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, broccoli over carrots, 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 offer a discount on wines purchased during the tasting.
A few do’s 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, mints, or chew gum; do not wear fragrance; and do not smoke. However, 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, if desired to clear your palate 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
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 any red wine.
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 Western Washington
Virtually all Washington State wines are produced from grapes grown in the Columbia Valley region in central and eastern Washington where the climate and soil provide ideal growing conditions.
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.
Popular wine tasting locations in Western Washington
The most popular locations for wine tasting in the Puget Sound region are Seattle and Woodinville.
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.
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.
In the Woodinville area (20 mi. NE of Seattle), you have the opportunity to visit over 100 wineries and tasting rooms, plus several microbreweries and distilleries along the Sammamish River Valley. Before you head to Woodinville, check their Winery Event Calendar for any special events on the day you plan to visit. Especially look for happy hours, freebies, and live music to maximize your fun. If bang-for-buck is your goal, check the list of Woodinville wines under $25. Other handy information includes a list of Winery Hours. There are several distinct Woodinville wine tasting districts starting in the north in the Warehouse District and proceeding south through the 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.
Besides Seattle and Woodinville, there are a few other key places in Western Washington that offer wine tasting opportunities. Some of the these locatons include the Kitsap Peninsula, Bainbridge Island, and the Olympic Peninsula (Port Townsend, Port Angeles). To find the location nearest you, search Yelp.com for: wine shop, winery, or wine tasting room.
More resources for wine tasting in Washington
GoTasteWine.com provides comprehensive lists of Washington State wineries, tasting rooms, vineyards, wine tours, wine bars and shops, and wine events.
Tasting Room magazine provides up-to-date information about wine tasting and touring around Washington State.
Washington State Wine Commission supports Washington state wineries and growers through marketing, education, research, industry news, and events. They produce the Taste Washington wine and food event in Seattle every spring.
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Wine tasting events
The following wine tasting events occur throughout Washington State and include regularly occurring (weekly or monthly) tastings as well as upcoming wine festivals and special events, such as barrel tastings and newly released wines. We focus on wine tasting events that are free or have a ticket price of $15 or less. For other events, visit the resources list above for exploring Washington State wine.
(If no events are listed below, there are no upcoming wine tasting events in our calendar. We usally update the list on a rolling basis throughout the year and usually review the regularly occurring events at the beginning of the year.)
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