Tips for Visiting a Vineyard for the First Time

grapes on vineyard during daytime
Photo by Jill Wellington on

A vineyard is a plantation of grape-bearing vines, grown mainly for winemaking, but also raisins, table grapes and non-alcoholic grape juice. The science, practice and study of vineyard production is known as viticulture.

The quest for vineyard efficiency has produced a bewildering range of systems and techniques in recent years. Due to the often much more fertile New World growing conditions, attention has focussed heavily on managing the vine’s more vigorous growth. Innovation in palissage (training of the vine, usually along a trellis, and often referred to as “canopy management”) and pruning and thinning methods (which aim to optimize the Leaf Area/Fruit (LA/F) ratio relative to a vineyard’s microclimate) have largely replaced more general, traditional concepts like “yield per unit area” in favor of “maximizing yield of desired quality”.

Many of these new techniques have since been adopted in place of traditional practice in the more progressive of the so-called “Old World” vineyards.

Visiting wineries has become a trendy weekend pastime for millions of Americans. Whether you’re a casual drinker or a wine aficionado, you’ll have a great time visiting a local vineyard with friends while supporting a local business. There are a few things everyone should know before their first winery visit to make it a success.

First, as with any drinking activity, be sure to designate a driver who will be responsible for getting your group home safely. If everyone wants to drink, have the whole group contribute to the cost of a taxi or ride-sharing service. If you’re experiencing the winery with your significant other, turn it into a mini vacation or weekend getaway by booking a room at a hotel or bed and breakfast near the vineyard. It’s easy to lose track of how much you’ve had to drink at a winery when you’re sampling so many different types of wine, so always err on the side of caution when it comes to driving.

Next, feel free to step out of your comfort zone. Perhaps you’re a beer drinker, or you typically only drink white wine. Rather than sticking to your old favorite, try something completely new. Imagine it’s your first time visiting a restaurant that serves an international cuisine you’ve never tried. You wouldn’t order a cheeseburger – you’d try a few different dishes to see what pleases your palate. Think of the different varieties of wine in the same way and try to find a new favorite. If you aren’t sure what to try, ask the server or winemaker for recommendations based on what you normally drink. They will love to help you broaden your horizons, teach you more about the wines they make, and share their knowledge, so ask away!

Thirdly, take this experience as an opportunity to meet new people. Talk to fellow patrons to see where they’re from and what they do. Get to know the bartender, the server, or the vineyard owner. You’re enjoying the fruits of someone else’s labor, so why not learn everything you can about the winemaking process? If you’re not great at talking with strangers, the wine will certainly work in your favor! Just like at bars, you can meet some very interesting people with diverse backgrounds at wineries. And who knows, you could walk away with a new friend or networking contact.

Visiting a vineyard or winery is a fantastic idea when you’re traveling and have a free day with nothing planned. You’ll learn about local culture, meet new people from different regions with very different backgrounds, and get a real taste of local food and wine. And even if you stick to local vineyards, you’ll surely learn a thing or two during the experience.

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