I'll never forget my first foray into wine tasting - it happened about 4 years ago. At 35 - I’d been drinking wine for years - ever since those giddy high school days when a Peach Bartles and James seemed so fancy.
From B and J I graduated into Chablis (gag) or a fine Carlo Rossi Rhine Wine (you know the ones in the green jug) or the ever so popular White Zinfandel. Later I left the tuttie fruitie wines behind and found a Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc...ooooooohhh. Eventually I acquired a taste for bigger wines like a good meaty cab or a spicy Shiraz. But up until that warm summer day in the Central Coast I'd never actually gone wine tasting and I have to admit I was more then a little intimidated!
The Central Coast is a great place to lose your wine tasting virginity. The wineries are smaller and for the most part pretty unpretentious.
Following the Foxen Wine Trail is a user friendly way to try out different wineries and check out the gorgeous scenery. You can pick up a map at any winery and make your way from one end to the other.
Once we got past that we got to the tasting. To be honest I don’t remember much about the wines because I was a bit more focused on the etiquette of the moment; do I spit the wine out? No. What are the pitches of water for? Not drinking – cleaning out your glass when changing from reds to whites or visa versa. And the most important – do I have to drink every sip, of every pour, at every winery? An emphatic, NO. That’s what the urns on the counter are for and you will not hurt anyone’s feelings if you dump the wine out – you are paying for it – do with it what you will. It’s a rookie mistake and one I made – let’s just say I don’t really remember the last winery – but I do remember the headache I had the next morning, vividly.
From Sisqouc we found our way to my favorite winery in the Central Coast, Zaca Mesa.
It was at this second winery that I decided to employ my journalistic background and go with the notion – there is no such thing as a stupid question. From that point on I announced at every counter that this was in fact my first time tasting and that I knew very little about what made good wine or what in fact I was supposed to be smelling or tasting. I knew what I liked – and that was about it. I then proceeded to ask every question – basic or otherwise. This approach worked famously! It instantly broke down any barriers and the day got exponentially better from there.
We went on to visit Curtis, Fess Parker, Firestone and a couple other spots on the trail. By days end I’d gotten used to the words nose, finish, legs, bouquet and more. But I still didn’t always taste tobacco in my reds or grass in my whites.
By the end of the day I was feeling no pain – and was very happy I was not the designated driver. The wineries close, for the most part, around 5 o’clock and I believe my head hit the pillow that night around 8. Which brings me to my last tips: First, there is nothing wrong with sharing a tasting – it’s perfectly acceptable and it can save you some cash at the end of the day, second relax and have fun – it’s a great day full of beautiful natural settings, really cool people and wine – now that definitely doesn’t suck.