When we last went wine tasting, we focused on how the curiously misinformed and misbehaved tasting room patrons can affect a winery visit, depending on your own state of mind. In tasting room parlance, let’s revisit that, shall we?
Of course, the standard rule still applies: be mindful of your own propensity to take on their characteristics after a few ounces (or ten) of jammy Russian River Meritage…
Limo Squeezers are the locusts of the tasting room ecosystem. They can change the dynamic of virtually any tasting room in the space of a few seconds. They descend upon a winery en masse by the bus or limo, ready to stand three-deep at the bar and pound their tastings, before moving on. Many smaller wineries (the ones you typically most want to try anyway) won’t even allow them, or will only allow them by special arrangements. They are voracious and wild-eyed in their mission to squeeze as much wine as they can out of the four stops on their itinerary.
It’s not all bad. They liven up the atmosphere and are conscientious in their good sense to arrange for safe transportation to multiple wineries. But as you can imagine, this can get out of hand quickly. Forget discussing nuances and notes of green apple in your Sauv Blanc with the wine maker. Forget side-by-side challenges of off-the-menu Cabernet Francs with a bonus bit of chocolate, or extra little shots of Port at the end of the session earned by chatting up the affable host. That host’s attention will instantly be monopolized by the infestation and will turn to serving as many of these people as quickly as possible. Limo Squeezers are there to consume and move on, taking your experience with them. Treat appropriately those few limos or buses you see as you pull into the parking lot of that charming, medium-sized winery on a fall Carneros afternoon. You have been warned.
IFOCS can also arrive by limo, but occasionally can be found tasting in pairs or small groups. They are the other side of the Limo Squeezers’ coin. The fun side. They are my favorite tasting room denizens. For them, It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere and they’re looking to turn whatever hour it happens to be into happy hour. Like their Limo Squeezer friends, there’s no searching for subtleties in the wine or commenting on flavor notes for IFOCS. The only notes of any merit you’ll hear from these tasters relate to the amount poured into their glass. They definitely rate heavy pours more favorably.
Nothing wrong with that. I like their style. Their pleasant way of chatting up the bartender is usually rewarded in more generous pours for others in their general area, too. Note: for fear of getting too scientific about an extra ounce or so of Pinot in a logo-bearing glass (yours to keep!), this is like cold fusion for a tasting room. By that, I mean the energy emitting from the reaction is greater than the energy going into it.
Speaking of generous pours, allow me to turn my attention briefly to a very few tasting room hosts I call the Pour Pitifuls. In the olden days of free tasting sessions (remember those?) a light pour wasn’t as big of a deal. Today, however, many wineries charge almost as much as a decent glass costs in a restaurant. Most are okay with that, provided the tasting is so varied, informative and fun that it unexpectedly opens horizons. Just don’t short pour.
In order to properly taste and evaluate a wine, you’ll need at least a couple of sips’ worth in your glass. I like to taste in these three steps, but your method may vary: after swirling and sniffing, the first small sip is to acquaint your palate with the wine. The second, larger sip, is really more of a slurp to aerate it in your mouth. Then, really taste it by pressing the wine against the roof of your mouth. And for the third, take one more quick sniff and drink as you would normally.
There is a fourth step: A nice tip for good service is always in order, of course.
DWYLs live by the code of Drink What You Like, regardless of label, varietal, pairing or other considerations, and they usually have a favorite or two that they will insist you try. Most of us like to place ourselves in this category, and why not? It’s good real estate to own without the pitfalls of coming off like a jerk, especially in a tasting room where we have little to no experience with the wines being poured. It’s an attitude that can cover for you as you approach your limit, too.
What makes DWYLs especially fun in tasting rooms is their adventurous spirit. Because they simply don’t care about pretense or even missteps in choosing a wine, they often stumble upon the best values out there, uncovering velvety smooth cellar scraps and the like, selling for $12-$14, which you might have otherwise passed by.
Then, there are the Bedazzlers, those ladies of a certain age in their bejeweled t-shirts that say things like “Drinks well with others,” who are in pursuit of wine knowledge (which they promptly erase from memory with each tasting). Bedazzlers are still reeling from the time they ordered Zinfandel at a restaurant and were upset when a glass of cold pink wine didn’t arrive. Sure, after being corrected by their well-meaning daughters, they’ve graduated to ordering “Red” now, but that’s as far as their palates have evolved. Don’t worry about food pairings or tasting notes. She’ll have the Red.
That’s cool. Wine culture is intoxicating, (pun intended) particularly for these ladies and they’re going all in. Their wearable art is a rhinestone statement of connection to a world they discover anew each time they stop at a winery. Honestly, I’m envious of their never-jaded approach. It’s honest and fun. They’re also kind of a hoot at the bar.
I’m sure the tasting room hosts out there have a few more to add to this list. You frequent winery patrons might have some too. Add to the list in the comments, or just whisper them to me when you see me. I’ll be the guy at the end of the bar yucking it up with the ladies in the rhinestone shirts.