Sipping Away on a Wine Tasting Tour

Sipping Away on a Wine Tasting Tour

One of the activities Rvers and non-Rvers enjoy is taking a wine tour into the picturesque vineyards and wineries throughout the United States. There is something romantic about the scenic views afforded to visitors from the tasting rooms or vineyard tours. Grapes harvested from the vine and wine served in a glass on a terrace overlooking the countryside is an excellent way to relax, recharge and enjoy the simple things in life.

Although many use the terms interchangeably, there is a difference between a vineyard and a winery. Simply put, a vineyard is the place where the grapes are grown. A winery is where the wine is produced. Sometimes both occur on the same property, but not always.

Visiting a winery can offer an insight into how the grapes are processed into wine. Modern day production involves a mechanized process in warehouses, bottling operations, and in temperature controlled rooms, among other facilities. There are no peasant women stomping grapes in these modern times, which you can see for yourself at those wineries which offer tours.

A tasting room is another component of the wine tour experience. It is a location in which people can sample the wines produced by the winery. Often the tasting room is part of the winery and sometimes tasting rooms are in downtown areas to promote the sale of a winery’s products. One winery could have multiple tasting room locations.

At a tasting room, visitors are typically offered a selection of wines for a fee, and in some cases for free, with limitations. Don’t expect a full glass of wine at a tasting room experience. It is just enough to tempt your palate. Experienced staff can make tasting selections, explain the difference between the wines offered, and ring up the wine and souvenir purchases you want to make.

If a wine tour is something you want to experience anytime you are in a grape growing area, there are a couple of options. One is to sign up for a vineyard tour. These are like sightseeing tours, but instead of monuments, museums, and cityscapes, guests are driven to a selection of vineyards and wineries for tours and tastings. The scope of these tours, activities included, and cost vary depending on the region.

But it is just as easy to venture on your own personalized exploration of wine country. This allows you to pick and choose the vineyards, wineries, and tasting rooms that appeal to you and gives you the flexibility of customizing your experience by adding other sightseeing stops, restaurants, and other attractions in between the planned winery stops.

Planning your own wine tour takes a little more work, especially in researching and choosing the stops on the tour. Mixing some older, well established wineries with some new, trendier options creates a good variety. Having some familiarity with your tastes in wine can also help narrow down the wineries that will be most enjoyable. But if you are new to the wine tasting experience and are unsure what will appeal to your own tastes and the tastes of those traveling with you, established wine tours are your best bet.

Once you have made a list of the wineries you want to visit and have listed their hours of operation, map out your tour. Experts recommend three to five stops per day for the best experience. Limiting the number of wineries you visit ensures a leisurely pace. This isn’t the kind of activity in which participants down and dash; wine is meant to be sipped so that the flavor and the ambiance of the winery shines through.

When planning the routes, make sure you include travel time to each stop and time to browse the gift shops and enjoy a meal or snack. Consider the season, too. If it’s a busy season – typically summer and fall – an earlier start can be more enjoyable so that you can avoid the afternoon crowds. With less people clamoring for wine tastings and tours, winter and spring can be a great time for a more personalized experience.

When people think about “wine country,” California and France top the list. Grapes are grown in many regions and vineyards, wineries, and tasting rooms can be found throughout the continental U.S. California, with its more than 4,000 wineries is certainly a top spot, but Washington state and Oregon also have wine tasting experiences, more than 700 in each state.

On the east coast, New York is ranked fourth out of the top 10 wine producing states. Almost 400 wineries are part of the wine industry there, most of them split in two regions – the Finger Lakes and the North Fork. Virginia is next on the list, with about 270 wineries and a long, storied history in winemaking. Pennsylvania is also included on the list the wine tour top ten, with a little more than 250 wineries stretched across west to east across the state.

In middle America, Ohio, Michigan, and Missouri boast wine making regions. Ohio has about 200 wineries, Michigan a little over 180, and Missouri has about 150. Historically, Ohio set itself as a wine making state from the 1820s to the 1860s and even into today. Michigan has earned the nickname of the “Napa of the Midwest” especially for the wineries along the Lake Michigan side. Missouri has gained a nickname to – Missouri Rhineland – which identifies a wine growing region first settled by German immigrants.

In the south, Texas leads the way, with just over 300 wineries on 9 million acres spread out around Hill Country. Different climates and different growing means grape varieties vary from region to region.

Other states not listed in this top ten include North Carolina with 130 wineries, Colorado with just over 100, and Illinois with about 100 wineries.

Check out the vineyard, wineries and tasting rooms located in the next place you visit. Many can easily accommodate an RV in their parking lot and some even offer overnight camping. The tradition of wine making is a proud one and learning first-hand about this agricultural endeavor may make the next sip of wine you take that much sweeter. 

Sep 27th 2021 Lois Tomaszewski

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