By Nancy Ngo, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.
Summer is the perfect time to enjoy a drive to a vineyard. Here are some tips for when you get there.
Consider a wine flight. In addition to individual pours, most wineries offer wine flights so you can sample a few varieties before committing to a full-size glass or bottle. Of the wineries we visited, tastings costs ranged from $3 to $15, depending on the number of wines sampled and size of the pour.
Follow the 3 S’s rule: Swirl, sniff and sip
After the wine is poured, swirl the glass to let the wine breathe. Sniff the wine to take in aromas, such as hints of citrus or oak. Then take a sip.
Don’t feel obligated to finish a glass. Often, a sip can be just enough. In some instances, wineries keep a jug at the counter for dumping out any wine you do not want to finish. Sometimes, there is also a pitcher of water so you can swish out your glass or to take a water break.
Check amenities before heading to the winery. Some wineries offer little more than a chance to taste and buy their wines. Others offer additional things, such as menus that can range from cheese boards to stone-baked pizzas. Some places even encourage you to pack a picnic and enjoy the pretty grounds. Or play while there.
We visited places with petting farms, bocce ball areas, sculpture gardens, botanical gardens and even a baseball field.
Before you go, research which wineries suit your palate. Do you prefer sweet, semi-sweet or dry wines? Pick a winery accordingly. For example, we found Alexis Bailly in Hastings, MN leaned more toward medium to dry wines while a tasting at Falconer Vineyards in Red Wing, MN featured more sweet wines.
Consider a wine tour. Sometimes, packaged tours are good deals. Some offer transportation via buses or limos, while others are self-guided tours.
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