Winter Wineland: Part 3 of 4: Tools and Tips to plan your Days

It’s almost here! You can feel the excitement in the Social Networking circles of Facebook and Twitter, amongst the wine people. Tickets have been flying off the shelf, Beth Costa, Executive Director of the Wine Road reports.

In case you just emerged from a Rip Van Winkle like sleep, we are talking about this weekend’s wrist-banded tasting event, the Winter Wineland. Over 120 wineries, some only open for events and appointments, are offering special wine and food pairings, and a variety of entertainment, and wine specials. Online ticket sales are now closed, but you can purchase them at the door of any winery: At the door prices will be $50 Weekend, $40 Sunday Only, $10 for Designated Drivers.

Ok, 120+ wineries, 5 hours each day. HOW does one pick where to go? Some turn this into a marathon event to see how many they can fit in one day; others like to visit their favorites, and others  like to try all new places. My personal preference is to fit 5-7 in a full day, with a mix of old and new. (Article 4 will be my iten.)

The Wine Road web site has some GREAT tools and tips to help you. Stop looking at Twitter and read carefully:

1. The full list of wineries and their offers.

NOT all wineries participate. In yesterday’s recommended stops, why didn’t I recommend say Iron Horse, or A. Rafanelli? Both great Wine Road wineries, but not participating in this particular event. Click HERE to open the 11 page PDF of the participating wineries and their offers. Read through these and look for things new, or interesting. The Wine Road has some new members as written in my first article, so check some of those out perhaps.

2. Use the Wine Road’s great Sorting guide.

The Wine Road web site has one of the best navigation tools for its members I have seen. If you click HERE you can use the drop down menus at the top to search by Wine Type, Region, or Amenities. One of my favorite things to do is to search for wineries, under amenities, that are open by appointment only and fit in a few of those. (Acorn, Siduri, Windsor would be good examples.) Make sure you reference the list you printed out in step one to see if they are participating! On a hunt for a new Pinot or Cab? Sort by varietal.

3. Plot them on the Wine Road’s great Maps

Ok, so you have marked off a bunch of stuff. Lets start to plot them on a map. If you are one of those marathon tasters, you don’t want stop one to be deep in Forestville, and stop two to be at the top of Geyserville. You can start first HERE at the main map page. This is an interactive map for each of the regions, and a special section for Healdsburg. Click on one of these and you enter into a detailed map for that appellation. This map is great because all of the member wineries are on it, and you can click on a winery, to launch to their own website.

During this stage of final planning, this is one of those times I actually (rare) prefer paper. If you don’t have one of their maps (get the new one, lots of new members!) you can look HERE online at the large overview map and save it as a PDF,  which is what I’d recommend.

4. Support Members Old and New

There is often a buzz to try all the new wineries and members. I’d like to also recognize, and ask you support member wineries who have been supporting Wineland for over 18 years. Their ongoing support has been the backbone that helps everyone, and consumers and new wineries benefit from their foundation.

  • Pedroncelli
  • Foppiano
  • Geyser Peak
  • Martinelli
  • Field Stone
  • Alexander Valley Vineyards
  • Sausal
  • Preston

Other Tips in General

I have a number of suggestions from the Wine and Food Affair event article.  All of these are still relevant – rather than repeat them all, take a quick read.  The Wine Road Wine 101 section has lots of great educational reading, including a section on Wine tasting, all relevant, helpful info.

Other suggestions:

Crowds:

One of the common complaints of people who avoid multi-winery events, is wineries become too packed and you can’t experience it fully.

Its true, you likely aren’t going to get to engage the winemaker in a 30 minute passionate discussion of toasting techniques for barrels, this isn’t the time to wine geek if its busy. But generally the first hour or so is slow, then picks up, so start promptly at 11 at one that most interests you. Visit some off the beaten path. If you don’t like crowds, don’t hit the  denser concentrations of wineries, like Healdsburg, at the Peak of the day.

Drink Responsibly

Learning to use a spit cup that I carry around was one of the biggest improvements in my wine tasting experience. If you are serious about wine tasting and education, learn it. (I just don’t personally care for spitting into a bucket, especially at a busy event.) Its also ok, and recommended, to dump your taste if you don’t want to finish it. After the equivalant of less than 2 glasses of wine, 4-8 tastes, your palette and sensory evaluation abilities are diminished, at this point you are drinking, not tasting. And thats ok if thats what you want, and you have a driver. Just be cognizant. wrist banded events are meant to be fun, but not wild parties.

Move Over

Space at the tasting bar, isn’t your personal manifest destiny. Share the space. Stand in columns, hug your loved one, maximize space so all can get their pour. Groups sprawled all over the bar like they own it are a big pet peeve.

Stock Up

This is a great chance to stock up on wines not sold retail, as well as take advantage  of special offers many will have. If you really like something, buy it! Wineries aren’t charities, and these events cost them. Its also a great way to re-live the experience later when you open the bottle.

Hope you found these tips useful – cheers!

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