How to taste wine

12-Step Program for Wine Drinkers

We assume you are on the Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail for a wine adventure. We want you to be a taster, not a drinker, while you are wine touring. You will get more out of a day of wine touring if you learn to taste, rather than drink. There is a difference! Wineries don’t want you to drink in the tasting room; they want you to taste. As a taster, you pour out 50% or more of the sample. The goal is to take three to four very tiny sips and swish the few drops around your mouth to get the whole experience. Tasting staff will pour you one-half to one ounce of wine (if they pour less they then make a blend with the previous sample). All tasting bars have at least one dump bucket.

  1. Open yourself to new and interesting experiences. Is that so bad?! Try something new. Start by asking your host to “Please pour me what you have available in your recommended order.” Don’t be a bigot. If you’ve tried four Rieslings and didn’t care for them, it doesn’t mean you don’t like Riesling, just not those four. You can be sure there is one out there you will like. The purpose of the Wine Trail is to help you explore one of the planet’s most diverse wine regions from Angelica to Zinfandel. Ask lots of questions!
  2.  Smell the wine. Get your nose in the glass, sniff deeply, with gusto. You only have taste buds for sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. All else is smell.
  3. Contemplate. Fruity, woody, herbs, sweet aroma, spices, flowers??
  4. tiny sip, three to six drops. Slurp it noisily, pull air in – swish it around your mouth. Make noise! You aren’t at a dinner party!
  5. Take another tiny three- to six-drop sip. Go ahead and swallow, after a little swish around the mouth.
  6. Contemplate. Think of five words to describe the sensory impact. Sweet/sour? Fruity/blackberry/apple? Delicate/robust? Avoid good/bad . . . that’s opinion, not a sensory evaluation. What is a good food match?
  7. Repeat Step 5 and 6, sip and contemplate.
  8. Any new experiences, sensations, smells, tastes in the third tiny sip? If so take a fourth tiny sip. If not, this is when you get to “Good – I like it. Bad – I don’t like it.”
  9. Pour the remaining wine into the dump bucket. If it is so good you can’t dump it out, tell your host how many bottles you want to buy.
  10. Taste the next wine, repeat steps 2 – 10. Remember to drink lots of water in between wineries.
  11. Every Saturday afternoon at least one winemaker will be in at least one tasting room in the Rattlesnake Hills for “Ask the Winemaker.”
  12. Every Sunday morning you can take a vineyard tour with Paul, our winegrower.
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Organic Vineyard Tour & Wine Tasting

Visit four vineyards with our master winegrower, Paul Vandenberg, owner of Paradisos del Sol Winery, including our own organic vineyard.

Every day except Saturday at 9 am, $20, group and student rates. Reserve your spot today!

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