Wine tasting is one of the most enjoyable activities to do for a date, a girls-night-out or to hang out with friends.

Unfortunately, many people have never been because they don't know what it entails, said Gary Davis, owner of Racing Limos of Tri-Cities.

He drives a lot of people to wine tasting parties and says many times they have questions about the proper methods.

  • There are no dress codes. Most wineries will offer a tour of the vineyard and facilities so comfortable shoes are recommended if you'd enjoy wandering.
  • You don't need a reservation. Large groups (8 or more) might overwhelm a winery so calling ahead is appreciated. If you take a limo, he'll do that for you.
  • People who work at wineries are not snobs. In fact, they are very helpful to first-time wine tasters. If you don't know anything about the wines, just ask questions and everyone will do all they can to help you understand. Davis said he'll ask his clients if they've been wine tasting before and makes a point of teaching them the basics to have a great time.
  • Visiting a winery does not have to take long. Davis can take clients on a tour of three or four wineries in just a few hours.
  • It can be more fun to go with an expert

    • It helps if you know if you prefer red or white wines, but you don't need to know anything to have a good time.
    • All wineries are fun to visit, but it does help to know about the unique features each offers. Some have restaurants; some serve no food. Some have gift shops. Some have scenic tours, etc.

    Flickr, Andrew Taylor
  • It's so easy!

    "We don't want you to be intimidated; we hear that a lot," said Chenyn Preston-Johnson, who helps run Preston Premium Wines.

    1. Staff greets visitors at the door, finds out if they've been before, and explains what their winery has to offer.
    2. Preston Wines offers three options for wine tasting: a complimentary introduction, an $8 estate tasting and a $10 port tasting. After the latter two the guests may keep the glass as a souvenir.
    3. It takes about 45 minutes to do the introduction and one of the latter two.
    4. It's not a sales pitch. The goal is to educate people about wine and introduce what that winery has to offer.
    Flickr, dido
  • They will often wait for you to ask questions

    Because people visiting a winery may be novices or experts, staff typically don't assume anything about what knowledge you brought with you, Chenyn said. For that reason, it's important to ask questions if there's anything you don't understand or would like to know more about. They don't want to bore or lecture anyone -- or talk over your head, she said, so they will act more as a resource than a teacher."We don't want anyone to be scared to come in and ask questions... that's the point!" she said.

    Flickr, Battavia
  • There's no perfect time of year to come

    There is always something going on at a vineyard, Chenyn said. If the weather's nice, it's fun to take the self-directed tour of the park. If it's cold, you can enjoy the view from the tasting room and ask lots of questions. Right now Chenyn's staff is pruning. During summer, different tools are used to protect the ripening fruit from birds. You can watch the work from the patio. There's a lot to learn year-round, she said.

    Flickr, Bella Hausmann
  • There is no wrong way

    Maybe you've seen, or read about, expert wine tasters sniffing and swirling -- even spitting. If you'd like to learn about those techniques the staff would be happy to teach you. It is not, however, a prerequisite. Don't do it if you don't want to. "We're not going to say, 'You're not doing it right,'" she added.

    Flickr, Nessguide
  • Embrace everything our area has to offer

    Davis said the biggest appeal of a wine tasting tour is learning how unique our area is. You cannot go anywhere else and have the same experience. The Mid-Columbia is a wine region -- there are only a few in the whole country. "There's scenery, beautiful grounds, gift shops for people... a little of everything," he said.