First of all, we had a really good time. Folks were generally pleasant, the weather was good enough and we found some wines we really liked.
But we also noted a couple things that we haven’t seen in the other areas we’ve done similar tours.
The Sample Tray – We got some version of this at a bunch of places. As a general rule we’re not fans. The worst places were the ones that gave you a little flat tray like you get at a fast food restaurant with small (even tiny) plastic sample cups. Several places did slightly better with real glasses and nicer presentations. The problem with this overall style is that it leaves you on your own. One of the real benefits of a tasting bar is the chance to talk with knowledgeable staff about their wines and how they’re made.
Drinks at the Bar – There were several places where the sampling was done at the bar of the restaurant. Problem is that the folks behind the bar are primarily bartenders. They get paid to pour drinks not talk about them. Again, shows no great concern about their wine.
Wineries at the Restaurant – Combining a winery with a restaurant is an obvious and reasonable thing to do. The problem is that some of the “wineries” were restaurants that cranked out cheap wine to cash in on the wine tourist biz. In every one of those cases the wine was awful (even when the food was good). The best places recognized the two distinct natures of the businesses and treated each with respect. Those places were much more of a “restaurant at the winery” situation.
In the end we are attracted to places that show some passion about making wine. Places that take the time to teach their folks about the process and the product. Finally we like the places that create a fun and beautiful place to sample their product. We found a bunch of them and we’re looking forward to going back to visit them again.