For tasting room visitors, experts recommend some points to keep in mind to make sure your experience and that of other guests is as enjoyable as possible. Many small, boutique wineries are family-run, and the owners and staff are proud of their facility. Remember that you are a guest.

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  • Little sips add up. Designate a driver and drink responsibly. By law, a winery cannot serve the visibly intoxicated, no matter who’s driving.
  • Plan ahead. Many wineries have limited space, so call in advance if you are part of a larger group (eight or more people).
  • Avoid heavy perfume or cologne — it interferes with the wine’s aroma and affects your tasting experience and the experience of others.
  • Please put your cell phone on vibrate and step outside if you need to take a phone call.
  • Some wineries charge a tasting fee. If a fee is charged, it’s perfectly OK for two people to share a glass.
  • If food is offered, remember it’s there to help cleanse your palate, not be a substitute for lunch. Tasting wine on an empty stomach isn’t wise, in any case. You should eat well before you go to a winery. And be sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after the wine tasting.
  • Try not to act or sound like a “wine snob.” Tastes differ, and there is always someone who knows less — and more — than you.
  • In general, white wines are tasted first, followed by reds and then dessert wines. While you should be open to experience unfamiliar styles, it’s also OK to skip any of the wines on the tasting list.
  • Eat the crackers!
  • Rinse your glass between tastings — especially when moving from whites to reds and reds to dessert.
  • Don’t feel you have to drink all the wine in each glass/tasting. That’s what the dump buckets are for.
  • Read the tasting notes and see if you can detect the aromas or flavors listed there.
  • Ask questions. Tasting room staff members are trained to know a lot about the wines you’re tasting. Unless the tasting room is exceptionally crowded, they are happy to take the time to educate.


While you are touring and tasting your way through Michigan’s beautiful wine country, you can also be collecting bottles of wine to host a tasting for your friends or wine club. Your guests will love it, and it’s easy to do.

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  • Buy your wines from different wineries; your guests can experience the variety, just as you did.
  • You will need at least 2 ounces of each wine for each person; so, you’ll want to have one bottle of each wine for 8 to 12 people.
  • Use wine styles that people are not familiar with; it can be fun to try new things. If you serve a Chardonnay, for instance, it could be one NOT aged in oak. People who usually drink oak-aged wines may be fascinated by the very different taste of a dry Riesling. Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers may enjoy Cabernet Franc.
  • Serve both white and red wines, dry and semidry. Not all your guests will like the same types of wine.
  • Wines are best served in the order of dry to sweet and, within that, from white to red. So, a dry red is served before a slightly sweet white so that its qualities can be fully appreciated.
  • Give each guest a list of the wines with space to write their comments.
  • Provide water to rinse glasses between wines, and a container to dispose of unwanted wine.
  • Serve a light snack (cheese and crackers or bread) and have drinking water available. This will help you be a responsible host.

Engage All Your Senses!

Swirl the wine around in the glass to release aromas and observe the wine’s color and body. Sniff the wine to detect components like fruit, oak, floral scents, youthfulness and maturity. Swirl and sniff again (as many times as you want!). Sip and savor. Try to identify traits like sweetness, tartness and bitterness, as well as fruit, oak and other features.




Michigan Wine Country readers share their Michigan winery experiences.