Monday, August 10, 2009

Group Tasting - How to Do It!

We've been busy out touring and tasting all summer! The crowds have not been bad recently which makes for great fun since there's not much waiting for bar space. This will probably change once the "high season" hits this fall.

Fall is our busiest time since there's so much going on. We have the leaves turning glorious colors on the trees and the grape vines, we have Uva Football games, and of course, we have wine lovers tasting and catching a glimpse of the harvest action.

A staff member at one of our favorite wineries was chatting with me over a glass of wine and a cheese plate recently. Something had happened earlier at the tasting room, and as she told me her story it made me think this would be a good blog topic for those who are planning to visit the wine country with a large group of friends.

She said the winery had been buzzing along, busy but not particularly slammed, when a rented bus with a group of forty (40!) friends pulled up and they all trotted into the tasting room.

Now, we have beautiful tasting rooms and the majority of them are very organized, here in the Charlottesville area, but when we are busy, a sudden arrival of forty can really throw a wrench into an otherwise beautifully flowing day.

Pictured above: King Family's Barrel Room

What saved the afternoon for this group was the fact that the barrel room, which acts as a small function room, was not being used, and a quick-thinking server grabbed some bottles and glasses, and herded them there for a private tasting.

So, if you are planning to travel to wine country with 10 or more people, here are a few tips for a flawless day:

  • Always check your route first -you may have heard great things about Mountfair, Lovingston and Barboursville, but check on the fantastic website http://www.virginiawine.org/, get the addresses and Mapquest them to see if they are all feasible in your timeframe. If they are, figure out in which order you should drive to avoid wasting time on the road. While the countryside is beautiful here, you want to spend your time enjoying the wineries, not sitting in a bus!

  • Once you know which wineries you wish to visit, call them and tell them how many are in your group and when you would like to visit. Many of them will have a barrel room or function room where they can set up a lovely tasting just for your group. Pictured below is the function room at Pollak Vineyards where a group of ours had a private tasting recently.
  • This leaves the tasting bar free for others to taste, and at the same time adds to your atmosphere of fun getting your own personal pourer! Your call also alerts the winery in case they will need additional staff that day. Since you have called ahead and organized your tasting time, you can walk right in and enjoy your tasting without any real wait time.

    Just imagine if that group of forty had arrived and there had been another group in the function room already. The tasting room would have been chaos with everyone trying to jokey in for bar space and service. Their group alone would have taken up both tasting bars, which were already busy!
  • Either pack a picnic or have your driver stop at one of our wonderful local gourmet shops for a picnic. Here in Charlottesville we have Feast! and Brix , and in the wine cluster just west of town we have Greenwood Grocery
    All three offer everything from local and imported cheese to super sandwiches, salads and gourmet chips. Anything and more that you would need for your afternoon picnic.

    Pictured above is Chris carrying everything for a served Arcady Vineyard Wine Tour picnic lunch for four at Pollak Vineyard!

    Some folks assume that we have restaurants with our wineries, and while a few have enough staff to offer a cheese plate or bagot of bread with cheese and salami, most don't have food for sale. We're far too busy making wine, and good restaurant staff are difficult to find. And you'll need some munchies if you're tasting all afternoon!
Okay now you all are group tasting experts! So get a group of friends and go taste some of our fantastic Virginia wines!

1 comment:

Tom Peterson said...

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