Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tips for a Successful Wine Tour

The wines of 4.0 Winery
Looking for a fun day trip, regardless of the weather? Try the Texas Hill Country Wine Trail @texaswinetrail 

Some lessons we’ve learned while leading tours for our friends: 

  • Save your nose: Don’t wear perfumes or other strong scents. “If you do not smell a wine…very little information goes to the brain, and not surprisingly, you have trouble deciding what the wine tastes like,” writes Karen MacNeil in The Wine Bible. I want to smell my wine, not the trendy fragrance your cousin Martha just brought back from France. Strong colognes impede that sense and annoy others. 
  • Breakfast and hydration: Eat a filling breakfast, and bring water to stay hydrated between tastings. 

Our group at 4.0 Winery

  • Always bring a cooler: Heat and wine do not play well in the same sandbox. Why spend all that money on a nice bottle of wine, only to allow a hot car interior to destroy it? 
  • Plan your route to minimize driving: While you can enjoy the beautiful rolling scenery of the Hill Country, the goal is to taste and compare wines. Use online resources (like the Texas Hill Country Wine Trail map, see link above, or CatchWine) to plan an efficient route. We target four to six wineries but stay flexible to meet the needs of the group.


Monarch migration season at Messina Hof
  • What’s for lunch: Our group packs a cold lunch and stops at a winery for a picnic. Ask the staff if you can use their seating area; some wineries are more hospitable than others. TABC rules require that you consume only that winery’s products on their premises, so no opening bottles from down the road. If you stop at a Texas state park, they mean it when they say “no public consumption of alcohol.” Small town restaurants offer another dining option.
  • Dealing with crowds: Buses and limos lurk in winery parking lots, which means a big group (or two) has beaten you to the tasting bar. The Texas Hill Country Wine Trail attracts over 5 million visitors annually, and sometimes, you’ll swear all of them are there on your afternoon. Many wineries increase their staff on weekends to accommodate these large groups. However, on our recent tour, Mendelbaum Winery had only two staff scrambling to serve over 40 people. We waited nearly an hour, and half our group never tasted. If you notice an overtaxed staff or too-crowded tasting bar, move on to your next location before the rest of the crowd does.

Pouring a sample at Hilmy Cellars

  • It’s OK if you don’t like one: All wineries provide dump buckets, and no one takes offense if you jettison a sample. Life is too short to drink a wine you don’t enjoy.
  • Buy local: Ask which wines you can get only at the winery…and buy them! You can always get that Becker Viognier at H-E-B. Support local business!
  • Designate a driver: All those little tastes add up (not to mention the glass of wine with lunch). Designate a driver who’s responsible enough to know when it’s time to stop tasting.
Many thanks to Four Point Winery @fourpointwine , Messina Hof Hill Country , Hilmy Cellars  and others for a fun Saturday. I hope you’ll visit one of the Texas Wine Trails very soon!

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