Wine 101: Tips on Touring Wine Country

Last week, My Wine Canada founder Jackie McLachlan and I traversed up and down the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys visiting partner wineries.

Almost every winery we went to was in the process of getting ready for the upcoming season, scrubbing patio furniture, stocking tasting rooms with wine, a fresh coat of paint here and there, those kinds of things. As they prepare for visitors, it’s always good for visitors to prepare for wineries as well. Whether you’re touring Ontario, Nova Scotia, Quebec or British Columbia wine country, here are a few tips to make the most of your visits.

  • Arrange a ride. Those hop-on/hop-off shuttles are always a good bet, or it’s good to have a designated driver. It’s very easy, especially in hot and sunny weather, to over imbibe. A few sips here and there can certainly add up quick. In saying that…
  • Spit! Those spit buckets are on tasting bar counters for a reason. If you’re concerned about your technique, practice over the bathroom sink with water.
  • Eat beforehand. This is another way to ensure you don’t overdo it with tasting. A good, hearty meal before you embark on your journey will fill you up, and give you energy to keep up your stamina – you’ll be glad you did by your fourth or fifth stop.
  • Drink plenty of water. It’s summertime, probably quite hot and you’re constantly sipping wine. A perfect storm for dehydration. I’ve never known anyone to say “I wish I hadn’t drunk so much water,” after a marathon day of wine tasting.
  • Ask about winery-only bottles. A good amount of wineries have a couple exclusive-to-the-winery labels, usually small-batch, interesting fare. Take advantage of your visit to scoop up these rarities, then dazzle your friends with them at home.

And finally…

  • Try something new! It’s such a great opportunity to broaden your horizons when visiting wine country, and risk-free when you have the option of tasting a variety of styles from the same place. Stuck in a Chardonnay rut? Give Viognier or Pinot Gris a whirl. Don’t know what Roussanne is, but there’s one on offer? There’s no better time to explore new territory.


Kurtis Kolt is a Vancouver-based wine consultant, writer, competition judge and enthusiast. Track him down at, or on Twitter and Instagram @KurtisKolt.

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