Posts Tagged ‘Beringer’

5 Things to Focus on at 2016 Vancouver International Wine Festival

February 23, 2016

Can’t believe it is here again…the 2016 Vancouver International Wine Festival!

Italy is the host country this year, and they have pulled out all the stops. But with so many wines available to taste, what should your focus be? Here are 5 ideas (both Italy and beyond):

1. Barolo

I love Piedmont’s biggest wine, but it has become stupidly expensive, with most bottles over $60 (and I mean well over). But the Wine Festival provides a relatively cheap way to taste a dozen or more Barolos! Look for great producers like Damilano, Cesare, Conterno, Vietti. The only caveat — they are all young and will probably be very tannic…so watch out for a bad case of purple tongue!

2. Brunello di Montalcino

Same advice regarding Tuscany’s big red wine! There are numerous producers pouring 10 or more wines, and you can look for wineries like Argiano, Marchesi and San Polino. Brunellos tend to be not quite as tannic, so a little easier to enjoy young!

3. BC Wineries

I can’t leave out my homies…at least a couple of BC wineries warrant some attention, with Averill Creek leading the way! Andy is famous for his Pinot Noirs, but don’t miss his Pinot Gris as well. Burrowing Owl doesn’t have their Syrah, but try their Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc…a bit “Bordeaux like” for me, but nice wines. Finally,
Quails Gate makes nice — if expensive — Cali style Pinot Noir.

4. California

Not a lot of wineries this year, but some of the biggies are here. Mondavi, Beringer, Signorello, Seghesio…all are worth checking out.

5. France

Even fewer from France, but one of my favourite wineries is back…Famille Perrin, which makes Chateau de Beaucastel (which they are pouring, along with their Coudoulet and Vacqueyras). Definitely worth a trip!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

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Oak, oak…and away?!?

April 1, 2015

It only took opening tonight’s wine to give me my blog topic – oak! The most frustrating part of wine – for me – because it can lead to the wines that I like the most, and the ones I just can’t stand!

Tonight was the latter. It was a Syrah from Chile. Not where I usually go for Syrah, but the review said all the right things – cool climate (like northern Rhone), pepper, meat, lean…should be my style, right? But then I saw that it had been aged in oak…A warning sign, but still, many northern Rhones get that, and still end up great (in my opinion).

But as soon as I popped the cork I could tell…not!!!!

It wasn’t bad, or even too woody. It just was devoid of fruit, replace instead by herbs, dirt and…I don’t know what else.

It reminded me of my other related pet peeves – oaked Argentine Malbecs, and most Spanish Garnachas. Same thing! Too many secondary aromas/flavours, and somehow the fruit has disappeared. So frustrating, especially with the Malbecs, which can be full of juicy blackberries! And don’t get me started on most Bordeaux, which you need a toothpick to drink with because of the woodiness.

But then there is the other side of the equation!

For reds, how about California (or some BC) Cabernet Sauvignons? If made in the Cali style, there is that amazing coating of vanilla from the oak barrels – absolutely gorgeous when done well, as the vanilla mixes with the black currants into a liqueur like flavour! The Caymus I had a few weeks ago was mind blowing. And the La Frenz and St. Francis excellent.

Same with Cali Chardonnays! I just had Mondavi’s latest Carneros Reserve and it was stunning, just as good as Beringer’s Private Reserve. Golden yellow, butterscotch, vanilla and ripe citrus – who couldn’t love that!

But what is with the dichotomy? How can I love one so much, and dislike the others just as much?

Deep breath…and opening a half bottle of 1989 Chateau Coutet to salve my wounds…what have I learned yet again?

Accept that wines have different styles, know what you like, and stick to it. Yeah, that’s it…

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

What Wines to Bring to Dinner Parties?

March 25, 2015

Here is a dilemma for all of us. You are invited to friends for dinner and say you will bring wine.

But what do you bring?

Well, before I answer that, you need to answer a couple of other questions first!

First off…how close are you? This is the most important question because if you are close friends, you may already know what they like or – more importantly – if they are “wine dweebs” or not (more on that below). If it is more casual, it can be less of an issue (although you never want to bring bad wine, of course!).

Second – are they wine dweebs? If not, see above. But if they are, you face a bigger challenge. Do you try to bring something that impresses them? Or something that you know they like (because you have had it there before)? I would go with the latter…many people say they don’t like to bring wine to our place because they know I am a wine dweeb and may judge them. But if they know what I like – Rhone wines, for example – they can’t go wrong, no matter how much they spend on the bottle.

The third question may seem a bit esoteric, but it is important if you are a wine dweeb like me. And it is – do you expect the wine you bring to be drunk that evening?

For me, this is often the toughest question! I have lots of great wine in my cellar, and I love the chance to share it with friends, even casual friends. But what can drive me crazy is bringing a wine that I was looking forward to tasting, only to have the friends say “wow, thanks!” and then put it away for use later.

I deal with this question in two ways. If they are close friends, I will actually ask what to bring! I couch it around “what is for dinner? What will go best?” That way, I find out right up front whether it will be drunk or not. If I don’t know them that well, I tend to shy away from really good wine – or mature wine – as I don’t know when it may be drunk.

Having answered these questions, then, back to the first one…what do you bring?

Well, I have a couple of safe bets for “casual” friends. For reds, try an un-oaked Argentine Malbec or Cotes du Rhone. They are almost always fruity but a little complex, not full of wood (from the oak) and you can find lots of choices in the $15 – $20 range. And for whites, try Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or B.C. They are fruity (but not too ripe), have just a bit of oak, and there are a fair number in the same price range as the reds above.

For special friends that you know well? Well, if you have a cellar, that is the time to bring something that is mature. A Chateauneuf du Pape or Chianti Classico Riserva that is 8 – 10 years old, for example. If they are really good friends, try a Barolo or Barbaresco that is 10 – 15 years old. If you don’t have a cellar, go for a California Cabernet Sauvignon. Mondavi, Beringer, Caymus…there are lots of big names that have wines in the $40 – $50 range, and the great thing is they drink well on release, so you don’t have to worry about tannins.

And for special whites? Chablis Premier Cru is a great choice, or Alsatian Rielsing or Gewurztraminer. These can be from your cellar (if you are lucky enough to have them) or right off the shelf, as they also drink well young and can be found in the $40 range. Cali Chardonnay is another great idea as long as you know they like oaky, buttery Chardonnays.

So the next time you are asked to bring wine to dinner, think about these simple rules. Follow them, and you can’t go wrong!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Vancouver Wine Festival 2015 – Four Wineries No One Has Told You About

February 25, 2015

It’s that time of year again, and I am excited to be going to the Vancouver International Wine Festival tomorrow night. But in reading the lead up to the Festival in the past week, it has struck me – yet again – that some of the best wineries are not being promoted.

Why? Well, that would be a blog of it’s own…

But given the short time frame, let’s focus on four wineries – and their wines – you may not have heard about, but certainly shouldn’t miss out on.

Let’s start with BC, my home province. Incredibly, La Frenz Winery – which wine dweebs like me know is the best overall winery not just in the province, but in Canada as well – has seen nary a peep of promotion.

If there is one winery you need to go to, it is La Frenz. According to the info, they are pouring four wines – 3 whites and 1 red. All are worth trying, but if you are limited for time the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc may be the best of its kind ever made in BC (it has won numerous awards) and the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay will make you think of Beringer’s Private Reserve for half the price. And the red? Well, if you want a Cali/Burgundy Pinot Noir cross, try the 2012 Pinot Noir Reserve – it is stunning, and a real bargain at $32.

Next up is one from Australia, the featured country this year. And I am still shaking my head that d’Arenberg hasn’t received any press, as – wine for wine – they are my favourite producer in Australia (and have been for many years). They are pouring two of their best wines as well! The first – the Galvo Garage – is a Bordeaux blend that tastes the way Bordeaux should. The fruit is super ripe, but not jammy, with just the right amount of wood and herbs. Nice young, it ages easily for 8 – 10 years. And their best wine is the Dead Arm Shiraz. More Syrah than Shiraz, it is classic black peppery, cherries, licorice and earth – tannic when young, but oh, so beautiful after 8 years or so.

The third winery to look for is Zenato, from Italy. Zenato specializes in Amarone and Valpolicella, both of which can be acquired tastes, although real red wine lovers will definitely appreciate them. The Amarone is high alcohol, almost overripe, and just amazing. The Valpolicella is made from dried grapes and has that nutty flavor to it…again, a beautiful wine.

Last winery? Giesen from New Zealand. They specialize in Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, both of which are amazing. Even the regular bottles are extremely ripe, but the Reserves (called “The Brothers”) can be mindblowing. All are being poured this week.

So there you go…four wineries that haven’t been promoted, that you may not have heard of. But if you go taste their wines, you will not be disappointed.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

“What’s a great red wine to take to a guys “foodie” dinner party featuring steak?”

February 11, 2015

A friend of mine asked me this question yesterday and, in developing an answer, it occurred to me the question would be a great blog topic. That’s because in order to get to the answer, I had to sift through a few important wine issues.

The first one to deal with was the fact this was not only a dinner party, but a “foodie” dinner party. From that, I took it that the participants are knowledgeable about at least about their food (and probably about their wine). That means whatever wines I recommended had to work with the food

And it was also a “guys” dinner party. So – at the risk of stereotyping – and assumed there would be a bit of competition going on here. So the wine not only had to be good, it had to be well known and probably not cheap. So probably no bargains wanted.

Next issue – the food! By steak, I assumed it wasn’t just chuck or sirloin and would be cooked on the barbecue. The potential cuts actually didn’t matter as much – T-bone, striploin, New York, Porterhouse, Ribeye – as it would be the barbecuing that would add much of the flavour. Grilling adds that wonderful charred flavour to meat, which can be powerful and overwhelm a more delicate read wine. A minor consideration was also if they were going to sauce the steak i.e. bbq sauce before, béarnaise after. Either way, those are some rich flavours that have to be accounted for in the wine selection.

The last issue was the word “great”. I needed not just any red wine, but a “great” red wine.

Now, that could mean a number of things, of course. “Great” tasting, “great” reputation, “great” rating…or some combination of all three. I doubt it meant “great” price i.e. cheap, given the other factors above. So, we are probably looking at $50+ in order to be in the game!

The toughest issue here, actually, is the “great tasting” one. It would be relatively easy to find a “big red wine” from Bordeaux, Piedmont, Tuscan, or even Spain. But if it is too young – and therefore too tannic – that might be a problem, even if those tannins are somewhat softened by the steak itself. Chances are the guests are going to start with a glass before eating the steak, and if all they get is a mouth of wood and lip-searing tannin, that’s not going to work.

So, with all that to consider…can you guess my recommendation(s)?

There were two, both from California.

The first was Cabernet Sauvignon from a “name” producer in a good, recent year. The style of Cali Cabs should be perfect for steak – big enough to take on the barbecue and any sauces, but also ripe enough even on release to enjoy on their own. And some of the “name” wineries make enough wine to have it available. I specifically recommended Caymus (the 40th Anniversary Vintage is very highly rated, although pricey at $72) as the wine that would be the best name. For about $30 less, I also recommended the Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet – not as big, but same style.

The other option was old vine Zinfandel. Again, big enough to take on the barbecue (it is actually my “go to” barbecue wine), nice on release, and available from some big name producers. Ridge Vineyards is my top pick, either the Lytton Spring, Geyserville (both $55 up her) or the Three Valleys (at $40). All are Zin blends, which adds even a little more complexity to the wine.

There you go…no over to my friend to see what he chooses…and how it works out!

SB

PS If you have a wine question you think would make a good blog topic, let me know!

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Holiday Blog #1 – Red Wines

December 4, 2014

Alright, three blogs left for 2014, so let’s focus on holiday wines. Today, we will start with red wines, with recommendations for all occasions. White wines next week, and we will finish with sparklers and sweet wines the week before Christmas.

1. Open Houses/Big Dinner Parties

In a lot of ways, this is the toughest category, because while you need to potentially serve wine to a lot of guests – and want it to be good – you also don’t want to break the bank. So you need to try and keep the wines to under $15 if possible.

My first “go to” region is the Cotes du Rhone in the south of France (and the regions around it). Even with the vagaries of exchange rates, there are lots of relative bargains out there. Most of these wines are blends – mainly Grenache and Syrah, with a smattering of Mourvedre and Carignan mixed in – but the big reason they are popular with many people is they lack oak. That means instead of cedary, woody aromas and flavours, you get cherries and berries, herbs, earth and pepper. Up here, my best pick is the Vin de Pays by Domaine la Bastide, a GSM mix that goes for $10.95 a bottle. The Ventoux by La Vieille Ferme is also a good bet for a few bucks more. And don’t worry about the vintage – the style is very consistent from year to year.

Spain is another obvious choice for value reds you are going to serve in quantity. My only caution here is that the main grape used in the cheaper wines – Garnacha (the Spanish version of Grenache) – is often oaked, which can take away fruitiness and add in woodiness. So be careful! A very consistent producer is Castano, which makes La Casona for $9.99 and Monastrell for $12.49. There is no oak in either that I can taste.

2. Small Dinner Parties

If you are having only a few friends over, you can afford to spend more per bottle (since you are going to serve few of them). If you want to keep the tab under $25 a bottle, I have a few suggestions.

Back to the Cotes du Rhone! The 2012 vintage is on the shelves and it is very good, better than the 2011 (if not as good as 2010). Most of the wines – again, made of Grenache and Syrah – are ripe, medium bodied, and have little evidence of oak aging. Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Villages will cost anywhere from $18 – $25. Look for Famille Perrin (the makers of Chateau de Beaucastel), Chapoutier (including his Bila Haut wines from the Roussillon) and Delas Freres.

If you like Shiraz, this is also a good price point, because you can avoid the overly sweet, syrupy cheaper wines. Personally, I love the blackberry jam and licorice you find in the best wines. Vintage variation isn’t that big a deal (because of the climate consistency). Recommendations would be the wines from d’Arenberg, Shotfire Ridge, Kilikanoon, and Penfold’s.

3. Special Occasions

Last but not least, some special occasion red wines. Here you either want to enjoy a great bottle with someone, or perhaps just show off a bit! The price tag starts at $40 and can go up – way up! The other thing to consider, though, is the maturity of the wine. If you open up a young Bordeaux or Barolo that cost you $75 or more, you (and your guest) may be very disappointed by the harsh, tannic wine.

Instead, I look to California. Cabernet Sauvignon can be a good bet, as most of the wines are made in such a fruit forward style that they drink beautifully when young (as well as aging well). Beringer and Caymus are two famous names to look for… their “regular” Cabs start at about $45 (and their reserves are over $100). But they taste fabulous!

Another option can be old vine Zinfandel. Young wines almost explode with ripe blackberry fruit, but without the jam you get in Aussie Shiraz. Ridge Vineyards is my favourite (look for Geyserville and Lytton Spring blends for about $50), along with Ravenswood. If you want a real treat, try to find a Turley, a cult wine for sure, but can be worth the $60+++.

So there you go…some red wine options.

Next week, the whites!

Stephen

Naramata Bench Spring Release 2014 – More Great Wines Coming!

May 7, 2014

Last weekend the Naramata Bench Wineries Association was in town for its Annual Spring Release events. Held at the Four Seasons, both the Trade/Media event — and the public ‘Wine for Waves’ fundraising event in support of the Vancouver Aquarium – were very well done and provided a good glimpse into the new 2012 and 2013 wines (as well as an update on some of the 2011s).

I tweeted out most of my tasting notes, so won’t repeat them here. Instead, I will provide my overall thoughts.

The Vintages – 2013 whites and roses were very good, very ripe. That bodes well for the reds to come. The late released ‘12s were also very nice, although the ’11s were more of a mixed bag (but that was a tough vintage).

Best Overall Winery – LA Frenz No change here, and probably no surprise for those who follow BC wines. All 9 wines I tasted (3 reds, 5 whites, 1 sweet) were fabulous. Interestingly, LA Frenz was just awarded ‘Best Small Winery in North America’, and they once again showed why!

Best Surprises – Perseus Winery and Moraine. I knew about the former’s Merlot, but the Syrah and Cabernet Shiraz were also great. And all their wines are < $20. Moraine I had never tried before, but really liked their Malbec and Syrah.

Biggest Disappointments – I won't 'name names', but still too many wineries trying to make the 'big red wine'. End result is still huge wood and tannin, little or no fruit, big prices.

Best Reds Two of them were 2011s – the La Frenz Cabernet Sauvignon and the Laughing Stock Portfolio and Syrah. Amazingly ripe for the vintage, they were a joy to drink now but had 3 – 5 years in them. La Frenz wins on price ($28 vs $42 and $36 respectively at Laughing Stock). The best 2012s I tasted were the La Frenz regular and reserve Pinot Noirs (both super ripe black cherries, earth and spice), Perseus Syrah and Cabernet-Shiraz (the former a Rhone clone, with black pepper and cherries, the latter like an Aussie Shiraz; both $19.99!) and Moraine's Syrah and Malbec (both more fruit than wood, $23.50). Finally, Lang's '13 Marechal Foch was a revelation! Explosively ripe for a Foch, with meaty, berry flavours.

Best Roses Hillside and Monster were the best in the slightly off dry style (which I like the best). And kudos for pricing them at about $16.

Best Whites For new releases, I loved the '13s from La Frenz (Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier) and '12 Reserve Chardonnay. The former are super ripe but dry, bang on varietally, and stayed at $22 (but worth $5 – $10 more). The latter is a Beringer Reserve clone, with ripe, lush butterscotch citrus – at $29 it is less than half the price of its US cousin. Same with Howling Bluff's '13s, the Semillon (a new bottling) and Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc. The latter, in particular, is an amazing wine and together with the Pinot Gris (to be released in a few weeks) may be the best white wine bargains in BC. Finally, Poplar Grove's regular Chardonnay is nice Cali style wine for < $21.

Sweet – I ended the night with La Frenz's latest NV Tawny Port, and it was as gorgeous as ever.

In summary, another great event! Kudos to Tina Baird at the Society and the Four Seasons for hosting.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

WHAT’S IN A WORD – LOTS WHEN IT’S DESCRIBING WINE!

November 21, 2013

Wine dweebs like me are famous – or infamous – for the words we use to describe wines. How they look, smell, taste – all have a seemingly unlimited range of potential descriptors.

I could do a blog about how realistic it is to smell and/or taste “acacia flowers” or “bacon fat”…but that is for another day. A simpler approach is to look at some common words or descriptions to watch out for, because they can mean different things than you would think!

1. Food wine

I have done this one before, so won’t go into any detail. Suffice to say if you see a wine described this way, I would stay away from it. A wine should taste good on its own. If it needs food to cover it up, why would you want to drink it?

2. Flavours of coffee, espresso, chocolate and mocha

This is a dangerous one for me, as it signals that the emphasis in the wine might be less about fruit and more about these so-called secondary characteristics. Can you smell/taste these? Yes you can. But will there also be fruit there to taste…that is a very big question. So buyer, beware!

3. Jammy

I use this one in a positive and negative way. It is an easy one to “get” – everybody has had jam, and knows how concentrated the fruit is, sometimes almost too sweet. You usually see it with two kinds of red wines: Shiraz and Zinfandel. Personally, I like it, particularly when the jam is blackberry and it is ripe but not sweet.

When do I use it as a negative? If I see a Syrah described that way. Same grape as Shiraz, but should be a different style altogether – more pepper, black cherry, and licorice, but not jam.

4. Lean

This is another word that should set your Spidey-senses off! Lean only means not a lot of fruit – end of story. Some try to use it as a positive descriptor (those “anti-fruit” supporters), but for me you just end up with a thin, often woody/herbal taste. So be careful with this one too.

5. Garrigue

This is a French word associated mostly with Grenache-based wines from the Cotes du Rhone. It is supposed to mean a melange of smells/tastes of French herbs – rosemary, oregano, lavender, thyme, etc. On the one hand, I know exactly what garrigue smells and tastes like, and love it! But can I pick out those herbs specifically? Probably not. It can be an acquired taste, so try a cheaper one first.

6. Lush and full bodied

Finally, words that can be applied to red and white wines. For the latter, it is easier to understand. Usually it means there has been oak used, and something called malolactic fermentation. The result is – at least for me – a gorgeous mouthful of wine, fruity but not sweet, with vanilla, butterscotch and even nuts. Think big California Chardonnays like Beringer Private Reserve.

It can mean the same kind of things for red wines, usually Cabernet Sauvignons or Merlots or Zinfandels, with black currants or plums or blackberries (respectively) replacing the citrus Chardonnay fruit. The warning, though – if the words “big” and/or “tannic” go along with description, then be careful. Too much tannin (that mouth puckering sensation you also get from tea that has sat around for too long), can overwhelm everything. It needs time to soften. So you might want to buy for your cellar, but not to drink tonight.

So there you are…a few “Wine Words”, and what to think about when you see them!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

What’s the Matter with Red Wines Having Lots of Fruit?

November 7, 2013

This has almost become an annual blog topic, but after reading yet another wine column on the trend towards less fruity/more “balanced and complex” wines, I felt the need to ask, yet again – what is wrong with red wines that emphasize fruit?

To start, ask yourself what wine is made of – grapes, which are a fruit. So shouldn’t the taste of the wine reflect that? And when you eat fruit, do you want it ripe or unripe (picture a hard pear or peach…). Again, a no brainer – ripe, of course. So what’s going on here?

Well, let’s take the criticisms one by one – and debunk them!

The first is that fruit-forward red wines are somehow one-dimensional and simple. Well, there are those, of course. But the good ones – and they come in all price categories – are far from that. The purity of fruit, for example, can be striking – the blackcurrants in Cabernet Sauvignon, the dark plums in Merlot, the black cherries in Pinot Noir. Then add in the wood and herbal overlays, such as oak/vanilla, pepper, earth and even meat; the result is anything but simple and one dimensional.

I would make this same argument even with “jammy” red wines, like some Shiraz and Zinfandel. If anything, the depth of fruit and flavor – and the ease of drinking – make the best ones even more enjoyable, including for those who haven’t tried red wines before or think they don’t like them. Yes, some of these wines can go too far and come off as unbalanced, syrupy or overripe. But the best ones (again, in many price categories) are a joy to drink.

Another argument is that more fruit forward red wines are more alcoholic. That can be true – the riper the fruit, the more sugar, the more that is turned to alcohol. But for me, the amount of alcohol isn’t an issue unless the wine is unbalanced because of it (or “hot” as wine dweebs like to say). Most red wines I drink these days are in the 14 – 14.5% range, and I can’t taste the alcohol. That is the case even for some old vine Shiraz and Zins that get into the 15 – 16% range. So to generalize about alcohol being bad is wrong, in my opinion. And if your complaint is you can’t drink as much because of the alcohol – then don’t! You aren’t drinking wine to get drunk, after all.

A third claim is that wines with too much fruit don’t go well with food, and aren’t “food wines”. Well, that is a pile of you know what as well. Can a really fruity, powerful red wine overwhelm a delicate sauce or fish dish? Of course it can. But why would you serve it then? Why not save it for your barbecue ribs or steak, and have a lighter Pinot Noir instead. And don’t give me this “food wine” garbage. As I have said so many times before, if a wine needs food to taste good, then I think there is something wrong with that wine in first place.

Finally, there is the argument that fruity red wines can’t age. For many that may be true, but it is more because 90+ % of all red wines are meant to be drunk in the first few years of their lives anyway. They just dry out and become woody after that. But, just have a taste – if you are ever lucky enough – to some of the outstanding California Cabernets out there and you will see how that is not true. I have had some, for great producers in great years, that at 10, 15 and even 20 years of age are still in fabulous shape. The fruit may have mellowed a bit, but it is still in balance with any wood and secondary flavours. The same can be said, although to lesser extent, for Aussie Cabs and Old Vine Shiraz. If anything, some of the latter become more “Syrah-like” as they age!

So my conclusion? Well, as if you haven’t guessed – I will take fruit in my red wine, please! And leave the so-called more “sophisticated wines” for those who like a different sort of beverage.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

What is the “BC wine experience”?

June 28, 2013

We are heading into peak holiday season, and for many people that will — hopefully — mean a trip into BC’s wine country.

The so called ‘wine experience’ is different for everyone, as it should be. For general tourists with only a passing interest in wine, it may simply be enough to visit a few wineries, taste some wines and experience what it is like to be in wine country.

For regular wine consumers, you may have your favourite wineries to visit, new ones to check out, and look forward to the chance to buy a few wines you can’t get anywhere else except at the winery.

And for wine collectors/dweebs (like me), it is a very focused experience – on specific wines you ‘need’ to taste and/or buy, and potential new gems to be unearthed.

So with these different expectations, what should wineries do — and not do — to help ensure they are met, which hopefully will mean return customers!

Well, great customer service is obviously a no-brainer. Many people are intimidated by wine, so anything that makes it easier and more comfortable to taste will be helpful and make it more enjoyable.

Low costs is another. Most wineries charge $2 – $3 to taste, refundable with any purchase, and I think people see that as fair. It probably doesn’t come close to recovering the costs of the wine or staff, but is enough to dissuade any yahoos who might just be looking for ‘free drinks’ or to get drunk (think Miles at the end of Sideways…)!

A range of wine available to taste is another big draw — whether you are a tourist or oenophile. The latter group (i.e. me) may, in particular, want to taste your ‘best wines’, so if that is possible — even with an extra fee — it will be well received. When I was in Napa years ago, I paid extra to taste reserve wines at Beringer and Mondavi, and it was well worth it!

Having said that, if one or more of your wines is made in too small a quantity (or is sold out), just let people know, in advance if possible on your website. Then there will be no surprises during tasting.

One thing I don’t like are the wineries that want you to book your tasting in advance, often with a larger fee. Frankly, there are few wines I would do that for in BC, and it just comes across as snooty to me. If you have wines that you want people to taste, make it easy for them to do that — that’s what will bring more of them in!

Finally, watch out for how much pressure is put on to ‘buy’ wine. I know I feel a bit guilty when I taste but don’t buy, particularly when there is no tasting fee. But I also don’t want any hard selling!

What works better for me is hearing where the wines are available for sale. If it is only at the winery or online (and by the case), that is more likely to entice me to buy. Frankly, that is the main reason I make the trip to wine country, to buy what I want, in the quantities I want, without the markups from the private stores.

That’s my advice, then, on the ways to ensure the ‘wine experience’ is a positive one, regardless of why you are coming!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com