Thursday, February 25, 2010

Criteria for Tasting Room Reviews

I've been commenting on tasting rooms for over 4 years now and thought I should provide a little background on how I come to talk about a particular winery or tasting room.

First, I only comment on tasting rooms or wineries that I have personally visited.  Half of the wineries in Napa and Sonoma are not open to the public.  Of those that welcome visitors either by advance appointment or by dropping in,  I have visited about 125 of Sonoma's 270 wineries and tasting rooms and 145 of Napa's 335 wineries and tasting rooms.  The vast majority of those I have yet to get to require an appointment to visit.

Second, I operate under the assumption that the wine is good at nearly all of the tasting rooms in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino Counties.  Not every winery has wine that is going to be to your or my taste but the wines are generally good.  There are many people far more qualified than me who review wines.  Besides visiting wine country to taste wine is more about the experience than the quality of the wine.

Third, I generally only post positive reviews.  I want to give my readers information on wineries and tasting rooms to seek out.  Most tasting rooms are neither good nor bad; they're much like every other tasting room.  However some tasting rooms are special and are worth visiting.  Many factors contribute to a positive review including friendly tasting room staff, unique architecture, good value, an opportunity to meet the owner and/or winemaker, pretty scenery, an unusual tasting experience, and/or an interesting tour.  On the rare occasion when I say something negative about a winery or tasting room, it's because I think the visitor is not getting a quality experience.

Fourth, I do not get compensated for my reviews.  Many guests on my tours ask if the wineries give me anything to thank me for bringing visitors to their tasting rooms.  At the end of the year, a couple wineries may give me a bottle or two, but that's it.  I've never received anything for a positive review other than an e-mail thanking me.

I hope this background is helpful.  Let me know what you think.

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