Making the Most of Your Wine Tasting Experience

June 18, 2024

Imagine searching through the majestic California AVAs for that perfect wine to complement your favorite dish or serve as a relaxing end of day refreshment. At AJA Vineyards,we want to make the most out of your wine tasting experience. To give you the best experience possible, here are some tips to prepare you:

Do Some Research

First, you may want to spend some time thinking about which wines you prefer. Do you favor light mineral whites or do you go for more robust reds? Knowing which wine styles you prefer will help you choose which wineries to visit. 

Consider the atmosphere you find most appealing. Do you want a tasting host, or just a glass? Maybe a picnic or live music? Maybe a sleek and sultry location that oozes romance? Experts recommend that you limit your tasting stops to three or four in a day so choosing the right winery is paramount. Read reviews, get recommendations from friends, or find something local to where you are staying.

Once you have selected your wineries, check to see if they take reservations. While many tasting rooms accept walk-ins, it is wise to secure your spot especially during the busy season starting in June and ending in October. Similar to restaurants, most wineries do require a reservation for large groups of six or more.

Finally, make sure you have a hearty breakfast or lunch before your trip and be sure to snack throughout the day.

Dress for Success

The temperatures in California can vary throughout the day from cool mornings to hot afternoons to cold evenings so it is important to dress in layers. If you are planning to tour the vineyards during y0ur wine tasting experience, then closed-toe shoes are preferable. Also, please wear comfortable shoes–no high heels!

Avoid wearing lipstick since it may affect the taste of the wine and will leave residue on the glasses. Perfumes and colognes also should be avoided since they may interfere with the taste of your wine selections and affect the experience of visitors around you. It is important to remember that much of what we perceive as taste actually comes from smell. Along these lines, it is wise to stay away from breath mints and chewing gum.

(Getty images)

The Tasting Experience

When you enter the tasting room, you will be greeted by a host who will explain which wines are available, and the associated tasting fees. Do not be afraid to say that you are a beginner. The tasting room staff will be eager to share their knowledge with you. 

Please keep your mind open to suggestions. You will be able to choose from several selections of wine tasting flights. The “flights” are small samples of wines, 2 to 3 ounces per glass, presented together for taste comparison. Wines are tasted from lightest to fullest with whites and rosés generally at the first end and heavy reds at the end. Should there be a dessert wine option, that will go last. Please know that it is acceptable to skip any of the wines on the tasting list.

You never have to finish the wines in your glass. Any excess, or wines you wish to spit out, you can empty in the dump bucket. When tasting, spitting out the wine is actually recommended since it keeps the senses sharp by avoiding intoxication.

Most importantly, remember to swish the wine in your mouth so you can savor all the diverse flavors. After tasting the wines, take notes on what you like and dislike. You may want to buy a bottle of your favorite wine from the tasting room!

How Does Wine Tasting Work?

Wine tasting involves using the five senses. And five easy-to-remember words that begin with the letter “S” can help you get the most from your tasting experience. As you explore each glass of wine, follow these steps, known as “The Five S’s.”

The first component of wine tasting is “see.” Note any sediment or gas as you study the wine’s color and viscosity. Holding the glass against a white backdrop, note the color to determine the wine’s age and variety. White wines darken with age, while red wines offer a more rusty, paler rim. Next is to “swirl” the wine. Oxygenating the wine with a swirl releases the grape varietal’s aroma compounds, providing insight into the wine’s sugar and alcohol content.

You may “sniff” the wine next. You’re looking for specific olfactory elements that reveal the wine’s essence. You immediately notice primary scents such as fruits and flowers. Secondary aromas, including organic or inorganic elements or fermentation scents like oak or yeast, might arouse memories or emotions related to the sense of smell. Any distinguishable faults with the bottle of wine, like cork taint or oxidation, are also noted during the sniff phase.

Then you may “sip.” As you sip the wine, allow it to permeate your taste buds. Note specific flavors and sensations. This section focuses on the sense of the tongue; attributes of wine include “sweetness” versus “dryness,” weight and breadth, level of tannins, and level of acidity. After sipping comes “savoring.” Consider the wine’s finish after you swallow it. A long-lasting finish often indicates high-quality wine. This is the time to evaluate the wine that you just consumed and determine, simply, if you like it.

Additional Questions About Wine Tasting

If you’re a seasoned wine lover but new to wine tastings, we’ve also included answers to a few additional questions you might have before embarking on this sensory experience.

How Long Do Wine Tastings Usually Last?

Whether you visit one of the area’s wineries in person or book a virtual tasting to enjoy with friends in the comfort of your own home, the time investment depends on the range of wines and engagement of the participants. The average tasting experience ranges from 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

How to Hold the Glass

Hold your glass by its lower stem using your thumb, index finger, and middle finger. This prevents your body’s warmth from altering the wine’s temperature and minimizes smudging on the glass that affects visibility. Tilting the glass slightly as you drink allows the wine to breathe.

Do I Have to Purchase a Bottle of Wine?

When you reserve a virtual wine-tasting session with us, we connect you with our wine proprietor and certified sommelier to discuss our varietals, schedule your tasting, and arrange payment for your wine purchase. We also introduce you to the benefits of joining our wine club.

When you join us at the tasting room, you’re welcome to enjoy a flight of our wines, and if you enjoy them, take a bottle home.

Have Fun But Be Respectful

When tasting wines in the tasting room, try not to be too loud or make negative comments about the wines. You never know if the person next to you is loving the wine. 

Make sure to drink lots of water throughout the tasting experience. You don’t want to over indulge. This is a tasting, not a bar hop. You also may want to enjoy one of the palate cleansing charcuterie plates during your experience which pairs well with your wine flights and slows alcohol absorption.

Above all, keep an open mind. Don’t be afraid to try new wines or revisit some you discarded in the past… you may be pleasantly surprised. Embrace the adventure and enjoy your day!

Visit our tasting room page to learn more about our available Tasting options at our Santa Monica Tasting Room!


Jordan Perrotti

Jordan is a student at UGA and is Interning for AJA Vineyards Summer 2024

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

Recent Articles