One reason to go to a wine tasting is to try several wines at one time, allowing you to compare the characteristics of the different wines, and figure out which ones you prefer. There are no right or wrong answers. It’s like any other food or beverage preference. Some people prefer chicken over beef and Coke over Pepsi. It’s the same with wine. You taste wine to find out whether you prefer red or white, dry or semi-sweet, tannic or balanced wines.
Another reason to go to wine tastings is often to get a wine discount. Most wine shops and grocery stores in the Puget Sound region offer a discount on purchase of multiple bottles (for example, 10% on the purchase of four bottles or 15% off a case of 12 bottles). At wine tasting events, whether at a tasting room, wine shop, or winery may offer a discount on wines purchased during the tasting.
Tips for tasting wine
Dos and don’ts before a wine tasting
- Don’t do anything that interferes with your ability to smell or taste. Do not eat flavorful foods or mints, do not chew gum, do not wear fragrance, and do not smoke. Sometimes wine tastings are sometimes paired with food for tasting, such as cheeses and chocolate.
- Don’t taste wine in a room with cooking smells or other odors, such as cleaning products or pet odors.
- Do eat a plain cracker or bite of bread to clear your palate between wines when tasting several wines or wine paired with foods.
- Do use a clean glass, preferably balloon-shaped to fully develop wine aromas. The glass may be rinsed with plain water between tastings and reused.
Wine tasting in four, easy steps: LAST
To taste wine effectively requires just four basic steps: Look, Aerate, Swish, and Taste, which you can remember using the acronym LAST. Here’s how and why you do each step:
- Look at the color. Pour some wine in a glass. Tilt the glass toward the light and check the color at the edge of the wine. For red wine, is the shade purple or red? How much light you can see when looking through the wine—is the color deep or clear?
- Aerate to develop aroma. Swirl the glass a few times to add air to the wine and develop its aroma. Now place your nose in the glass and inhale deeply. What smells do you distinguish? Typical descriptions include fruity, floral, earthy, musty, and spicy. Do the aromas remind you of something familiar (such as berries, vanilla, coffee, toasted nuts, or pepper, etc.)? Is the aroma pleasant to you? Some wines have lots of different components, others have little or no aroma.
- Sip & swish to release flavor. Sip some wine and swish it around your mouth to hit all areas of your tongue (and your taste buds) and to add more air to the wine. Some tasters also like to purse their lips and pull in additional air while sipping and/or swishing. The point of this step is to develop the wines flavor and to see if you detect any new aromas.
- Taste. Swallow the wine or spit it into a tasting bucket. If you plan to taste a lot of wines, spitting it out is recommended to avoid over-indulging, which will also dull your ability to taste more than a few wines. Now think about the wine (I often close my eyes). Do you like it? That may be all you need to know. But you can also make (mental or written) notes about the wine’s flavors (balanced, sweet, sour, astringent or tannic, etc.). If you can describe the aromas and flavors that are pleasing to you, you can start to get a feel for the types of wines you prefer.
These “LAST” wine tasting steps are the same for white and rosé wines, however these wines are less complex and tend to have more subtle color differences and fewer flavor notes. White wines can be nearly colorless to golden. Rosés can range from salmon to rosy pink to brick red, though they are light and clear compared to red wines.
If you visit wineries and tasting rooms, be sure to take any opportunity to talk with the vintner and other staff to ask their opinion about the wines you are tasting, their favorite wines, and why they like them. (If the tasting room is very busy, keep your questions very brief, such as “which is your favorite?”). You will discover that “experts” who work with wine have varying preferences. There is no one right answer.
Where to taste wine in Washington State
The most popular locations for wine tasting in the Puget Sound region are Seattle and Woodinville.
For ideas on where to taste wine in Western Washington, read through the following list of popular locations; or, scroll down for our Wine Tasting Events calendar. To find the location nearest you, search Yelp.com for: wine shop, winery, or wine tasting room.
Most wineries, wine shops, and tasting rooms charge a modest tasting fee ($5-10), which is often applied to wine purchases you take home. Most tasting rooms also offer wines for sale by the glass and some offer food for purchase.
Seattle-Tacoma wine tasting
In the Seattle-Tacoma area, you can visit dozens of tasting rooms and wine shops almost any week during the year. Many locations have regular tasting events where you can sample several wines and may get a discount on purchases during the wine tasting event. To find the nearest location, search Yelp.com in your city for wine shop, winery, or wine tasting room. Here are some of the regularly scheduled wine tasting events in Seattle-Tacoma wine shops:
(Listed in order by wine tasting day of week)
- West Seattle Wine Cellars offers wine tasting Thursdays from 5:30 until 8:00 pm. Ask about their special monthly winemaker tasting while you’re there. Address: 6026 California Ave. SW, Seattle 98136.
- Pike & Western Wine Shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market offers wine tasting Fridays from 3-6pm with three different wines. $5 tasting fee (free for Wine Club members). Address: 1934 Pike Place, Seattle 98101.
- McCarthy & Schiering offers tastings at their Ravenna location on Saturdays 11AM-2PM. Address: 6500 Ravenna Ave NE, Seattle 98115.
- McCarthy & Schiering offers tastings at their Queen Anne location on Saturdays 2:30-5:30PM. Address: 2401 B Queen Anne Ave N, Seattle 98109.
- Wines of Washington in The Tasting Room at Pike Place Market offers tasting flights, in-house glass and bottle service and small plates served in an old world-style wine bar. Address: 1924 Post Alley, Seattle, WA 98101.
Woodinville wine tasting
Washington is now the second largest wine producer in the country, and Woodinville (20 mi. NE of Seattle) is where it pours. Home to over 120 wineries and more 90+ rated vintages than any wine region in the world, the tasting possibilities are nearly endless. There are several distinct Woodinville wine-tasting districts. From north to south, they are the Warehouse District, Downtown District, West Valley District, and Hollywood District.
All tasting rooms are open weekends, and many are open daily. Many, but not all, are open on holidays and holiday weekends. You can explore each district on your own or buy one of several “Woodinville Wineries Tasting Pass”, which is a digital ticket delivered instantly via text message or email. More info: Woodinville Wineries Tasting Pass.
Before you head to Woodinville, check their Winery Event Calendar for any special events on the day you plan to visit. There are dozens of wine-related events every month. Especially look for happy hours, freebies, and live music to maximize your fun.
More resources for wine tasting in Washington wines
Besides Seattle and Woodinville, there are a few other key places in Western Washington that offer wine tasting opportunities: the Kitsap Peninsula, Bainbridge Island, and the Olympic Peninsula (especially Port Townsend and Port Angeles). Washington Tasting Room magazine provides up-to-date information about wine tasting and touring all around Washington State.
Two months out of the year, are designated Wine Months by the Washington State Wine Commission (washingtonwine.org). In March, Washington Wine country comes to the city of Seattle for Taste Washington (washingtonwine.org), one of the largest food and wine events in the country.
In August (aka WAugust) is one of the best times to make a trip to Washington Wine Country, to explore our eight wine-touring regions, 1,000+ wineries, and 20 AVAs. More info: Guide to Washington State Wine Growing Regions – Greater Seattle on the Cheap
Upcoming food & drink events
Listed below are upcoming festival, tastings, and other food & drink events throughout Washington State.
Friday, December 1, 2023
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