep drinking water all day long
Sipping wines and travelling all day dries you out. Carry your water bottle with you, keep it topped up and keep sipping all day. It just means you keep tasting wines longer and don't flake out early on.
11 - What goes in, must come out
Use the toilets at each stop. I know it sounds obvious and we're not 3 years old anymore, but we see all sorts of strange things. So stop at the loo whenever you get a chance.
12 - Enjoy they stay
Relax and go with the flow and just have a good time. Don't rush as it's not a race. If you don't get through your planned route, then so be it. There'll always be another weekend and hey, do you really need an excuse for another wine weekend away?
Remember... You'll be in a new area enjoying new things, new wines and meeting new people. Just kick back and enjoy the experience.
By Peter Svans