Wine Country,Wine Etiquette,Winery

Tasting Room Etiquette

Visiting wine country and a tasting room is a very special experience. All I had to do was visit wine country from Maine to have a complete, life altering paradigm shift. I instantly knew what my next career was going to be… And it was going to be all things wine. (This has now been the case since March of 1993.)

While working in my first tasting room, I learned quickly the ins and outs… I was working in Healdsburg, and we’d hear at least once on the weekends that people were fed up with Napa’s crowds, but most especially “the fees” for tasting wine.

When visiting tasting rooms, most of them in Napa Valley do charge a fee. This wasn’t always the case, though, and so initiating a fee has left a few people (who visited Napa in the past) with a sour grapes feeling.

Be prepared, however, because many Sonoma Valley wineries have now followed suit, as well as other wine regions also coming on board with a slight charge for wine tasting.

The fee is entirely justified, BTW. A tasting room is very costly to own and operate, with a trained staff in not only retail sales, but also with wine knowledge.


  • Expect a fee. (This may be returned to you on the cost of your purchase.)
  • Allow the server to pour his/her wine in the order of their menu. (It’s been organized in a lighter to heavier wine order.)
  • Ask a lot of questions. (Education should be part of your process.)
  • Spit, if you’re going to be doing a lot of wine “tasting.” (It’s part of the process, and will keep down your blood alcohol level.)
  • Turn off your cell phone. (The whole world’s a phone booth these days, but these kinds of distractions really take away from other’s learning experiences, as well as your own.)


  • Expect a full glass pour. (This is wine “tasting,” remember, not wine drinking.)
  • Bathe in a lot of fragrances before heading out for a wine tasting. (Fragrances completely throw off the ability for you – and others around you – to be able to enjoy the wine’s aromatics and flavors in a pure, unadulterated way.)
  • Enjoy the winery’s picnic area and bring your own wine. (The area needs a staff to maintain the grounds, and it’s there for you to enjoy food and wine… Their wine.)
  • Pour your own wine. (Tasting wine is a business, not a party, although it may feel that casual. The same rules apply in a tasting room that apply in a bar, where you wouldn’t dream of pouring your own beverage.)

These are the most relevant do’s and don’ts that I remember.

I know there are lots more, so if you’re in the wine business, please feel free to share. It’s actually a pretty hot topic for those working in tasting rooms… Let’s see what my colleagues have to share on this one.

Have at it, boys and girls!

2 Responses to “Tasting Room Etiquette”

  1. I had a similar experience to yours when visiting Finger Lakes Wine Country for the first time after moving to the area from New York City, and am now pursuing a business in the industry, like you. It’s sometimes hard to explain what that moment of realization is like to others, but I’m very grateful for it!

  2. admin says:

    Best wishes, too, for a very productive ride. There are lots of twists and turns, lots of hats you can wear, and many rewards… Most especially with your new-found relationships.

    I just read on Steve Heimoff’s blog (www.steveheimoff.com)… And he was quoting Michael Jordan (not the basketball player, the restaurateur)…

    “Quote of the weekend: ‘If you want to be successful in this business, make friends.’