Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tasting Room Etiquette & Tips

So there are a few tips plus do's and don't for the tasting room that I wanted to share with you. For those of you serious about wine tasting - read up! This information will hopefully help you and the staff at the tasting room have the best experience.

1) Serious wine tasters go tasting during the week vs. the weekend. Why? Because they want to actually speak with the tasting room staff vs. fighting lines of folks to get a pour of "Red #1." If you want to hear the story of the winery and find out more about the wine, you need to go when it is quiet so that staff has time to speak to you. If they are slammed with a lots of folks or a large group, you have to understand that they just can't take the time to tell you all that they'd like to.

Now many folks can only go tasting on the weekends. What to do? My advice is to try to hit the busier ones early on a Saturday and later in the day on a Sunday. Saturday afternoons till close are crazy, plus on Sunday folks like to try to hit a few more before the leave out of town. Save the smaller, out of the way wineries at these peak times as usually the crowds that are out and about at the busiest times are hitting the "big boy" wineries.

2) Please don't get crazy drunk. There are of course the groups that are celebrating a birthday and go wine tasting, hopping from winery to winery drinking all that they can. But this usually is just a quest to get drunk, vs. a quest to "wine taste." Please know if you're partying in a big group, you're affecting the experience of others in the tasting room that would like a "real" experience. Go to a bar to get drunk! Go wine tasting to learn about the wines in the region :)

3) Spitting is OK - and recommended! Though I have a hard time with it as I just don't feel like I taste the wine the same when I spit. In fact, I've had wine that I know is flat or flabby, and folks that spit think it's fine. Personally, I take a sip or two of the wine I'm tasting, then dump the rest - unless I really love it, of course!

4) Please keep chapstick & lipstick at a minimum. It doesn't really come off in the dishwasher and it's hard for tasting room folks to rub off the glass. if you do have lipstick on, one idea would be to get a napkin and wipe the lipstick off of the glass before you leave so that you don't leave a big mess behind.

5) Don't wash you glass out with water in between pours. Water can dilute and change the PH of the wine. I find that it ends up giving a musty odor to the wine. You really don't need to rinse from wine to wine as it really doesn't have an affect - unless you're going from a sweet to dry wine, there's residue in your glass, or you really hated the last wine. If you need to rinse, just have the pourer rinse the glass with a little of the wine you're about to have - they'll be happy to do it for you.

6) Gratuities are always appreciated. Have you been to a bar, ordered a drink, gotten your drink then left a tip at the bar? When wine tasting, you taste through many wines, and if the wine pourer is good, you get tons of information about the wine, winery, vineyards, area and beyond. You might even get a barrel tour or vineyard tour. A tasting room attendant usually gives you so much more information than a bartender - then why don't you leave them a tip? If they've helped your learn something, or if they've helped you & your friends as a larger group, they definitely deserve a tip.

7) Buying wine. If you're paying a tasting fee, don't fee obligated to buy the wine. Of course if you like it, buy! But don't feel obligated. But if you start asking the wine pourer to open wines specifically for you, you should buy some wine. You don't necessarily have to buy the wine you asked to be open, but out of courtesy for the trouble, you should invest in some wine.

8) For industry folks that get to taste for free: We get to taste so that we can learn about all the wines in the area and can give recommendations on our favorites. We always feel that we need to buy when we go tasting, but that is ridiculous on the salary we make! Leaving a small tip is a great way to say thank you to the pourer, while not feeling obligated to spend half of your paycheck on a bottle of wine :)

I hope these tips help you navigate your nest tasting room experience more efficiently!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Downside of ZinFest

So though ZinFest was a blast, I have to say how amazed I was that there were so many folks just out to get drunk, vs actually caring about the wine they were tasting. In fact I had one lady who would down her pour as though it were a shot, then slam the glass on the counter, ready to slam back the next pour. How can you taste ANYTHING when you do that?

I was surprised at myself - how kinda mad I got about this kind of behavior. I actually became protective of our wines; each one has such a beautiful story around it - and I felt that some people were disrespecting the wines by just plowing though the tasting experience.

But then there were those folks who came out in the chaos for some real wine tasting. Those who truly cared about the experience and wanted to learn all that they could. For these amazing folks - first of all I thank you! And beyond that I gave them our full "wine club" experience so that they could more fully understand what Cypher Winery is all about. I was just so grateful that they were actually listening to me vs. being ready to fall over from intoxication!

Oh, the dark side of this sexy industry. But we all know it's still well worth it :)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

ZinFest is Here!

ZinFest has begun! Here I am at Cypher Winery in my ZinBitch tee holding the ZinBitch Magnum :)

So this is the quiet before the storm.....

And the craziness that ended up going all day!!

All in all, the day was quieter than we expected, probably because of all the rain. But we all had a blast - especially because our winemaker/owner Christian was there doing barrel tours, signing bottles and hanging out with the crowds. "Good wine is like good sex," Christian says. And I happen to agree.

Second verse, same as the first for tomorrow- the last day of ZinFest!

The Morning of ZinFest......

It's the morning of the Saturday of ZinFest. To all of my fellow tasting room attendants, I wish thee the best of luck on this day.

Let the onslaught begin.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Artie the Penguin

So yesterday, this really sweet couple - Richard & Georgann - came in to wine taste. We're chatting, I'm pouring wine, and then eventually I noticed the penguin on the counter. "What's up with the penguin, guys?"

"That's Artie," says Georgann. "He's been with us about ten and a half years, and goes everywhere with us." OK. That perked my interest.

Artie is the adorable stuffed penguin that travels everywhere - I mean EVERYWHERE - with Richard and Georgann. He has his own Facebook Page (Artie Penguin) his own Twitter Page (@artiepenguin) and a g-mail account that I don't feel comfortable giving out as I don't want to compromise Artie's personal space.

I saw pictures of Artie on Facebook at the Eiffel Tower, at Rockerfeller Center, and Artie eating and drinking lots of great wine & food all over the world!

Of course I had to get my own photo of me pouring wine for my new favorite penguin. Not the best photo of me but well worth it!! :)

Thanks Richard & Georgann! And thanks for Tweeting about me :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Windfall Farms Industry Event

Ok all - I don't mean to make you jealous but....... I was able to attend the Windfall Farms Industry Event that was held to showcase the new event center. Free food, free wine and the gorgeous setting - it was heaven on earth!! Thank you to Meegan Huff for organizing the event.

First off, Cass Winery was there with food & wine! Chef Jacob did an amazing job with crab cakes (my favorite), stuffed mushrooms and pork sliders - and that was just the beginning. Amazing food! - Great job to everyone at Cass!

Ali (pictured below) & Doug from 15 Degrees C in Templeton did the most gorgeous spread of meats, cheeses, red & white wines as well as cava my personal favorite!) Thank you, Ali! It was really quite gorgeous.

Then Kendall from Edward Sellers was there as well as Michelle from Thacher Winery. My personal favorites were the Mourvedre from Edwards Sellers & the "Controlled Chaos" from Thacher.

Then to top it off, my friend Kathy from All About Table Tops was there with beautiful table displays. Kathy & her husband Mike are phenomenal. Please remember how it is always nice to support a small local business.

Why was I there? To see the new event center as well as sample all the wines so that I have places, wineries & caterers to recommend out when people ask. Yeah, this is the "tough" side of the industry :)

Thanks all for the free food and wine! As you know, on a tasting room attendant's salary I'm always broke - so the free food & wine is much appreciated - HA! :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My First Post!

I've been in the wine industry for close to a year now. I've learned a lot, I've met a lot of amazing people, and a lot of drinking has gone on!

Though we all go wine tasting and visit tasting rooms, many times we miss the backstory of the winery and the tasting room itself. And believe me, there's always a backstory :)

I decided to start this blog to tell the story of wine tasting rooms. The etiquette for folks visiting a tasting room (gratuities anyone?) including how to taste and what are some of the best wines out there. I also want to tell the story of my experiences - highlights of who I meet and the day to day of my life in a tasting room on the Westside of Paso Robles, CA Wine Country. I'll also make you envious of the crazy fun industry parties and free tastings at other wineries that come along as a benefit of being "industry." But beyond that, I want to tell the story of others on the front lines of the tasting rooms - the so-called "tasting room attendants." What is their story? Why are they there? What is their experience?

So join the on my journey to tell the story of the tasting room. With over 200 wineries in the Paso area, I'm sure to keep you amused.