Wine Lessons Learned: My First Wine Tour & Tasting Event

Wine Tasting Lessons Learned in West Kelowna, Okanagan, BC

I had you at “wine”, didn’t I? It’s understandable – this nectar is delicious. It’s soothing, warming, and – if you consult the right source – totally nutritious. While I enjoy indulging in the reds and whites, I really haven’t had much of an education in wine. That is, until I got to experience my first wine tour a couple weekends ago.

Wine Tasting Lessons Learned

The wine tour was part of a lovely ladies’ weekend. It was a pleasant break from the “Mom, mom, MOMMY!”s of my life, and a chance to connect as my own individual with an entertaining group of women. The weekend began with a wine tasting event, which was also a first for me. Over the course of the weekend I came to learn some things about wine that, while unnecessary to enjoying it, were interesting to discover. Since I love to share what I find with all you fabulous readers, I’ve compiled an easy-to-follow list of what I learned.

Lessons Learned On My First Wine Tour

Be Cautious At Wine Tastings

Let me paint a picture. You enter a building, are given a wine glass, and are dazzled by the many tables ready to pour small amounts of different wines from various wineries. There are reds, whites, rosés, and all kinds of other deliciousness you may never have heard of. Moving fairly quickly between tables, and offered a plethora of different kinds of wines, things can get messy pretty quickly. Mixing wines has always ended unhappily for me, so coming in I had a game plan: stick to reds.

Vibrant vines wine tasting

Like that classic children’s book, (to me) Red Is Best. While there were a select few whites I did decide to try, I stuck to the reds. Not only did this keep me from enduring the pains that come with mixing red and white, but it also helped me pace myself, trying only one or two wines per table, instead of every option available. This plan was highly successful, and left me feeling fairly chipper the next morning.

Don’t Be Afraid To Dump

At both wine tastings and tours, you’ll be offered small amounts of wine to try. Sure, you could eagerly slug back everything you’re given to make the most of the price you paid to be there. However, unless you have a stomach of steel and a head impervious to aching, you’re only going to want to drink what you really like. This is not going to be every option you’re given to try. Do not be afraid of insulting the wineries, and shamelessly dump whatever doesn’t make you want to keep drinking it. They totally get that not every wine is for everyone.

There will always be somewhere you can dump, either a bucket, a drain in the floor, or right onto the gravel ground in the wineries outdoor space. Trust me, this will save you and allow you to really enjoy the wines you like best.

What Are Ice Wines?

I’ve tried ice wines before, but all I really knew about them was that they are sweet and desert-like. They’re quite enjoyable in the summer, mixed with a bit of soda water to make a yummy spritzer. At the first winery we visited, we were given the run-down on how ice wines are made. Essentially, instead of harvesting all the grapes when they’re ready, some are left on the vine, waiting to sustain a temperature of -8° C or lower. This lets the grapes dehydrate more than the regularly harvested ones, concentrating the juices and sugars, to make them sweeter.

red grapes on vine for wine

You can read more about ice wine and how it’s made here, but that’s the quick and easy version. And now you know! (Or, at least, now I know.)

What Is A Vertical Wine Tasting?

I had never heard the term “vertical wine tasting” before, but then again, I’m no connoisseur. I generally choose my wines by the kind (hello, Malbec), then the price point, followed by the label (so not what’s recommended, but it’s how I roll). I was happy to hear that I wasn’t alone in my ignorance, though. None of the other ladies, who seem to be very learned in the ways of the wines, had heard this term, either. So let me break it down for you.

A “vertical tasting” is trying the same wine, from the same winery, but in two different years. Doing this really gives you an idea of how different wines can taste when the only thing that changes is the weather of the growing season. At Off The Grid (my absolute favourite winery visited on our tour of West Kelowna wineries), we were given a vertical tasting of their 2014 and 2015 Gewurztraminer. Being two very different years in terms of weather, these two wines tasted incredibly different. I wouldn’t have known they were the same wine! The aromas and tastes were just so very different. It seemed unanimous that the warmer year had yielded a more enjoyable wine. Note for future wine purchasing – consider what the weather was like in that region in the year the wine was made.

Organic Wines

One of the things our tour guide mentioned was that the Okanagan is moving heavily towards all-organic wineries. This makes sense, as grapes have traditionally been heavily sprayed to preserve crops from pests, and we’re now realizing that covering our food in chemicals that kill and deter insects and other creatures, probably isn’t the best for us to ingest, either.

Off The Grid Organic Winery Wine

Having only tried one organic wine before, I had been put off by how unappetizing it was to me, and since avoided organic wines. I realize now how silly I was, since there are many organic wines I tasted at the wine tasting event and the wine tour, which were delicious. I had obviously just picked up a bad wine that first time, and will be giving organic wines far more attention now. In fact, the only wine I purchased the entire time (my budget was low after the weekend events, so I didn’t want to go overboard) was an organic Pinot Gris from Off The Grid – a fully organic and almost entirely “off the grid” winery. (I know it’s starting to sound like this is a sponsored post for this winery, but I assure it’s not. However, I would certainly be thrilled to work with them – ahem.)

Honey Wines


Have you ever heard of honey wine? I certainly had not. When I found a table at the wine tasting event that offered bliss honey wines, I had to break out of my “red wine only” rule and give these babies a try. While they were certainly sweeter than I’d usually opt for, even without added sugar, I was blown away by the taste and aromas. There is no way you could miss that they are made with honey (and cherries). This was certainly the most unique wine I tasted over the entire weekend, and I’m itching to get my hands on some. (Pssst… Meadow Vista Honey Wines, let’s make a “sweet” deal.)

Wine Tips from My First Wine Tasting & Tour. What is a vertical tasting? How is ice wine made? How do you keep from over-doing it?

So there you have it. Some solid lessons learned at my first wine tasting event, and my first wine tour.

Have you been on a wine tour? Where did you go? Did you learn anything about wine or wineries that you found interesting? I’d love for you to share your experiences. Please comment in the comment section below. We can also chat it up on social media. Let’s connect over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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