Wine Tasting Faux Pas: How to Ruin a Wine Tasting Vacation

Delicious grapes, crushed, fermented, and aged to perfection. Whether it’s red or white, bubbly or not, there’s a lot to love about wine. Every wine lover dreams of a day in wine country sampling a wide range of amazing wines. Whether you’re taking your first wine tasting trip or you are a veteran vineyard visitor, follow these wine tasting tips so you don’t ruin the day of wine tasting for yourself or those around you.

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Rows of wine glasses and paper for taking notes

Don’t Plan Ahead

One of the easiest ways to ruin a day of wine tasting is to not plan ahead. Instead, expect that every winery is open for tasting and tours and has plenty of availability exactly when you want to visit. You most certainly will not want to create an itinerary, make reservations, or consider that some wineries are open by invitation only.

If you’re visiting wine country during a peak time or planning a weekend of wine tasting, it’s even more important to not plan ahead in order to ruin the experience for everyone.

Related Article: The Best Wineries in Livermore, California

Charcuterie Board

Focus Only On The Wine

Before you head out for a day of wine tasting, do not eat a hearty breakfast or pack snacks. It’s much easier to ruin a day of wine tasting when you’ve skipped breakfast or started your day with empty calories like donuts, a bowl of Froot Loops, or a Pop Tart. Nothing guarantees a disastrous day of wine tasting like a sugar crash paired with fermented grapes.

As your day progresses, ignore every opportunity to drink as much water as wine. Dehydration and hangovers go together like aged Gouda and a rich Merlot. So if you focus on just drinking wine, you just might ruin the day after your wine tasting experience, as well. What an over achiever!

Sage Advice:  If you plan to visit wineries on America’s west coast, be sure to check out the Priority Wine Pass. You’ll receive a personalized itinerary, tasting room discounts, and more. Plus, you can save big if you purchase your Priority Wine Pass here.

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Pitcher and glass of water on a wooden table outdoors

Since most wineries focus on wine first, they don’t have much to offer in the way of food beyond a few water crackers or crisp breadsticks. Therefore, do not pack snacks of any kind. That way, when you get both tipsy and “hangry” you’re sure to succeed in ruining everyone’s day of wine tasting.

Sage Advice:  With more than 4,000 wineries, California is the reigning queen of the United States’s wine industry, and Napa Valley is considered by many to be the crown jewel. But there are plenty of heirs apparent, from nearby Oregon and Washington (with more than 1,500 wineries between them) followed by (surprisingly) New York State which includes the Niagara Escarpment.

Wear The Wrong Clothes To Tour The Vineyard

Dress Appropriately for your day of wine tasting

Be sure to wear impractical shoes. It is much easier to ruin a day of wine tasting when the group tour has to wait for you to toddle through the vineyard in your stilettos. It is also highly recommended that you leave your sweater, wrap, or light jacket back at the hotel. That way you can ruin everyone’s wine tasting experience with a melodic whine about how it’s cold in the wine cave.

Sage Advice:  If you love wine, expand your horizons beyond the United States by wine tasting in one of these 18 countries. If you are visiting South Africa, be sure to go on a wine tasting tour in Stellenbosch.

Apply Perfume Or Cologne Liberally

Just like Pig Pen’s cloud of dust, you’ll want to ensure that a distinct cloud of perfume or cologne follows you from winery to winery. Nothing is guaranteed to ruin a day of wine tasting like the overbearing smell of your Chanel No 5 or Old Spice.

If you are a smoker, be sure to light up regularly during the day. Not only will this ruin your own wine tasting experience by dulling your taste buds, it will also ensure that everyone around you picks up a hint of tobacco in every glass of wine they taste.   

Sage Advice:  While I never travel without these essential oils, I don’t apply them before or during a day of wine tasting.

Don’t Designate A Driver When Visiting Wineries

No one should miss out on tasting the amazing wines in the region you’re visiting. So one final way to ensure you ruin everyone’s wine tasting experience is to not have a designated driver. While there are many options in wine country, from Uber to limo services, you should ignore them all and plan to drive yourself while drinking all day. Because nothing pairs with a fantastic Cabernet like a cop arresting you for drunk driving. Or a trip to the emergency room.

And the icing on the cake (that pairs well with a sparkling wine) is that accidents, losses, and other travel nightmares that might occur when you are intoxicated are excluded from travel insurance claims if you are impaired.

Sage Advice:  Looking for a unique designated driver option in Napa, California? Check out Wine Tasting Driver.

Or, You Could Have A Fantastic Day With These Wine Tasting Tips

Plan Ahead

Before you set out on a wine tasting adventure, identify four to six wineries that you’d like to visit. Check their tasting room hours, and plot them on a map. If you are visiting wine country during a peak travel period or the winery is open by appointment only, be sure to contact them for a reservation to ensure your visit goes off without a hitch.

Eat A Good Breakfast

It’s called the most important meal of the day with good reason. Do NOT venture out for a day of wine tasting without something in your stomach.

Pack Snacks

Because food options can be limited at wineries, be sure to pack snacks for a successful day of wine tasting. Foods that pair well with wine and are reasonably portable include rich nuts (like cashews, pistachios, and walnuts), berries (like strawberries and blueberries), and chocolate (especially dark chocolate, yum!).

If you are visiting wine country during warmer months, be sure to keep the chocolate with you so it doesn’t melt in the car while you’re sipping Merlot. If you have a small cooler, assorted meats and cheeses (served on crackers) also make great wine tasting snacks.

Drink Plenty Of Water

Be sure to carry a refillable water bottle with you and take advantage of the water offered at wineries when you are wine tasting.

Dress Appropriately

Wine tasting is not a spectator sport, so don’t dress like you plan to spend a day at a baseball stadium. During the warmer months, wear a nice sundress (instead of cut-off shorts and a t-shirt). No matter how warm and sunny it is outside, the wine cave where the barrels are stored will be consistently cooler year-round, so carry a light sweater with you. During the cooler months, wear nice jeans and a pretty top or sweater. For all seasons, wear practical shoes for walking in unpaved areas, like out in the vineyard.

Skip The Spritz

Avoid wearing perfume, spritzing on body spray, applying essential oils, smoking, or any other action that could make it difficult for you and your fellow wine tasters to fully smell and experience the wines.

Have A Designated Driver

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was founded nearly 40 years ago. For most of you, it’s been around your entire lives. This wine tasting tip should be a given, whether you’re at home or in wine country. Most wine regions have plenty of transportation options to help ensure you can have your wine and drink it too. So please, please, PLEASE be smart and do not drink and drive!

Frequently Asked Questions About Wine Tastings

What to Wear Wine Tasting

While you don’t need to wear a formal dress or tuxedo, you shouldn’t dress like you’re about to mow your lawn or spend the day poolside when wine tasting.

During warmer months, a pretty sundress for women and tailored shorts with a collared shirt for men are appropriate attire for visiting a winery. If you attend a wine tasting during cooler weather, consider nice jeans or slacks paired with a sweater.

Regardless of the season, always wear comfortable shoes that you don’t mind possibly getting dusty if you tour the vineyard. And, if you’ve dressed for warm temperatures, it’s a good idea to bring a light sweater, wrap, or blazer for touring the caves.

How much is wine tasting?

The average cost of a wine tasting is currently $20 per person. Most people visiting wine country tour five wineries, so a couple will typically spend $200 to try new wines (5 tastings x $20 per person x 2 people = $200).

Sage Advice: If you plan on visiting wineries on the West Coast, you can save big with Priority Wine Pass. How much? We crunched the numbers here.

Do you tip at wine tastings?

I have to admit, beyond tipping 20 to 25% at sit down restaurants, nothing in the United States is more baffling than who to tip, when, and how much!

According to my friends at Priority Wine Pass, the short answer to “Do you tip at wine tastings?” is that tipping isn’t always expected. But it’s always appreciated, especially if you receive outstanding service. You can read more about specific wine tasting scenarios (and how much to tip in each instance) in this article.

What's the best time of day for wine tasting?

While there are many facts and opinions to consider, my answer is that it’s up to each individual to decide the answer to this question. 

Earlier in the day — like from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm — may be the best time for wine lovers who want to beat the crowds since many wine tasting rooms are just opening up and aren’t as crowded. Additionally, this article suggests that your taste buds are at their wine tasting prime earlier in the day before they’ve been put to work with food forked in during lunch, happy hour, and dinner.

Other wine lovers prefer to go wine tasting later in the day when the tasting rooms are full of activity and their taste buds are more like they will be if they purchase a bottle or case of the wine being tasted.

Can you drive after wine tasting?

It depends on how much wine you consume. If you are truly just tasting the wine, letting it dance over your taste buds and the spitting it out, then you should be fine to drive after a wine tasting. But the ultimate answer to this question is that your blood alcohol content (BAC) level must remain below the legal limit where you are. 

According to this site, the limit is typically 0.08 in the United States, with the exception of Utah which has some of the strictest drunk driving laws in the Union.

To ensure you have a wonderful wine tasting experience, I recommend leaving the driving to someone else.

What Wine Tasting Tips Do You Have to Share? 

What tips for visiting wineries would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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33 thoughts on “Wine Tasting Faux Pas: How to Ruin a Wine Tasting Vacation”

  1. Love it. Not all readers will ‘get’ the sarcasm, as there is a segment of the population who just don’t. Hopefully they aren’t interested in tasting wine. I do hope the author was also joking about wearing a sundress to a wine tasting. I’m a woman, I love wine, I wear slacks. The sundress just comes across as a bit gender-biased and juvenile.

    1. Between you and me, I don’t trust people who don’t get sarcasm! As a woman raised by the world’s biggest feminist (my father), I promise the sundress comment wasn’t intended as gender-biased (nor juvenile). In fact, if I stop and think about it, I’ve maybe worn a sundress to a wine tasting once in my life. Rather it was more about variety of words and not repeating the tailored shorts recommended for the men. (Then again, I’m down with any guy who wants to wear a dress!) I can see how that may come across, and I may make a few tweaks based on your comment. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  2. Being a know-it-all is another excellent way to ruin winery tour for everyone. Make sure to ask many questions and then answer them yourself. Tour guides and other guests love that sort of thing

  3. What an interesting read, I never thought about how a day of wine tasting can be runied. Are these based on your personal experiences? Definitely agree with you, you should drink plenty of water before hand and in between. You don’t want to get to drunk and not remember the experience.

  4. Katie @ Zen Life and Travel

    My #1 tip is to not go out with a friend you haven’t seen in 10 years and drink too much the night before! (oops). A hangover is a great way to ruin a wine tasting!!!

  5. I live fairly close to two wine regions so I’ve done my fair share of wine tasting. These tips are sure fire ways to ruin the experience. I’d also add bring all your rowdy friends on a wine tasting tour. Nothing like spending the day in a beautiful peaceful location with loud people who drink everything in sight and then pass out (or worse) mid way through the day.

    1. Yes, good addition! I know that others acting like a beautiful, serene winery is their personal bar in Vegas for a bachelorette party has ruined a day or two of tasting for me!

  6. Great idea! I’m not a big wine taster but I can see how a wine tasting trip would be more enjoyable if we pay attention to your advice.

  7. thegetawayjournals

    I’ve been to plenty of wine tastings, and these are all good tips! Especially the one about only focusing on the wine! One of my favorite parts is seeing which delicious foods pairs with each wine best!

  8. you forgot to add make sure you drink as much as possible and dont listen to the sommeliers – LOL I love a good wine tasting – the best trip we did was well planned, by hop-on-hop-off minibus, in flats, with a spectacular lunch and sans perfume. Great post

  9. SamiM Adventures

    I am usually the DD since I am not a huge alcohol fan but my moma NEVER complains cause she is a vino-fiend! ❤️

  10. I have actually never been to a wine tasting trip but am acually interested in attending one. These are some super useful tips which I might not have known otherwise. Also pinning it for whenever I attend 🙂

  11. All good tips! I remember going to Napa once and one of the winery we tried to go was closed for a wedding. Also love all the food at some of the wineries!

    1. Ah, the importance of planning ahead! I had the same thing happen to me the first time I tried to visit Murrieta’s Well, one of my favorite wineries in California’s Livermore Valley. Closed for a wedding on a Saturday! :'(

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