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Tours and wine tasting opportunities at wineries across Canada vary. Some are more casual; some are elaborate wine and food pairing experiences. While family- and pet-friendly operations have playrooms, toys and other amusements, others are focused on wine connoisseurs and collectors, with delicate crystal glasses and other expensive, breakable items stocked throughout their gift shops. Larger facilities may welcome hundreds of people each day, while boutique operations might exclusively cater to small groups.
If you’re heading to wine country, it pays to do some research about what properties you’d like to experience and other attractions you wish to visit.
Before the pandemic, appointments weren’t always required and tastings were often free, with the hope that you’d buy a bottle or two. If you’re planning to visit wine country in the coming weeks or months, reservations are strongly suggested, particularly on the weekends. Even travelling solo, it is unlikely you’ll be able to walk into a preferred tasting room at will. Tasting fees have become standard operating procedure and may be charged when you register your appointment, although many wineries will waive that fee if you purchase wine.
Buying wine at winery is a great way to keep the memory of your visit alive. It also guarantees access to bottles that you are unlikely to find outside of the winery, but it’s not a necessity. Obviously, wineries would love to sell you a bottle or a case of wine or a membership in their wine club, but there’s no expectation. Maybe the wine didn’t impress you? Perhaps your favourite bottle is available at your neighbourhood liquor store?
Attending a wine tasting is an opportunity to learn more about which wines or styles of wine you prefer, and you should only buy wines that you enjoy.
A few other tips to consider as you plan your next wine country getaway:
Go in with an open mind
Try a grape variety or style of wine that you wouldn’t ordinarily try. Tastes change. While you may have never enjoyed a merlot before, why not taste the one that the winery has presented as one of its best wines? You’ll never discover a new favourite wine without tasting it first.
The tour guide, host or pourer at winery are there because they love wine. Ask away. It not only shows your interest, but it will also make your experience more memorable as you’ll likely come away with greater understanding or insight to the styles of wine you do and don’t enjoy. As part of your conversation, you might also find out about a hidden gem diner or bakery that only locals frequent that makes your trip even more enjoyable.