Wine Tasting Etiquette Is Like Kindergarten

Surprisingly, this post is not about food, but about my other love, wine.  Oregon is well known for its wine country and has a respectable showing of pinot noirs. They take their wine seriously here with more than 500 wineries in the Willamette Valley region alone and 725 wineries statewide. So many wineries, so little time…..

Thanksgiving weekend is wine-tasting madness with scads of wine events. There has been a lot of promotions leading up to this weekend with an extensive list of wineries and tips to follow. I have summarized a few of the tips, which are good to know, no matter where you are doing your wine tasting. 


  • Don’t get drunk: Don’t glug, don’t pour it on your head in a fit of bacchanalian excess. Just taste. Plus, if you get sloppy drunk by winery number three, that tasting fee will be for naught because your palate will be as smashed as you. The solution? Practice your spit. This is the one time it is OK to spit. Of course, men play by different spit rules, don’t they? Guys, man up!


  • Bring a designated driver: Duh! Designated drivers are fed for free (or ‘treated well’ in subtle winery parlance). There has to be some incentive to stay sober!


  • Don’t forget your proper footwear: Despite the distraction of the wealth of wine, remember you are still in Oregon, where mud makes you slip and fall. And as your mom would say, wear socks or your feet will get cold. (I can’t believe I have to write this one down.)


  • Don’t wear perfume or cologne: Wine connoisseurs swear that it messes up the delicate noses of wine tasters. I tend to agree after standing next to someone reeking of passion flower perfume. But don’t forget to bathe either – body odor can be just as offensive. 


  • Don’t wear light colors: Just in case there is a guy preparing for his Jefferson Starship moment – you know the one who took off his shirt to dance around in the rain singing “we built this city on rock and roll” – jostles you, spilling red wine down your t-shirt. Yeah, that one! Wear red or dark colors to be safe.


  • It won’t be cheap: Tasting fees range from $10 to $25 or more. Oregon is catching up to the rest of the wine countries in their tasting fees. You can share a tasting if you don’t mind swapping spit with another person, partner or stranger (your choice), cutting the tasting fee in half for two people. Some wineries permit this. This is also helpful because the purpose is NOT to get drunk.  


  • Don’t forget to eat: Most wineries serve small bites or snacks to help absorb some of the alcohol you are ingesting. During the Thanksgiving weekend events, there may be special food fares available. Do grab a bite once in a while or bring a picnic of Thanksgiving leftovers!


  • Give everyone a little elbow room: People need to step away (can you hear this in your head, “step away from the bar”) if the tasting room is crowded. The servers can come around the bar and serve you. Some wineries even have nice lounge chairs and couches – but those could be a challenge to get out of if you are visiting your third winery.


So in many ways, a wine-tasting weekend is a lot like kindergarten: dress appropriately, wear proper shoes, keep your hands to yourself, be responsible, and don’t get drunk. Wait a minute, what part of “don’t get drunk” in kindergarten did I miss?


Happy Thanksgiving!


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