There are two good reasons to visit a particular winery on any particular trip to Wine Country: to taste good wine and to experience wonderful places. Unfortunately, there are some wineries that have neither attribute. (It is not Power Tasting’s policy to give derogatory reviews, so we’ll withhold names. But take it from us, they exist and they’re no fun.) So why go to one of these wineries?
The easy answer is, “Don’t go”. But that’s not always easy to do. For one thing, you don’t know you’re going to have a poor experience until you have it. And there may be reasons why you are at a particular winery that are beyond your control. Perhaps you’re with someone who doesn’t know anything about wine but likes the sound of the wine’s name. Maybe your client has an interest in a winery. Maybe it’s just there on the road, so why not. These have all happened to us, at one time or another.
It’s sort of like being at a dull party; you’re already there and maybe something will come up. How can you leave five minutes after arriving? At one of these sad wineries, you brace yourself and try your best to seem interested. You hold onto a glass for longer than usual, looking around, not actually tasting more than the barest sip and saying things like:
- “I’ve never tasted anything quite like this before.”
- “What a unique presentation of the varietal character”
- And the always popular, “Hmmmm”.
Some of the grand palaces being erected by wineries these days at least offer the possibility of architectural interest. But what about wineries that are no more than a suburban house or, worse, an industrial shed? You can’t just jump to conclusions; great wineries come in modest homes. For years, Ridge’s Lytton Springs winery was in the barrel room. Iron Horse has a wooden, outdoor shed. Heitz Cellar is a modest stone building. If you can’t tell a book by its cover, you can’t tell a wine by its winery, either. But you can be forewarned. If it doesn’t look too good and there are no cars in the parking lot, maybe you should think twice about entering.
There is a variant on the Lousy Winery phenomenon. You’re hating everything about the place: the wine, the tasting room, the noisy people assembled at the bar. But everyone else, in particular your companions, is loving it. And it’s raining so you can’t just wait outside. This is the time to recognize the wisdom of Orr’s Law from Catch 22: If you’re bored, time goes more slowly and you live longer. Okay, it’s not a very good rationale but it may be the only rationale you have.
We have recently been travelling in some lesser known wine making areas in France and California and we have happened upon some of these unfortunate wineries. Sometimes we were the only ones there so we couldn’t leave without being rude. We sipped; we sighed; and we left. We recommend this strategy if you find yourself so entrapped. You never know, the next place down the road may be wonderful. Or not.