I wish I had known where our first wine trip was going to take us way back in 2005. You know, one of those “If I’d known then what I know now” kind of things. So, after more than 12 years of traveling the wine roads of Texas from bayou to panhandle, here are a handful of ideas, hints, and suggestions to help you if you are new or continuing to visit Texas wineries. They are listed in no particular order.
You are definitely in the right place to begin with. I wish there had been an information clearing house like TXWineLover.com back when we were planning our first trips. There weren’t many outlets on the web to find winery locations and useful tidbits of information. Have you found the interactive winery map yet? Even as active and involved as I am in the industry, I still refer to the map when I know we are going somewhere so I can be sure I haven’t missed a new winery in the area.
Go to festivals. There are so many wine festivals, wine walks, wine and art swirls, wine and music fairs, and other wine tasting experiences outside of the wineries these days. If you can’t get to a winery in another part of the state, a festival brings them to you. I could go into a whole other article on how to get the most out of a wine festival! But my most important piece of advice is, don’t spend your tickets at wineries you are familiar with. Visit the ones you don’t know. Taste the wines you have not tried. Then if you have tickets left over, go find your favorite and drop a ticket.
Talk to other guests. As you are sitting at the tasting bar and there are people around you, make it a family table. Strike up conversations. Find out where they’ve been, where they’re going, what they did and didn’t like about the places. We’ve met some great people and found some fun places this way.
Take notes. Don’t hesitate to write notes or even attach notes to the bottles. They are your bottles and probably won’t be seen by anyone else. And in the conversations you have with the winemaker and tasting room staff, ask when they think the optimum time to drink the wine would be. Then write “Do Not Drink ’Till ________” on the label so maybe you won’t be tempted to drink it too soon. Find a wine journal, or like me, just a spiral notebook and take notes about the wines you tried. Jot down some flavor profiles, where the grapes were grown, how long the wine was in the barrel. Star the ones you like and double star the ones you purchase. I’ve referenced my notes often throughout the years and now I wished I’d taken better notes. Sometimes they went from “this wine has notes of tobacco, licorice, and dark red cherries” at the beginning of the day to “dang this wine is GOOD!” by the end of the day, or at least that’s what I think it says.
Join wine groups. There are a number of Texas wine groups on Facebook. These groups are chock full of consumers like yourself, but more often they also have winemakers, winery owners, and various other wine professionals that continuously and tirelessly answer questions and offer excellent advice and suggestions. With just a quick scroll through the posts you can see what food and wine pairings people have had, how the wines you might have in your collection are tasting, and whether you need to wait longer to open it or go ahead and plan on having it at your next opportunity. You can find out where and when the new wineries are opening and plan on being one of the first to visit. I also recommend “friending/joining” winery pages and “follow” them on Instagram and Twitter. You will usually find more current information on their social media outlets. Plus, the folks in these wine groups often know when and where special events are happening, and will post that info for you to discover.
Ask questions. Don’t hesitate to ask your tasting guide questions. Your questions can really enhance your tasting experience as the person serving you will be aware of your interest, and will often share background information and stories that you otherwise would not hear. If the tasting list has numerous wines on it and you are supposed to pick the ones for your personal tasting, questions to the server will usually improve your overall enjoyment. Ask about the wines, styles, flavor profiles, etc., and tell the server what types of wines you most enjoy. Based on your questions and preferences, they can usually guide you to a better tasting experience. But don’t limit yourself to only wines you know or wines you know you like. Tastings are a great opportunity to go out on a limb and taste new and different wines.
Don’t try to visit too many wineries in one day. We made that mistake on way too many occasions. After about the fourth or fifth stop, you really can’t discern the wines you are tasting anyway, and you run the risk of becoming over served. We would come home with wines and open them sometime later and think, what in this world were we thinking?? Now we try not to visit more than four wineries at the most in a day. We try to make plans to eat lunch on a winery patio. After a tasting, we’ll purchase one glass to share and move to the patio to enjoy our lunch and relax like the trip is supposed to be.
Stay hydrated! This is a very important suggestion. Keep water available and partake often. We try to drink a bottle of water between winery stops. This can be difficult at times when the wineries are next door to each other, but still try to drink more water than you drink wine. The key reason for drinking water is that drinking alcohol causes dehydration. This dehydration is a significant cause of headaches and hangovers. Therefore, the more water you drink, the better you will feel, and the less likely you will experience a hangover the next day.
I hope these suggestions will assist you as you visit new wineries and even your favorite ones, but most of all we’d like you to be able to enjoy the wines and all of the experiences the state has to offer. Even more importantly: stay safe!