Do you like wine? Have you ever done a wine tasting?
I know that not everyone likes or drinks wine, and I'll admit that it's an acquired taste. In the past five years I've gone from the woman who always orders or purchases that reliable White Zinfandel (and there's nothing wrong with that) to a foodie who purchases new wines and dreams of ways to pair them with food. I'm by no means an expert, but my palate has expanded over the past few years and I always appreciate an opportunity to try before I buy.
Wine tasting is supposed to be fun, but the fun all depends on your attitude and the knowledge and personality of the person serving the wine. Oh, and the wine itself. Of course.
In many areas you can taste wine at a local liquor store. I've also been to wine tastings in people's homes and more recently I've had the opportunity to actually visit real wineries. Last year my mom and I visited the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail in Pennsylvania and this year E and I spent out anniversary in the Finger Lakes region of New York, which is famous for its wines.
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The first and most important rule of wine tasting is not to overindulge. It's very easy to accidentally drink too much. All of those little sips add up quickly. We always make sure that we have a designated driver (or limit our own consumption) and we also start off with a full stomach. There should also be a "dump bucket" on the bar for you to pour out wines that you don't like or that you can't drink. Don't be embarrassed, it's not rude to pour it out after you've tasted it.
Seneca Lake has over 30 wineries, breweries, and distilleries within a one-hour loop. That's a lot of wine, a lot of country roads, and a lot of opportunities to drink and spend money. E and I purchased a Polar Passport, which pre-paid our tasting fees at most of the wineries. It was $12 per person. Most wineries in the Finger Lakes have tasting fees (ranging from $2-$4 per person) and many will credit those fees toward a purchase. In our area, liquor stores do not charge for wine tastings. We've encountered higher tasting fees (up to $12 per person) in other areas, like Virginia.
With 30+ wineries we had some decisions to make. Fortunately, it was not difficult to decide where to go. A snowstorm on our first night in town dropped over a foot of snow around the lake and many of the smaller wineries didn't have the equipment to plow their parking lots immediately after the storm. Other wineries are not open on weekdays or Mondays in the off-season. Some wineries didn't offer wines that appealed to us. Your best bet is to do your research before you even approach a place to taste. If you know you prefer dry red wine, look for a place that has plenty. If you know you want beer, skip the wineries.
|The tasting room at Hazlitt|
The gentleman at Hazlitt told us the story about the "grape weasel"...
|The Grape Weasel|
Oh, and Hazlitt (and several others) had fantastic staff! If you're in a wine region and you find a person you like, ask him or her what other wineries you should visit. We got our best tips that way.
E is likes wine, but he loves craft beer. Fortunately there were a few breweries on the Seneca Lake Wine Trail...
|Wagner Valley has a winery and a brewery|
|E contemplating the choices at Wagner Valley|
|War Horse Brewing Co.|
The only real negative is that New York sales tax combined with county taxes added a lot of extra dollars to our purchases. We come from sales-tax-free Delaware, so it was difficult for us to pay 12% and more in sales tax for our purchases without flinching. Thankfully, the wine and beer prices were reasonable, so we didn't go broke.
The best thing about the Finger Lakes is that there are several wine trails among a few different lakes, so there's always something new to see. This will be a repeat trip for us. Seneca lake is about four hours from Philadelphia, so if you're in the mid-Atlantic, I recommend the Finger Lakes as a fun foodie destination.