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Tasting Wine Vs. Drinking Wine – What Do You Prefer at a Winery?

“Just a single taste for us, we are tasting, not drinking.”

While visiting California wineries we find ourselves saying this constantly. While my wife sips, and then disposes of her wine, I prefer to spit my wine so that I might continue on with the art of tasting.  When we visit, is it wine tasting? Or, is it a party?

In a previous discussion I lamented the difficulty of tasting and spitting in California wineries. They didn’t make it easy. I would often ask for a paper cup to spit into, and they would point me to stainless or ceramic buckets on the bar into which we pour our forsaken wine.Copyright 2013 William Bill Hodge

But, I’m not about to put my face into the barrel of those buckets and spit castoff wine. I really don’t want to face the germs and the discharged drool in the bottom. Nor, do I want to spoil everyone’s day, watching me spew discard wine into a bucket. It’s just not gentlemanly.

Why is this so difficult? Because it’s uncommon. Few people taste and then spit their wine.

On our way home from Sonoma we stopped at the Eos winery in Paso Robles (with a side trip to Tobin James to purchase some Bodacious.)

We had a chance to speak with a young man pouring wine. As is my habit, I asked him for a paper cup so that I might  taste and spit, and enjoy. After rummaging around a bit he retrieved a paper cup. This began the conversation.

I asked him, how often people ask for paper cups to taste and spit their wines, instead of drinking it?

His answer was a surprise.

In his year and a half working at Eos he could count the number of people requesting a cup on his hands. Fewer than 10 people had come to the winery wishing to taste, spit and not drink! Wow!

During our stint as consumer judges at Lodi’s Consumer Wine Awards program last year we learned to spit our wines. After all, we were tasting over 30 wines in a two hour time period. We simply couldn’t drink that much wine, much less review, scrutinize and rank them.

At the end of our tasting that morning neither of us felt the wine, no alcohol feeling. We were completely sober. While speaking with a volunteer later that night (at the evening dinner party – we did drink wine there) we discussed the spitting part of tasting. I told her about our day visiting local wineries that afternoon and that I began spitting because it felt so extravagant and wasteful  to consume wine I really didn’t like or love.

Her comment was, “You’ll find when you spit at wineries, winemakers will be much more respectful of you. They’ll share more of their products because you have shown them you are not just out for a good time, drinking their wine. You’ve shown them you are tasting, not drinking.”

It was one of those ‘Ah Ha!’ moments. You never know when you’re going to bump into your next teacher.

Now I taste, then spit for these reasons.

1- I don’t want to drink wines I’m not in love with.
2 – I want the winemakers (or whoever is pouring wine) to let me taste some off menu wine selections they have opened under the counter (they’ll offer you more when they realize you’re not out for a party.)
3 – Wine tastes different when you don’t swallow. Try it and you’ll see the difference.
4 – When you taste a wonderful wine, it’s fabulous to actually swallow it, and experience the wine.

Her words were so true, it works. Our last trip through Monterey into Sonoma we tasted many off menu wines, relished untold reserve wines, and oodles of wines not listed on the menu. Try it on your next trip, you’ll like it.

Bill Hodge & Erin O’Neill-Hodge enjoy a good bottle of wine, visiting and enjoying California wineries from Lake County to Orange County, from the Paso Robles Gold Coast to Gold Country and from Lodi to Bakersfield.

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