Perfection, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. And, without wanting to get too philosophical, while striving for perfection may be a noble goal, expecting things to be always perfect can lead to constant disappointment (especially when it comes to wine…and men!)
So, what I mean by “A Perfect Day Wine Tasting” is perhaps better expressed as: a really lovely day wine tasting. So, what are the ingredients for a lovely day of wine tasting?
I like to divide them into the inner things – things that you have total control over – and the outer things. The outer things can be planned and controlled to a degree, but there is always a degree to which they are out of your control.
The Outer Things
- Good Company – personally I am good at entertaining myself, and a solitary day meeting some new wines would be delightful for me. However, wine tours and wine tasting are meant for sharing whether with friends, family or colleagues. There is something about a wine tour that provides just the right amount of structure – you have something to do together, but beyond that everything is loose providing plenty of freedom and time to enjoy one another. Add to that the obvious social lubrication provided by sipping delicious wines together and believe me there is no nicer way to hang with loved ones.If you are with colleagues, wine tasting can be the perfect forum for building bonds, having fun and getting the creative juices flowing.
So, gather your homies, your kinfolk, or your crew and head out into wine country to create some magic memories together!
Of course, if you are on a mixed group tour, there’s no better way to make new friends and share the fun of the day.
- A Good Guide – having a guide for the day will elevate your wine tour in so many ways.
Let’s start with the planning. You may have an idea of which wineries you would like to visit and a good guide will take account of your requests when planning your tour. Giving your guide some latitude over which places, and in what order, you visit them can lead to a richer experience. A good local wine tour guide will generally know the wineries much better than you, and by listening to your vision of what kind of day you would like, can make sure you get the best experience and the wines that suit your tastes.
he other great advantages of having a guide are safety and really being able to relax. You will be drinking, right? Your guide will shepherd you and take care of the driving so you and your loved ones have nothing to do but enjoy yourself. A good guide creates a safe space for you to have fun, and will look after you all day – carrying your wine purchases (yes, those bottles are heavy!), selecting a spot for your picnic and setting it up for your enjoyment (“Thank you Jeeves, we’ll take lunch on the lawn”), introducing you to the winery and staff, entertaining you with tales and facts about the local area, and of course, playing your preferred beats as you drive through wine country.
- Great Wines/Wineries – what makes a winery great will depend on who you are and what you want from your day. In fact, it will also probably depend on the day you go and even whether it is the first or last stop on your tour! In Santa Barbara Wine Country, I have heard certain wineries lauded for having great wine, and others panned for having mediocre or poor wine. The truth is never so simple and such judgements take no account of individual tastes and the fact that wine is constantly changing and evolving with each harvest. What I am looking for when planning a wine tour are wineries that are strong or noteworthy in at least one category (great Pinots or Pet-Nats maybe), a lovely location or pleasing tasting room and a friendly, attentive tasting room atmosphere. We are blessed in Santa Barbara Wine Country with an extraordinary terroir, with climatic and soil variations that allow us to grow an wonderful array of great wines – Burgundian wines, Rhone varietals, Bordeaux varietals – so you can keep coming back and exploring year after year!
- Good Planning – let’s keep this bit real simple. Your wine tour guide has your itinerary planned, your bottled water and snacks on board, a first aid kit and, an umbrella in case of rain. From your side, wear comfy, clothing – dressing up is great, and a wine tour is a memorable occasion – but you want to be in clothes that will be comfortable all day and that are easy to layer on and off. Wine country can get hot in summer, but barrel rooms which you may tour are typically kept at 60°F. Other than that, some sunscreen and a smile.
A wine tasting tour is an adventure. You will be traveling into beautiful wine country that may or may not be familiar to you. You will be meeting wines, quite a lot of wines, many of which will be unfamiliar to you. That sense of openness to what comes, and a receptivity to the sensory experience and to the people you will meet, will greatly enrich the way you feel during the day. Know that you will probably not like every wine you are served, but include every encounter and acknowledge each sip as part of your learning.
Secondly, a wine tour is the perfect environment to practice a little mindfulness. During the day take a few moments to be present to the wine, the server, and to the beauty that surrounds you. Wine tasting is really no more than being present to wine – savoring the bouquet the wine releases in the glass, the temperature and feel of the wine as it hits your tongue, the mouth feel, the first flavor notes that burst into your awareness, and the more complex notes that open up after that. How does it taste? How does it make you feel? Plunge into the moment, make each moment encapsulate an eternity as you enjoy your sensory adventure!
And give your server a smile, listen to what they have to impart about their wines…passion flows through this industry from those that tend the vines to you. If you have tasted wines that made you happy, take some home to share with friends and remind you of your special day out.
May the spirit of Santa Barbara Wine Country infuse you with warmth, relaxation and well being!