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long island wine press

Photo by Carrie Miller

tasting room faux pas

Perry Bliss, tasting room manager at The Old Field Vineyards, was pouring during a wine tasting one busy summer afternoon when she noticed a customer hoisting himself up on a nearby fence. She watched in horror and sheer shock as he leapt off directly toward one of the vineyard’s chickens. Luckily, he landed on the ground and the chicken waddled away unharmed. “He dove like a crazy man,” Bliss said. “And that’s normal!”

Customers consuming too much at wine tastings and chasing after the vineyard’s roosters, hens and ducks is an all-too-frequent occurrence, Bliss said. She added that those who chase after the animals are promptly escorted out, and none of the vineyard’s animals have ever been hurt. “You cannot put a saddle on a goose and ride him!” Bliss joked.

From inappropriately heckling farm animals to unbecoming bachelorette party games, Long Island Wine Country tasting room managers and staffers have seen and heard it all.

North Fork wineries host plenty of bachelorette parties, and managers and owners welcome those interested in a fun and enjoyable afternoon. But every wine tasting demands a basic degree of traditional etiquette, said Gibson Campbell, a wine educator and sales representative at Macari Vineyards in Mattituck.

Some groups roll up to wineries in limousines toting games, scavenger hunt lists and party toys—some that aren’t exactly right for the venue. “I’ve been known to confiscate phallic symbols at the door,” Campbell said. He also said many bachelorette party groups drink mimosas on the way to the wineries, but orange juice is one of wine’s worst enemies.

The best time to taste wine, Campbell said, is late morning before the palate is saturated with strong flavors. Drinks like orange juice and foods like garlic bread can drastically change the tasting profile of a wine. Wine experts even dissuade tasters from brushing their teeth on the day of a tasting so that minty remnants don’t barge in on the taste buds.

Asking those in a bachelorette party to refrain from basic dental hygiene may very well be pushing it, but there are plenty of other behaviors to avoid when it comes to wine tasting.

Ryan Farrell, a tasting room employee at Castello di Borghese, said testing out pick-up lines on pourers is a prominent wine tasting faux pas. “One woman told me I was her baby cub and she was a snow leopard and that she wanted to take me to her snow den,” Farrell said. “She asked my manager if she could take me to the next stop on her wine tour. He said, ‘No!’ ”

Tasting room managers agree that wine should be enjoyed, but staying away from bar-scene behavior differentiates and augments the experience for all winery customers. And certain tricks of the trade can enhance individual tastings.

Instead of swinging back a tasting glass of wine in one gulp, tasting room staffers and sommeliers say customers should follow the three-sip rule. The most optimal taste comes from three sips—the first clears the palate, the second provides a true taste and the third allows an appreciation of both the taste and aroma.

No matter how much education pourers provide to their customers, there will always be mishaps. Tasting room managers say customers commonly spit in the tip jar and tip in the spit jar, bounce newborn babies on the tasting room bar and routinely pronounce merlot (mer-low) phonetically, asking for a glass of “mer-lot.”

As long as customers enjoy themselves without causing a ruckus and support the local winemaking business, owners and tasting room managers alike can’t complain.

They do have one request—please don’t chase the chickens.