The $200 Wine Tasting Fee and Why You Should PASS!
I recently followed up with a contact from a Napa Valley winery who I had virtually met about two years ago. We are currently planning a trip to wine country in late August and she had previously left an open invitation to host me and a guest for a private tasting the next time we were in town. I have always been a fan of this particular winery and they make ONE varietal every year. Their inaugural vintage was beautifully crafted, and according to popular ranking publications, each year seems to get better and better (or so the points would leave us to believe). While the winery itself is about 10 years old, the family behind the juice has been making wine for decades, in fact, multiple generations.
Before I get into this article further, let me say that I wholeheartedly believe that wineries should charge for tastings. There is no doubt about it. I think that paying for the tasting experience cuts down on the weekenders who are looking to just get loopy (aka "Wine Country" movie) and not appreciate the hard work and love that goes into every vintage. It also makes people pay attention and want to learn more. Whether you are hearing about veraison for the one-hundredth time or learning some amazing, deep dark secrets about a particular winery, you tend to pay more attention when you are vested in the overall winery tasting adventure.
Excited to visit the aforementioned winery (which shall remain nameless), I reached out to their concierge and we chatted briefly about our previous exchange and upcoming trip. She said she would check availability and get back to me as they are just preparing to re-open next week due to COVID-19. You can imagine my shock and disbelief when the email I received a few days later came, offering to extend a wine tasting of A SINGLE WINE for a whopping $200.00 per person. I stared at the email. Was there a decimal in the wrong place? Two HUNDRED dollars for a single tasting? (And folks, we are talking a "tasting" pour, not a full restaurant pour). I was so put off, I couldn't even respond. Pass.
If you have incredibly deep pockets or have a chance to taste a "cult" wine (this one isn't, but don't even get me started on cult wines) or just like spending your hard earned cash, maybe throwing a couple hundred dollars at a 1 ounce pour is your thing. I would venture to say that for 99% of oenophiles that is not the case. It certainly won't be for me. There are too many wonderful tasting experiences that you can find value in if you do your homework.
So, what should you expect and what are great values for wine tasting experiences?
First of all, you should expect a memorable experience. You should leave the winery wanting more - more wine, more time with the people there and more time soaking in the surroundings. You should expect to be educated, entertained and welcomed. But most of all, you should feel satisfied about your choice to choose that particular winery to spend your money and time with during your trip.
The best values really depend on what you are seeking during your visit. A 'general' wine bar tasting will set you back $25 - $45 most of the time, and it is exactly that - trying wines at a wine bar or tasting room, often not at the winery or estate. These offerings are particularly popular for budget-minded tourists. Often, wineries will waive your tasting fee for a purchase of wine or if you join their wine club memberships. Ask questions during your time at the winery!
I personally like a tasting party that offers a winery tour, a cave tour, barrel tasting or some time with the winemaker or vintner. Often these higher end encounters also include an exclusive or library wine that you can only get at the winery. These more intimate encounters typically range in the gamut of $50 to $80 per person and are an incredible way to make long-lasting memories of wine country. Of course, there are always options for a light lunch, charcuterie board, fresh garden offerings or a number of other additions to your wine affair . There are many destination locations that offer picnic packages or even a romantic dinner for two. The options are endless!
But lets go back to the $200 tasting fee. Maybe I'm just hung up on this, but I really don't think so. At this particular place there are no caves, there are no flights of wine and there isn't a winery tour. There is a single 1 ounce pour for $200.00. That's NOT how I want to remember my time to wine country. Life is too short to drink shitty wine. Life is also too short to waste your time on disappointments.