The Best Wine Tasting Rooms Anyone Can Visit

Friday, April 3, 2009

I've probably been to Napa a half dozen times over the years and Sonoma another few times. Whenever I put together an itinerary, I spend way too much time thinking about it. Similarly as when faced with a massive wine list at a restaurant, I want to take in all the options and make the perfect decision.

It's tough making use of anecdotal advice in this space. A lot of people have a great tasting experience to tell you about, but often the experience was great because of who they were with, who they know at the winery, or a connection they have that enabled them to get in. Further complicating things is that everyone has different criteria as to what they're looking for in a wine tasting experience.

Here's what I'm looking for in a winery visit:

  • The winery should be small, but they need to be big enough to have a tasting room. If they don't have a license to pour their wines, it can be a great experience but it won't be a tasting room that anyone can visit.
  • It's great when you can meet with the head person in charge. For me, nothing beats the experience of discussing a wine with the person who understands every aspect of the brand.
  • I like catching rising stars better than established producers. For me, they're a more interesting story.
  • I like value.
  • I'd like to see the wines highly rated by Wine Spectator. It's not that I need permission from Spectator to like a wine, but it's nice to have a 3rd party assessment of the wines that I can refer to prior to visiting.
  • They should have wine available for purchase. Some wineries are so mailing-list-only that there's really nothing you can taste that you can purchase.
Against this, Buehler Vineyards is the best wine tasting experience I've ever had. Without any referral at all, without any special connection whatsoever I received an amazing personal tour from John Buehler. Their wines are consistenty rated 90+ points from Wine Spectator (Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay) and their prices are reasonable. When I've recommended a visit to Buehler to others they too have had an amazing experience. What more can you ask for?

Further Reading:
I'm interested in hearing from you:

What are you looking for in a tasting experience? What are some of your favorite tasting rooms?

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