Fall is approaching, and that does not only mean autumn foliage and Thanksgiving celebrations; fall is also synonym to harvest season and its festivals – aka the perfect time for a wine tour. To help you prepare for your next one, we put together a few tips:

8. Determine the best time to visit

The best time for a wine tour depends on the kind of experience you are looking for. Each season has its perks; it’s up to you to decide which would fit what you would like to do best. Summer and fall are known to be the busiest time for wineries, as it is the peak season. You’ll get to enjoy some of the most stunning sceneries and maybe spend some time in the vineyards, learning about the winery’s history and processes. And beside wine tasting and harvest festivals, this time of the year offers so many options for fun activities to do when you are done visiting wineries.

On the other hand, during the off-season of winter and spring, your wine touring experience will most likely be much more personal: since wineries are less crowded and owners and winemakers less busy, you will have a better chance to speak directly with them and get lots of information on their wines.

7. Don’t rush

You will have to choose from dozens or even hundreds of wineries, and you will need to give yourself ample time – you do not want to be in a hurry while wine tasting and visiting wineries. Don’t overdo it, and plan on visiting a realistic number of wineries in a day; between three and six should be sufficient. Make sure to allow time to become familiar with the wines, discuss with the staff and, most importantly, to enjoy your tasting.

If you’re having a hard time deciding what wineries you want to visit… “Do your homework”, a little bit of research will be necessary. White or red? Sweet or dry? Big renowned wineries or smaller places? It’s all up to you!

6. Call ahead

Another good advice when planning your wine tour is to call ahead, to either learn more about the winery itself or simply schedule a private tour or an appointment (which is recommended in some wineries). It’s also good to call to make sure it will be open at the time you would like to visit: although most are open from 10am to 5pm, some have limited mid-week tasting room hours, restricted off-season hours and/or extended summer hours to accommodate the number of visitors, so make sure to confirm the winery’s hours by giving them a call.

On a related note, try to go early, especially on weekends. It is obviously best to visit midweek or during the off-season, but if you are planning a wine tour in the high season, remember that tasting rooms can get very crowded in the afternoon. Getting there early in the day is a good way to make sure the staff will have time to discuss the wines with you – isn’t that the most fun part?

5. Step out of your comfort zone

Don’t forget to explore: that’s what a wine tour is for. Remember that all winemakers have their own unique style of winemaking. Our advice? Don’t stick to wines you know, or you could miss out on local specialties.

4. Don’t drink and drive

It might sound obvious, but keep in mind that even though the tastings are quite small, they add up pretty quickly at the end of the day. A simple solution is to have a designated driver, or hire a shuttle to drive you around from winery to winery. Another tip is to avoid swallowing; it is completely acceptable to utilize the spit buckets, and no, winemakers are not offended by it!

3. A few other tips…

Forget about heavy perfume or aftershave. That’s a minor point, but a key one nonetheless. It does interfere with the tasting experience, not only for yourself but for those around you.

Dress appropriately. Most tastings are conducted on your feet, and the guided tour that you booked might lead you into a vineyard or difficult road.  Pack some feel-good footwear and a casual and comfortable outfit. If you care about your white clothes, avoid wearing them – red wine and white do not get along very well. Finally, keep the load light, carrying too much will only make your experience more complicated and frustrating.

2. Bonus tip:

Look out for wines to buy at the tasting room that you cannot find in commercial stores. Always ask the staff for the library and special wines they offer, as they can be truly spectacular; they are generally only made available at the winery for a few months, and are produced in smaller amounts.

1. Last but not least… Enjoy yourself, wineries and wine tours are always a great experience. And don’t forget to ask questions!