How to Behave at a Winery, According to the Professionals

Winery visits are a great way to spend a day, but just like a bar or a restaurant, there are rules.

A wine bottle opener, a wine glass and a wine cork
Photo: Oscar Bolton Green

Winery Etiquette is much more straightforward than you'd think — in fact, being a model guest in a tasting room is not that different from how one should act in, say, a restaurant or cocktail bar. Put simply: It's all about mindfulness and common courtesy, neither of which are a bar to also having fun.

"Visiting a winery is all about quality over quantity," says Gabriella Macari, general manager for her family's North Fork winery, Macari Vineyards. In many cases, she adds, guests have access to wines that are either exclusive to the winery or not readily available at retail — certainly things to be enjoyed and experienced, as is wine in general, but staying aware of one's consumption is key in doing so.

The same applies to your itinerary: "Rushing from tasting room to tasting room is exhausting," Macari says, so don't overbook your itinerary. "Pick one to two wineries per day, and allow yourself time to enjoy the scenery and a glass or bottle after your tasting."

Here, Macari and fellow wine professionals Lauren Hoey and Tonya Pitts share their golden rules for tasting room conduct on your next winery visit.

1. Make a Reservation

"Health regulations are still being enforced with spacing in all interactions [and] a limited number of people allowed in an establishment at once,"explains Tonya Pitts, wine director at One Market in San Francisco. Like restaurants, she adds, wineries are trying to avoid crowding in order to offer the safest and most seamless experience. Taking a moment to make — and honor — a reservation for your next wine tasting is the right thing to do.

2. Pace Yourself

"At any tasting, make sure you're hydrated and nourished," says Lauren Hoey, head sommelier at Hawksmoor in NYC. Making sure the wine doesn't get the best of you helps the experience run smoothly. If you go past your limits, it's hard to remember what you've tried or learned, so don't be afraid to use the provided spittoons. That's what they're for, after all!

3. Skip the Spray

"Avoid wearing too much perfume [or] cologne as it can mask the aroma of the wines," Hoey points out. Smell is integral to tasting wine, so always bear this in mind.

4. Exercise Patience

"Please let the staff who are pouring the wine finish talking about the flight before you start moving glassware around or sampling," says Hoey. "We love questions, but ask them in an inquisitive, respectful way rather than just interrogating the host."

5. Show Your Support

"Buy the wines you liked or sign up for a wine club — many tasting rooms like ours offer perks
such as complimentary tastings, discounts, and exclusive invitations to educational tastings and seminars," Macari shares.

6. Consider Tipping

"This is a brand-new world, especially because the roles of wine steward, sommelier, wine professional, and wine educator have morphed into something more," says Pitts. "I think it's appropriate to tip — they are providing a service and their knowledge." According to Pitts, you should consider tipping 15% to 20% on your final bill.

To read more stories about being an A+ guest and more hospitality industry news, visit foodandwine.com/fwpro.

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