Finger Lakes Tasting Room Etiquette
Bud break is upon us and tasting room staff is mobilized for another season of enthusiastic visitors. Since that means you might soon plan a trip to Finger Lakes wineries, it’s a good time to review Finger Lakes tasting room etiquette.
Prepping for your visit
Your Finger Lakes wine tasting excursion is likely at least a day trip for you, maybe longer. Plan like you would for any vacation. A little advance research will go a long way in enjoying a day or weekend of wine tasting:
- If you are part of a group, call ahead to make a reservation and to review policies.
At Sheldrake Point, we take reservations for groups of 8 or more ($5 each up to 15 people, $8 each 16+).
- Plan to pay a tasting fee. Visit websites or call ahead to find out how much.
The Finger Lakes is still one of the least expensive wine regions in the world to taste; in most other regions you could expect to pay anywhere from $8-$50 for a flight in a tasting room!
- Always have a designated driver.
Find a friend who will pledge to remain sober, or hire a tour service. Stay safe!
- Bring your photo I.D., even if you are way past your 21st birthday.
New York State Law prohibits serving alcohol to anyone under age 21, AND anyone who is unable to present acceptable proof of age. Don’t leave your wallet or purse in your car. By law, if asked for identification you must present it.
- Pass on the cologne.
Strong fragrances will muddle the tasting experience for yourself and others around you. Stick to plain soap and water on tasting days.
- Social wine touring is fun, but it’s not the same as a pub crawl.
Pack water, not more alcohol.
Keep your palate and your head clear to best enjoy the day. Don’t drink excessively between wineries, and certainly don’t drink other types of alcohol. Finally, don’t bring bottles from other wineries, or any type of alcohol, into a winery tasting room—there’s plenty of wine to purchase at each winery, plus the winery’s liquor license could be jeopardized by having outside alcohol on the premises.
- Should you bring the kids?
Some wineries are adult-only establishments—best to check ahead of time. If you do bring along age-appropriate children, make sure to pack the snacks, games, and activities that you know will keep them happy on any road trip. Older children might even learn something about winery careers! Sheldrake Point Winery is family-friendly, and we especially appreciate well-behaved parents.
“It’s a winery not a bar”: Finger Lakes Tasting Room Etiquette for all
We want you, and your friends, to enjoy tasting and learning about Sheldrake Point wine. Our tasting room is arranged and staffed with your experience in mind. Brush up on your Finger Lakes tasting room etiquette to be best prepared for an enjoyable visit. Once you’re in, remember:
- If the tasting bar is crowded, be patient.
We keep a careful eye on the flow of visitors and will make sure you get a space in the order you arrive. Take the opportunity to check out original artwork in the Sheldrake Point tasting room, learn about the awards our wines have won, and take in the garden scenery just outside our windows.
- “What kind of wine do you like?”
When your wine pourer asks, have an answer, even if your answer is as simple as “I like sweet wines,” or, “I like white wines,”— it’s a start! Be flexible and willing to try what the winery has chosen to showcase.
- Keep an open mind and ask questions.
You’ve come to the Finger Lakes to try wine, and with over 140 wineries, there are over a thousand options. Take the opportunity to educate your palate. We might pour a wine you wouldn’t normally choose on your own, but you won’t know if you like it until you try. And, ask away. “Does this look like it will be a good year?” or “What food goes best with this wine?” are questions the person behind the counter will appreciate.
- Pro tasting tip: Pick a grape and stick with it.
Spend a day of tasting focused on one grape, for example, Cabernet Franc. Taste all Cabernet Francs at every stop. This is a great way to train your palate by doing comparative sampling. This is what the pros do!
- Dump, spit, or swallow. It’s up to you…
Buckets are on the bar to dump wine you prefer not to finish. (We won’t think you rude). Spitting a sip of wine into the bucket is also absolutely acceptable; staff at the winery do it every day, so don’t be embarrassed. Spitting moderates your alcohol intake. It’s okay to have some fun, but if you are visiting more than one tasting room, be mindful of your limits.
- …But please do so with decorum.
It’s okay to dislike a wine enough to dump or spit. Just say, “It’s not for me.” No need to apologize, but please keep your dignity and don’t act like you’ve just tasted boiled Brussels sprouts.
- Speaking of decorum…
Don’t pick the most expensive wine to taste just to impress your friends later. A higher priced bottle is no guarantee you will like the wine more. Our most expensive Sheldrake Point wine is available for tasting, for an additional tasting fee.
Post Tasting Etiquette: Buying & Tipping
The tasting is over. You have learned from the pourers, and found out which wines you like. Is your transaction complete, or are you ready to commemorate the experience?
- Should you tip?
It depends on the winery. At Sheldrake Point, tips are not expected, but if you have enjoyed yourself and feel you’ve learned something, our hardworking tasting room staff graciously accepts and appreciates gratuities.
- Stock up for at-home enjoyment.
There is no guarantee the wine you really like will be available at your local liquor store, or that the next vintage will be the same. Sheldrake Point offers a 10% discount on 6 bottles and 15% discount on purchases of 12+ bottles, including mixed cases.
- Ship wine home.
If you’re still traveling, ask about shipping wine to your home. Keeping wine in a hot car will ruin it quickly. If you are day-tripping, a cooler with a couple small ice packs will help moderate the temperature of wine purchased on a sunny or warm day. Sheldrake Point can accommodate phone, online, and in person orders to many states (see our list of states that will not allow shipment of wine.)
- Get future wine.
If your wine tasting experience was really special, find out if the winery has a wine club, which will ship special selections to subscribers. The Sheldrake Point Wine Club ships wine 4 times per year, hosts wine pick-up parties, and extends exclusive special event invitations to members.
Good guests make great friends
When you’re visiting Sheldrake Point Winery or any of our neighbors in the region, remembering these basics of Finger Lakes tasting room etiquette will make for a memorable visit—in all the best ways!