5 Tips - Virginia Wine Tasting!
Updated: Feb 9
Whether you are a visiting wine connoisseur, a local looking for weekend plans, or you have never been to a winery these tips can help you plan a successful day of wine tasting in Northern Virginia.
TIP #1: Make a list, map it, and plan for fallbacks.
List it: With over 100 wineries in Northern Virginia it's all about planning. Do your research ahead of time and make a list of wineries you want to visit. There are plenty of great resources online to help determine which wineries are best for you. You may have more personal preferences than you realize, e.g., if you are with children you'll want to filter out 21+ only wineries or if you are looking to impress a date you may want to find which wineries are providing elevated experiences and private tastings. We recommend visiting www.virginiawine.org to help prioritize a list of 5-8 wineries you want to visit; we'll work on bringing this list down to 2 or 3 in the next steps.
Map it: Once you have your list of desired wineries to visit, map them using your preferred app or grab a pen and Virginia Winery Guide & Map. This step helps you visualize the best route and determine which wineries on your list you want to keep. You may want to start with your #1 winery and determine which other wineries are worth a visit based on route or distances. Now is the time to think about time. If you are planning a full day of wine tasting, assume 60-90 minutes at each winery with 15-45 minutes driving in between. For now, try to keep at least 5 wineries on your map.
Fallbacks: Designate 1 or 2 wineries in your mapped area as fallbacks. Things happen once you start your day, you may hear reviews from a fellow wine-taster that impacts where you go next or you may arrive and find the winery is closed (see Tip #2 on avoiding this common mistake) or you may even decide a winery is not for you upon arrival. One of the worst feelings is being stuck in an empty parking lot with no cell phone service while trying to figure out the next move. Keep a local brewery or restaurant in the contingency plan too, especially if someone in your group prefers a cold pint over a glass of vino. Having fallbacks will save you time, keep the train moving, and make you look like a pro!
Tip #2: Visit winery web-sites, social media, and call ahead.
So you have your list and are all ready to hit the road...hold tight. Don't forget to make sure the places you want to visit are actually open! Every winery is unique and sets their own days and hours. Hours of operation may impact how you plan your route or if you can even visit the wineries on your list. This tip holds particular weight if planning a weekday visit. Start browsing web-sites and social media pages, this will not only tell you if they are open but will give you a good idea of offered tastings, food menus, prices, venue spaces, and if any special events are taking place. Finally, pick up the phone and call, staff are the most knowledgeable on what's going on at their winery and may even lend a hand in helping you plan your visit. Try to keep your call and questions short and remember to give them your name and group size; there is no lack of southern hospitality in Virginia wine country and as the famous theme song goes, "sometimes you want go where everybody knows your name"!
Tip #3: Ask for specials and discounts.
Yes, the nice guy discount is real and yes, it will often work at wineries! Remember, wineries provide tastings as a way to encourage you to buy more wine. Be casual and respectful about it but ask your server if they are running any promotions, discounts, or free tastings with the purchase of a glass or bottle. Buying in bulk is another way to save, most wineries give a discount just for buying a case or by agreeing to join their wine-club. Wine clubs are the #1 way to support your favorite winery and in return you'll save money plus have access to more of their wines. Most wineries also provide discounts to military, first-responders, wine-industry employees, and more (and if they don't, you may be able to encourage them to start).
Tip #4: Buy what you like
My number one rule with wine is to drink what you like! Sure, reviews and accolades will help steer you towards a good wine but everyone has their own taste and at the end of the day drink and buy whatever you enjoy most; after-all that is the whole point to your day of wine tasting. If you really loved a certain wine we recommend you buy in bulk to save money and stock your cellar. Wineries are a volume based business, not everything they have today will be in-stock the next time you visit, or worse, it becomes a best seller and due to limited supply the winery decided to double the price. Don't kick yourself later, buy what you like now, buy in bulk if you can, and store your wines properly to see how nicely some Virginia wines age in the bottle!
Tip #5: Don't Drink and Drive!
Designate a driver for your day touring Virginia Wine Country! A wine tasting is often equivalent to 1-2 glasses of wine (or 5-14 oz) and 1oz of wine typically has twice the alcohol % than 1oz of beer. Don't put yourself and others in danger because you think you'll be ok to drive after a few samples of wine. Designate a driver in your group to stay sober, wineries will often give DD's free water and soda plus he/she can still learn about the wines while enjoying the beauty of Virginia wine country.
If you can't find a sober driver call Virginia Wine Drives! Not only will Virginia Wine Drives get you safely to and from all your destinations but we will also do all the legwork and planning for you. Let a local guide you to the best wines and curate your day!