Weinstrasse Season – How Safely To Enjoy A Wine-Tasting Trip

Filed in MiscellaneousTags: Food/Wine, Missouri

'Tis the season... now that spring has arrived, it's time to resume the weekend drives to the many wineries in the St. Louis area. My usual weekend-afternoon trip involves a drive down MO-94W between US40 and Hermann, MO - a stretch of road better known as the "Weinstrasse." I normally make stops at Sugar Creek Winery, Montelle Winery, Augusta Winery, Mount Pleasant Winery, and depending on how much time I have, and how far I want to go, Balducci Winery and Stone Hill Winery.

Now, lest you get worried about drinking and driving, there are important rules to the winery road trip:

First, you have to take your time at and between wineries. Generally, it's a good idea not to rush at the tasting itself, as doing so would be inconsiderate of the hosts, who are serving you wine for free. Also, the longer you take, the more you will enjoy the experience, and the longer you allow for the alcohol to metabolize. While you are at the tasting, get to know your host, and their selection - known as the flight - of wines. If you take a genuine interest in the winery and their offerings, I guarantee it will be appreciated, and you will be remembered.

Second, limit the selection and amount of wine you sample. Probably a no-brainer, but herein lies one of the biggest abuses of wine-tasting. Especially for we amateur wine-tasters, the pallette can probably only handle 4-5 different wines before the tastes become indistinguishible. And you really only need an ounce or so of a given wine sample in order to ascertain the smell, bouquet, color, body, taste, mouthfeel, etc. of the sampling. And doing so, you'll only drink the equivalent of one glass of wine, at most, at each winery.

Third, drink plenty of water, and eat before and/or during your tasting trip. The water will keep you hydrated, help prevent inebriation, and help clean your pallette to allow you better to taste each sampling. Eating will also help prevent inebriation, and can also add a really enjoyable element to the trip. Most wineries have outdoor patios or dining areas that often offer great views of the surrounding country, and that make a great place for a picnic, or just to sit down, relax, and unwind. In addition, while most wineries have rules prohibiting bringing outside alcohol on the premises, they encourage you to bring your own food.

Fourth, try to include wineries that offer tours of the facilities (in this area, Mount Pleasant and Stone Hill both have great tours). In addition to learning a lot about the facility, wine production, and the history of the region, you will do a fair bit of walking, and again will be adding more time between drinking occasions.

Fifth, try to end your wine trip by visiting a winery offering some form of entertainment, which can range from free to somewhat expensive and may include live music, dancing, chef-prepared dinner, or even a murder-mystery event. The entertainment provides a great way to spend an evening, and again, will give you plenty of time to assure that any alcohol has had ample time to run through your system.

Follow these guidelines, and you will have a great, and safe, time on your wine-tasting trip. And if you are ever in the St. Louis area and would like a guided tour, let me know!