In “Wineries Italian Style”, I argued that the experience of wine tasting in Italy is so much better than in the U.S. I’ve been to Napa and to many of the wineries throughout New York state. I always thought they were fine, until I tried the Italian wineries.
In Italy, a wine tasting is accompanied by an abundance of food, and conversation, and the person you spend time with — very often the owner — is a professional wine maker with a passion for the trade. If you’re in a hurry, you’d better let them know up front, otherwise they’ll keep you there all day.
That was never my experience in the U.S. Not that my visits were horrible (after all, I was still drinking wine), but I felt I got less than I paid for. Here’s my typical experience — you select the wines you want to try from a list, and the person behind the counter, often an intern or college student, pours you a carefully measured amount in a glass, maybe not made of glass, from a bottle that might have been opened yesterday. You’re told a little about the wines, but you learn not to ask too many questions, because your server will give you look that conveys, “How would I know?”.
You continue this process until all the wines you selected have been tasted, and then you move on. The whole process may take 15 minutes, and that’s if you stretch it out. As I said, it’s ok, but certainly not memorable. Compared to Italy, it’s like fine dining vs. fast food.