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How Many Tastings in a Day?

a close up of a vineyard with a glass


By Jennifer Smith

I will confess, in my early days of wine-tasting 5 or 6 stops was not unheard of, and we were driving ourselves! But these days 3 is the standard. “Only 3?”, you may think, but it’s not just a matter of how the wine may affect you but more importantly it has to do with something I refer to as “taste fatigue” meaning that after 3 tastings your sense of taste will generally not be close to where it was when you started.

Russian River and the Dry Creek AVA’s have “Barrel Tasting” for the two first weekends in March. This is when you can taste wine directly out of the barrel before it’s been bottled and set aside for another 6 months or even year or two. You can often buy “futures”, a case of the wine from that barrel at a discounted price. There was a time when all of the wineries participated, but no longer, and that’s another story. Anyway, my brothers, nephew and their spouses invited a friend and I to come along on one of these. I believe we did 5 or 6 wineries. At the last winery one of my brothers and I were impressed with the zinfandel we tasted from the barrel and decided to split a case, which was a steal at about $12 a bottle (this was over 10 years ago). A few weeks later he called me concerned that maybe we made a mistake? We both knew that we had tasted a lot of wine that day, so was this wine really that good? Fortunately, it was, at least good enough at that price! There have been other times where I have purchased a bottle after a tasting only to open it later and wonder what I was thinking? 

Even with only 3 wineries, you could taste up to 6, sometimes more, different wines, multiply that by 3 and it adds up. I was driving a group of ladies, two of which I had driven before, who went to three different wineries, and one even had a food pairing, but all of them poured at least 5 different kinds of wine and the last winery poured 8. As I was driving them down the long driveway from the last stop, one of the women, who was seated in the middle back seat, complained that she was feeling “burpy”, seconds later she spewed wine. So much so, that I had to stop the car so everyone could get out and try and do damage control!!

Making sure that you hydrate after every tasting as well as having a good breakfast and lunch will generally keep this from happening. I drove a couple of newlyweds, and the bride was very petite, less that 100 lbs. They were going to 5 wineries and then dinner, and there was a very winding mountains road that had to be traversed at the end. I recommended to them that they not drink everything that was poured and that they drank lots of water in between. She was petty tipsy when they came out of dinner, but she made it all the way back without incident.

2 – 4 wineries. Eat a good breakfast, hydrate between every tasting and don’t feel the need to consume all the wine that is put in front of you!