A thoughtfully planned wine tour is fun for everyone, whether you know your syrah from your sangiovese or you’re simply happy if the bottle came with a real cork. And while oenophiles recognize northern California’s Napa and Sonoma counties as setting the American standard in high quality wine, the New York metro region features well-established and up-and-coming producers. Why spend 6 hours on a plane when you can hop in a car and arrive in wine country in time for lunch?
Call Ahead When It Matters Most
Call ahead and make a reservation when there are must-sees on your list. You won’t want to miss Brotherhood, a Washingtonville winery known as America’s oldest, but there are well over a dozen more located between Ulster and Orange counties. Although small groups of two can often sneak into the tasting room and quaff a glass or two without advance notice, you should reserve space for bigger groups. This is especially true for off-the-beaten-path wineries that have a cult following and may not be set up to accommodate groups of six or more.
In many cases, the vineyard’s tasting room might set up a table and offer bigger groups a flight of fine wines for a nominal cost. Why the extra-special treatment? Because they’re anticipating that folks will buy a bottle or two. Avoid disappointment and reserve space at your must-try wineries instead.
Tour Once, Taste Everywhere
Almost every vineyard offers a winemaking tour that shows visitors everything from the plants to the presses to the barrels. If you’ve never been to a vineyard before, it’s worth it to buy a ticket for the tour — but you only need to do it once, since the tours are largely the same between vineyards.
Once the tour is finished, you’ll head to the tasting room. Ask the representative what wines the vineyard is known for — and keep an open mind. Today’s popular un-oaked chardonnays, for example, have a significantly different character than the heavier whites of years past.
Plan Your Transportation
Let’s face it: there’s plenty of drinking going on (and not much spitting). Even though tasting rooms pour small amounts, you’re still consuming a large amount of alcohol over the course of the day — and you definitely won’t be able to drive safely. Even if you’re spitting, getting around the Hudson Valley’s wine trail can be problematic for the uninitiated. When you hire a car and driver, you won’t have to worry about a thing — plus, you can show up in style and still have plenty of room for the cases you’ll buy.
Don’t Forget to Eat
As any wine lover will tell you, it’s all about the food pairing! Winery-rich regions are often home to some of the best restaurants in the tri-state area. If you’re not sure where to reserve a table — and don’t forget about lunch — call your favorite winery and ask for their recommendations. You can also pack a picnic lunch and eat among the vines.
Dress for the Occasion
Lastly, touring wineries is an incredibly elegant way to spend an afternoon, but dressing for the occasion requires strategic thinking. Wear sensible shoes, as you’ll be doing quite a bit of walking — and if you’re touring the vineyard, you won’t want your heels stuck in mud. Think dress casual for clothes. And don’t forget your wallet, because you’ll likely have a full cellar by the time you’re finished.