Visiting a winery can sound absolutely romantic – and absolutely terrifying.
If you don't know anything about wine, it might seem like a winery is the last place you belong. If you consider yourself a wine expert, you might think that small, Midwestern wineries have nothing to offer you but sweet, simple wines.
Fortunately, the truth is much different.
If you're thinking about visiting a winery, now is the time. A few do's and don'ts will make your visit even more enjoyable:
Don't go wine drinking. This is wine tasting. You're not there to get buzzed, you're there to taste, and tasting takes a clear head.
Do plan ahead, because this is, after all, alcohol, and you need to keep track of things such as who is driving and when you're eating. The best intentions can easily be derailed by a wine slushie or two on a hot summer's day.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. Good tasting-room staff members will ask you lots of questions so they can steer you toward wines you will like, but you should be asking them just as many questions, because wine is about a lot more than just what's in the bottle. It's about the seasons and the land it was grown on, the craftsmanship of the winemaker and their particular personality. So ask where and how the grapes were grown and how they chose the style of wine they made out of them. Remember, most wineries are small operations run by people who are proud of their product and more than happy to talk about what goes into it.
Do try wines you think you won't like. There's nothing like wasting a trip by tasting only the things you're certain you'll love. This is about exploration – and the joy of surprise.
Don't reject a wine after only one sip. The first sip usually tells you little about a wine, because your palate is getting used to the shock of new flavors and sensations. The second sip will be more revealing.
Do visit wineries on Sunday. Not only can they still serve wine on Sundays, but they are even allowed to sell it for carry out – one of only two types of places in the state that can.
Don't be afraid to ask about tours. Most wineries offer organized tours, and even those that don't will often do impromptu ones. Even better, these tours are often led by the winemakers themselves. And if you ask lots of questions, they may even offer you a barrel tasting – wine straight out of the aging barrel that's not even for sale yet.
Do check the website for the winery to see about picnic opportunities. Many either let you bring your own or offer food for sale to let you enjoy a glass of wine on the grounds, usually overlooking the vineyards.
Do remember to have fun. Wine shouldn't be scary, it should be enjoyable. So get out there and explore what wineries have to offer.