Maybe you are baffled when you hear friends use terms like lively, floral and full-bodied to describe their wine. Perhaps you’re curious about why—or how—Cabernet tastes different from Pinot Noir. Or maybe you simply enjoy having a nice glass of vino with your meal. No matter what, there is no better way to learn about wine than by a private tasting at a winery.
Whether you are on the East or West coast, we’ve picked out a few spectacular options. Please note that in all cases it’s necessary to book your reservation in advance.
Duckhorn Portfolio tour: $75.
At beautiful Paraduxx in Napa Valley, guests can relax and lounge on long couches on the patio overlooking the vineyard. We suggest you indulge in the exclusive Duckhorn Portfolio tour, which is led by a seasoned Paraduxx Wine Educator. The tour begins with a sip of Chardonnay, and continues with an excursion through the estate and winemaking facilities. It culminates in a tasting that is held outside on the grounds in a covered Pavilion that overlooks the Rector Creek Estate Vineyard and Rector Creek. Because the tasting features five wines from Paraduxx’s expansive portfolio—Duckhorn Vineyards, Paraduxx, Goldeneye and Migration—you effectively visit four wineries in one stop. A cheese and charcuterie pairing are included with the seated tasting, as well as duck-shaped chocolates by local Woodhouse Chocolates of St. Helena.
Owner-Winemaker Seminar Tour: $75.
Owner George Hendry has lived on Hendry Winery’s Napa land for 78 years; he is not only a grape farmer, he is also a working nuclear physicist. We suggest taking Hendry’s $75 Owner-Winemaker Seminar Tour, during which you’ll learn about the history of the family and region, the economics of the farmland in Napa valley, the business decisions the family has made, and the science behind every step of wine production. And of course, the science of tasting. During harvest, you may even taste fresh Hendry grapes right off the vine. Following the vineyard tour, you’ll sample at least seven wines in an intimate tasting seminar. As you learn to taste the difference between oaked and unoaked wines—and how to complement wine tannins with fats and oils—you’ll also enjoy views of the porch, shaded by oaks, and the vineyard blocks that surround the winery.
Private Tour and Tasting: $65 per person.
Hanzell Vineyards grows some of the oldest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines in the country – its first vintage was in 1957. The exclusive Private Tour and Tasting, limited to four, begins in the historic Ambassador’s 1953 Vineyard, where an Estate Educator discusses Hanzell’s history and viticultural practices. Guests are then driven around the grounds in a Land Rover to see some of the estate’s other vineyards, finally ending at the historic Heritage Winery, where you get to taste the three current vintage wines. The view from the top of the Heritage Winery looks out over the historic Vineyard and two giant Douglas Fir trees, where red tail hawks nest. Also be sure to check out the library, where they store and age wine, including every Hanzell vintage as far back as 1965.
Private tasting: $10 per person (Wednesdays & Thursdays).
Ardiri Winery is widely renowned in Oregon for its stunning views—both of its vineyards and of Mount Hood. The tasting flights include 5 wines from Ardiri vineyards in both Willamette Valley and Napa Valley. Wines include a Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc blend and a selection of Pinot Noirs. In the spring and summer the tastings are outside, while on cooler days they take place inside the winery; guests sit around cozy tables with miniature fire pits built into the center of them. All wines are served with Pecorino Romano cheese. Visit in the spring, and you’ll be able to sample Ardiri’s newly released dessert wine.
Private tasting: $50 per person.
Guests touring the picturesque Stoller Family Estate will get an inside view of Stoller’s LEED Gold Certified gravity flow winery (that means it is green certified). During the tour, guests have the opportunity to taste wine directly from barrel and learn about Stoller philosophies on winemaking. The tour concludes in the newly renovated Legacy Room, the large glass walls of which offer panoramic views of the vineyard. Wines are served with a locally sourced cheese and charcuterie board. Stay a little late on a special night and you might catch a performance under the stars by the Willamette Shakespeare Company.
Private Tasting: $75 per person.
At the stunning Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack on the East end of Long Island, the experience begins when you walk through the majestic front door into a grand room overlooking a stone terrace and a field of Chardonnay vines. The Private tour starts in the vineyard with a history of Wölffer. Next, guests are escorted to the subterranean wine cellar where the wines are made and aged in French oak barrels. Also downstairs is an intimate half-moon dining table, where guests learn about four different Wolffer wines, each of which expresses a different variety of grape. Complimentary food pairings of artisanal cheeses and charcuterie are also included.
Private Tasting: $10 and up per person.
Founded in 1974, Casa Larga is a great entry point to the Finger Lakes Wine region of New York State. It’s also home to the New York State Ice Wine and Culinary Festival, which takes place on February 13th. Casa was started as hobby in 1974 by Italian-born Andrew Colaruotolo and is still run by his three children. The winery has a hospitable atmosphere and is filled with Colaruotolo family photos. During the walking tour of the Casa Larga estate guests learn about the history of the winery and see all the stages of winemaking, from graft to glass. The tour includes picturesque vineyard views, as well as a look at the winemaking and bottling equipment. For the tasting you can either head inside to an opulent room featuring a bar made out of French oak barrels formerly used in the Casa Larga’s winemaking process, or you can drink on a front patio overlooking the vineyard. The tasting includes five wines, including their award winning Ice Wine, and guests can order an array of foods in advance. You may also supplement your tasting with chocolate from Rochester’s Hedonist Artisan Chocolates.