Wine

Virginia Wine Month: 9 Things to Know Before You Go Wine Tasting

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October is Virginia Wine Month and one of the best times of year to go wine tasting in the state! The weather is getting cooler but not yet cold and the fall foliage is usually at its best. Most tasting rooms offer beautiful views of the countryside and Virginia wine continues to improve in quality.

So if you were thinking about heading out one of these weekends, its a great idea shared by many! Here are some tips to avoid the crowds and get the best experience.

1. Go When Everyone Else Isn’t: Weekdays, Weekend Mornings, and Bad Weather

Virginia boasts many great boutique wineries, which means small tasting rooms as well as personalized experiences. To avoid the crowds try to go during the week or as soon as they open on weekend mornings, usually somewhere between 10AM and noon. Overcast or rainy days are another great opportunity as some will wait for better weather.

2. Don’t Assume They Have Sweet Wines

Wine is evolving in Virginia and as demand for dry reds grows, more and more wineries are doing “serious wines,” and might only have one dessert wine on the menu. If you or folks in your group are partial to sweeter, lighter options, check out wineries in advance to see what they specialize it. VirginiaWine.org is a great place to start.

3. Call Ahead For Groups of 7+, Including Non-Drinkers

Wineries are increasingly requiring groups larger than 6 people to make advance reservations or prohibit big groups entirely. That can include non-drinkers and kids, even groups that have “split up” to meet the capacity cap. Don’t get irritated, it’s actually a good sign. They want to make sure they have dedicated staff and space (particularly in the tiny wineries) to deliver a good tasting experience. Wineries that limit groups to 6 or less are also more likely to be focused on the wine (large groups make it hard to hear and focus) and to have more seating options available for everyone else.

4. Call Ahead Before Bringing Kids or Canines

Many wineries encourage folks to bring their kids and dogs (on leash). Others may allow one and not the other, some neither. Avoid disappointment at the winery gate by calling ahead to see what your options are.

5. Bring a Picnic or Check if the Winery Sells Food

If you’re going to spend all day winetasting, food is always a good idea. Check to see if the wineries you’re visiting sell local fare onsite or if they allow you to bring your own. Your view will be a lot better and the wines more affordable than if you lunch at a restaurant.

6. Consider the Reserve or Cellar Tastings

Even if you’re not a wine snob, you might love doing a Reserve or Cellar Tasting! Typically these smaller group tastings take place in special rooms, often the cellar, and feature some of the best wines along with a more in-depth explanation of the vintage and wine making process. If you don’t see an option on the tasting sheet, ask!

7. Check in Advance for Discounts

If you’re trying new wineries, or not a wine snob, do advance research to see which ones are offering discounted tastings and purchases.  Groupon and Living Social are a great place to start for individual wineries which often have 2 for 1 tasting deals.

The Virginia Wine Pass offers free or discounted tastings, discounts on purchases, and other perks at more than 85 wineries around the state every time you visit. Travelzoo and Groupon offer discounts on the 2017 Virginia Wine Pass valid through the end of the calendar year, but your best bet might be to use the monthly subscription option on their app which is only $19 a month.

8. Download the VA Wine In My Pocket App

I’m always skeptical of these things, but VA Wine in My Pocket seems like a handy app, particularly when you’re trying to look up nearby wineries as you go. The app offers interesting articles, including wineries that do and don’t allow kids, lets you search for wineries by location, and offers brief write-ups and highlights for over 250 wineries, including their TripAdvisor Rating.

9. Look Up Directions Before You Go

Many wineries are located out in the country, truly away from it all, including cell service and a decent GPS signal. If you’ll be making more than one stop on your trip, take a few minutes to look up the directions before you leave. It’s far better than getting lost on some of those beautiful, remote roads. 🙂

Full Disclosure: I may receive affiliate credit from links in this post or on this site which will help fund my travels. Thank you for your support!

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Living for the little (and big things) that make life so fun, especially mistake deals and crazy last minute weekend mileage runs across the world. www.twitter.com/klatravel

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