One of the greatest pleasures I discovered many years ago was the beauty and enjoyment of wine tasting. Exploring the various wineries and their distinct personalities, picking up cheese and fruit for our anticipated midday picnic, the thrill of your specially selected purchases, culminating with the heady rush of a memorable day in wine country… it didn’t get much better than that! Did I mention that we didn’t pay one cent for tastings, not a dime to tip our servers, and whoever heard of a wine club?
Fast-forward about 20 years (I just aged myself, didn’t I?). It’s a whole new scene. The world of wine tasting has vastly changed over time. Wine tasting has become big business. It’s the Disneyland of drinking packed full of fun for adults. For those of you who remember the days of free tastings and now grumble about the cost of admission…peek in the back room of a winery nowadays and view the cases upon cases of wine poured in just one busy day. It’s mind-boggling. With the boom in the wine business nationwide and emphasis on wine regions as vacation destinations, the wineries had to implement a small tasting fee to offset their ever-increasing costs to provide this service. In return, most wineries include a fun logo glass with the fee, apply credit toward your purchases, reimburse the fee for joining their wine club, OR a combination thereof. It’s win-win!
Tipping. Obviously, tipping your server is not mandatory. However, if you have a server that has taken the time to educate you on the distinct wines of that particular winery, patiently answered your questions, assisted with your buying decisions, given you excellent service all around…what better way to show your gratitude than a tip?! It’s not always easy dealing with large crowds of wineauxs who have been imbibing all day and sometimes are not on their best behavior.
So what’s with all the wine clubs? These are wonderful perks that the wineries have created with their wine patrons in mind. While they vary from winery to winery, most wine clubs do not cost anything to join. They offer you discounts on wine and gifts, discounts to events, exclusives to select wines and events, and free tastings. If you fall in love with a certain winery or two, by all means, join their wine clubs!
My husband and I are fortunate to be in the wine industry and as a result are often treated to complementary tastings. As a thank you, we rarely leave a winery without a purchase, even if we weren’t totally jazzed about the wine. It’s a matter of courtesy. We also make sure we take good care of our server as well. It creates goodwill and, hopefully, they’ll return the favor by visiting our winery soon. If you are lucky enough to receive free tastings due to an industry perk or through a coupon, please, please show your appreciation by purchasing something at the establishment and leave something for your server. It’s a little thing called etiquette.