Tasting Room Tips

Tips from the Tasting Room

Wine Tasting Order

Below are guidelines for pouring wine in a suitable order:

  • Dry sparkling wines first, then white, blush, red, and lastly, sweet dessert wines.  (Note:  Sparkling wines may also be poured as palate cleansers in between wines or at the end of a tasting, if they are sweet.)
  • Dry to sweet
  • Light-bodied to full-bodied
  • Delicate to powerful

The goal of placing wines in a particular tasting order is so that the wines flow from one to another seamlessly.  However, proper tasting order can be something of a challenge because wines so often transverse two competing categories.  For example, should a light-bodied, slightly sweet Riesling go before a full-bodied, dry, oak-aged Chardonnay?  These two wines pose quite a conundrum, as the Riesling would naturally go before Chardonnay as a lighter-bodied wine, but the Chardonnay could easily go before the Riesing based on it being drier.  In this case, it is best to use the "delicate to powerful" guideline.  The weight of the Chardonnay, in addition to the oak barrel influence, is likely to overcome the flavors and weight of a typical off-dry Riesling.  Ultimately, one perfect tasting order cannot exist for everyone, as our palates are all different; nevertheless, these guidelines will help you provide the best tasting experience over all.

Storing & Preserving Wine

The main enemies of wine are heat and light. Keeping wine in a cool, dark place will do a great deal to protect it. If you have a cellar or wine fridge, 55°F is an ideal storage temperature. Bottles should be kept lying on their sides to prevent the cork from drying out, thus compromising the wine. Lastly, try not to move bottles too frequently as this will disturb the sediment in the wine (if any) and can also create a state of “bottle shock.” When it comes to preserving an open bottle of wine, there are several options to choose from:

  • Pour the leftover wine into a smaller wine bottle to decrease the headspace and, therefore, the amount of harmful oxygen left in contact with the wine.
  • Use a specially designed pump and stopper to extract the oxygen from the bottle.
  • Use a wine preserve spray to displace the oxygen from the bottle with a heavier, inert gas (usually Argon and/or CO2), then seal with the original cork or another stopper.
  • For sparkling wine, use a sparkling wine stopper to retain the bubbles and flavors. These stoppers are designed to hold up under the pressure that builds in sparkling wine bottles—so be careful when removing.
  • All wines (yes, even reds) should be stored in the refrigerator until further use, the cold will slow the oxidation process.

Proper Serving Temperatures

Approx. Chilling Time
Wine Style
Below 45°F
2½ hrs in the refrigerator
Simple, inexpensive light bodied white and sweeter blush/rosé wines
Vinho Verde, low cost Pinot Grigio or similar, White Zinfandel
2 hrs in the refrigerator
White sparkling, light bodied white, dry rosé, and light dessert wines
Champagne, Prosecco, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Fino Sherry, White Port
1½ hrs in the refrigerator
Red sparkling, medium-full bodied white, light bodied reds, medium bodied dessert wines
Sparkling Shiraz, Chardonnay, Viognier, Beaujolais, Dolcetto, Sauternes
1 hr in the refrigerator
Medium bodied red, fuller bodied dessert, and most port wines
Pinot Noir, Chianti, Rioja, Madiera
½ hr in the refrigerator
Full bodied red wines
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Zinfandel based wines

Aerating & Decanting

The purpose of aerating is to infuse air into a wine which will bring out the aromas and bouquet and soften the impact of tannins and acids. This is particularly important with young, tannic red wines making them more enjoyable to drink soon after opening. Decanting serves a similar purpose, but with the added benefit of removing sediment from young unfined and unfiltered red wines or aged red wines that have thrown sediment. Though most white wines do not need aeration or decanting, fuller bodied whites, especially those that have been oak aged (i.e., good quality Chardonnay), will benefit from a short period of aeration.

Wine & Food Pairing Guidelines

Pairing just the right wine with just the right food can make for an absolutely sensational meal. Conversely, pairing the wrong wine with the wrong dish can make both seem unpleasant. Below are a few tips to make your pairing adventures a success.

  • Pair primary flavors ~ Pinot Noir is a better match for grilled blackened salmon than the typical white wine pairing because of the smoky, spicy flavors. Pay particular attention to how the main dish is prepared and match it to the primary flavors in the wine.
  • Pair likes ~ Italian food with Italian wine; acidic wine with acidic food (i.e., Sauvignon Blanc and goat cheese). Note: spicy wine with spicy food is the one “like” to avoid.
  • Pair opposites ~ Off-dry and sweet wines like Riesling or Gewürztraminer balance spicy foods like jambalaya or Thai cuisine; crisp sparkling wines are a perfect match for creamy brie-style cheeses.
  • Pair body and weight ~ A fuller bodied wine like Chardonnay will need a heavier dish to stand up to it (especially if it’s oaked), like chicken and pasta in a rich cream sauce.
  • Pair strengths ~ A big, tannic Cabernet Sauvignon will need an equally strong dish like a protein-rich steak to balance it.
  • Heavily oaked wines and wines high in alcohol will always be difficult to pair with food. They will often be more enjoyable by themselves or served with strong cheeses or bold foods.
  • Champagne and sparkling wines make great apéritifs before a meal, but are often just as delicious served during the meal with a variety of foods, or in between courses as a palate cleanser.