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There is nothing like three days in wine country, anywhere, to renew the juices and excitement for wine, learning about wine, and the winemakers.

Three good friends and I visited Oregon’s Willamette Valley Oct. 27-29 for three wonderful days of wine, wineries, and friendship. We had some pretty darn good food too.

grape-sense-logoIn the last Grape Sense, I asked for you to follow along and ask questions and a few did.

A reader from Crawfordsville asked about reservations versus walk-in tastings. The answer really isn’t all that clear cut. The majority of the wineries take walk-up visitors. Many of the smaller, or boutique wineries, require an advance reservation to taste their wines. Some of the very best wineries are a little under the radar.

That leads to the next point. Our group made a point at just about every tasting room to ask the folks working there who they would recommend we visit during our brief stay. Obviously, you can’t get to every recommendation. But leave room in your schedule to visit wineries recommended by people who work in the business.ing

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Our group visiting with Donna Morris, Winderlea Winery.

Let’s move on to schedule. These tips apply whether you’re going for a one-day road trip of tasting or a multi-day trip to wine country. We squeezed in 11 wineries in three days. Frankly, that’s too many for most people. Even with small tasting pours and/or if you spit, you’re absorbing a lot of alcohol. I believe after three wineries you also develop what I’d call ‘palate fatigue.’ I probably am a more practiced ‘taster’ than most and know after three stops my palate is getting pretty numb.

Drink lots of water. Bread, crackers and even salty snacks are a good idea to help soak up all that alcohol.

If you’ve never done a vineyard walk with a vineyard manager, winemaker, or knowledgeable winery spokesperson it is the best way to learn about wine. You’ll learn twice or three times as much among the vines than inside any winery.

Visit the wineries websites before going. You’ll learn whether you need a reservation or not. You’ll know what tasting fees will be charged. In Oregon, for example, most tasting room fees are $15-$20 with many established producers offering a number of different choices at different price points. Most Oregon wineries still wave the fee with a specified purchase.

Tasting and then buying wine is fun and exciting. But think about a budget before you ever step out of your house. It may sound silly but when you are tasting the best wine of the day at that third or fourth stop, it’s easy to spend more than you had planned.

If the winemaker or owner is around don’t hesitate to speak to them or ask them if they have a few moments to talk about their wines. Most are very accommodating and love talking to their customers.

Because of my wine writing connections, we were able to talk to several and I’ll be writing some pieces based upon that in coming weeks.

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