Monday, November 3rd, 2014
Let’s Go Wine Tasting in Bellingham
Teresa Schmidt

What do you picture when you think about wine tasting? A bunch of snooty muckety-mucks standing around in their loafers, swirling and spitting all over the place? That might be an accurate description in movies or sitcoms, but in real life? Not so much. Especially when we’re talking about wine tasting in Bellingham and Whatcom County, where you’re more likely to see folks in yoga pants and hiking boots, having fun—and actually swallowing the wine.

On a recent visit with Ted Seifert of Seifert and Jones Wine Merchants, we got to talking about the perceptions people have about wine tasting. “It’s intimidating!” Ted said. I agreed, remembering when I first started tasting wine and feeling like I was “doing it all wrong,” whatever that means.

Wine tasting, Bellingham, Wineries, Wine Shop, Seifert & Jones, Ted Seifert, Diane Jones

Diane Jones and Ted Seifert

Really, there is no “wrong” way to taste wine, although knowing a few insider tips can make it more enjoyable for you (and everyone else). Ted helped me out by answering my questions and offering his considerable expertise.

Let’s Dispel a Few Wine Tasting Worries

  • No one is judging you. You won’t be scrutinized while you taste. Relax and sip at your leisure.
  • You are not expected to make a purchase. I repeat: the merchant, wine rep or winemaker does not expect you to buy, nor should they make you feel obligated to do so. They are happy to have you taste, and perhaps remember their wine when you’re purchasing in the future.
  • It’s okay to ask questions! Wine pros are full of information. They know the attributes of wines from a particular region (appellation), the differences between the types of grapes (varietals), and so much more. Want to know why the 2010 vintage tastes completely different from the 2009? Ask away!
  • You don’t have to spit. Professionals and people who are tasting all day (like on a tour of Whatcom County wineries) often spit because their palates become tired or they don’t want that much alcohol. But in a smaller tasting, most folks taste and swallow.
  • You don’t have to drink it all. If you’ve had enough, or simply don’t care for a wine, pour it in the dump bucket, which you’ll probably see close by. It’s totally acceptable to do so.
  • You’re not alone. No one was born a wine connoisseur. You don’t know need to know the difference between pinot gris and pinot noir to try wine tasting—all are welcome! Simply knowing what you like is a great place to start.
Wine tasting, Bellingham, Wineries, Wine Shop, Seifert & Jones,Ted Seifert, Diane Jones

Wine Tasting at Seifert & Jones

Ted and Teresa’s Tips To Make Wine Tasting Even Better

  1. Go with a friend. It’s fun to have a buddy to compare notes with. But don’t hesitate to show up on your own. Wine tastings are full of people who like to drink and talk about wine—and they will talk to you.
  2. Read the room. If it’s crowded, be patient. Try not to occupy the pouring station. Get your pour and step to the side, so everyone has a chance to listen to the description and ask questions.
  3. To swirl or not to swirl? Definitely swirl! It’s half the fun, because it brings out the wine’s aromatics—and winemakers work hard on that part. So hold the glass by the stem, swirl it around, stick your nose in and take a big whiff. However, don’t be too enthusiastic, especially with red wine, or you’ll spill (says the woman with the stains on her sweater).
  4. Speaking of aromatics, it’s best to avoid wearing fragrances. They really do affect how your nose (and everyone else’s) interprets the wines. They can affect taste, too.
  5. Take notes. Keep a little notebook or use the tasting form. Think about what you smell (floral, fruit, mineral) and taste (berry, spicy), how it feels on your palate (dry, silky, thin) and how it finishes (abrupt or lingering). Some folks actually taste things like tobacco, leather or forest floor, while others just give it a thumbs up or down.
  6. There are no “official wine rules.” You can study and learn about wine for the rest of your life; or you can just enjoy it. You can stick to your favorite Chardonnay or expand your horizons and try some reds. You can even go crazy and try something you would never drink, but as it turns out, goes perfectly with the dish you’re serving tonight. And you don’t have to love it. Make a note and move on.
  7. Go in with an attitude that you’re going to have fun and you will! My advice is to find a wine seller that you click with, whether it’s a local specialty store or the wine steward at your grocer. Ask for recommendations and let them know how much you want to spend. And even if your budget is $10, they should be able to fix you right up.
  8. Of course, if you’re planning on visiting multiple tasting rooms, bring a designated driver. And even if you have one, don’t go crazy! Tasting wine while you’re inebriated isn’t fun for anyone.
Wine tasting, Bellingham, Wineries, Wine Shop, Dynasty Cellars, Barrel Tasting

A super special treat—a barrel tasting of Zinfandel and Syrah with winemaker Peter Osvaldik at Dynasty Cellars!

To me, wine is endlessly fascinating. Each bottle is a story the winemaker shares with us, featuring those particular grapes from this particular vineyard, and how they were affected by that year’s rain, temperatures and soil conditions. No other wine is exactly like the next—and that’s why I love to taste and explore them all. Yes—all of them. It may take a lifetime, but that’s okay by me!

Wine tasting doesn’t have to be intimidating! It’s fun, and around here, it’s completely approachable. Go out, have fun, meet new people and enjoy the fruit of the vine!

Where to Go Wine Tasting in Bellingham and Whatcom County

Call ahead if you have a large group, or to arrange tastings outside of regular hours.

Wine Shops

Seifert and Jones Wine Merchants
9 Prospect St, Bellingham, WA 98225
Tastings: Every Saturday at 2:00 p.m. Free.

Vinostrology Wine Lounge and Merchant
120 W Holly St, Bellingham, WA 98225
Tastings: Occasionally, check the Facebook page for updates.
Next tasting: Spanish wines, Friday, November 7   5:00 – 7:30.
Read my article on Vinostrology here.

Vinostrology, Bellingham, WA, Wine Bar, Downtown Bellingham, Wine Tasting

Taste anytime from the wine spouts at Vinostrology, from 2 ounces to a full glass.

Barkley Haggen
2900 Woburn Street Bellingham, WA 98226
Tastings: Fridays 4:00 – 6:00   Free

114 W Stuart Rd, Bellingham, WA 98226
Tastings: Fridays 4:00 – 7:00, Saturdays 2:00 – 5:00  Free

Wine tasting, Bellingham, Wineries, Wine Shop, Dynasty Cellars

Winery Tasting Rooms

Dakota Creek Winery
3575 Haynie Rd, Blaine, WA 98230
Hours: Thursday – Saturday 1:00 – 5:00   Free

Dakota Creek Winery, Whatcom County Wineries, Wine Tasting in Bellingham WA

Dynasty Cellars
Hours: Thursday – Saturday 1:00 – 6:30, Sunday 1:00 – 5:00
Tastings are $5.00, waived with wine purchase.

GLM Wine Company
1678 Boblett St., Blaine, WA 98230
Hours: Saturday 12:00 – 6:00, Sunday 12:00 – 5:00    Free

Inyo Vineyard and Winery
3337 Agate Heights Road, Bellingham, WA 98226
Hours: Friday and Saturday 12:00 – 5:00, March through November
Winter hours and events: Check the Facebook page
Tastings are $5.00, waived with wine purchase.

Inyo Winery, Bellingham, Charles Terranova, Whatcom County Wine

The tasting room at Inyo Vineyards and Winery

Masquerade Wine Company
2001 Iowa St. Suite F, Bellingham, WA 98229
Hours: Wednesday – Sunday 11:00 – 6:00
Tastings are $5.00, waived with wine purchase.

Whatcom Wine, Masquerade Wine Company

Barrels at Masquerade Wine Company

Mount Baker Vineyards and Winery
4298 Mt Baker Hwy, Everson, WA 98247
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 12:00 – 5:00

Vartanyan Estate Winery
1628 Huntley Rd, Bellingham, WA 98226
Hours: Friday and Sunday 1:00 – 5:00, Saturday 1:00 – 6:00 (closed first two weeks of January)
Tastings are $5.00, waived with wine purchase.

Winemaker Margarita Vartanyan

Winemaker Margarita Vartanyan

Samson Estates Winery
1861 Van Dyk Road, Everson, WA 98247
Hours: Through December 22, 2014, Friday – Sunday 11:00 – 5:00   (Closed after 12/22 and re-opening in February)
Tastings are $5.00, waived with wine purchase. Or try wine + chocolate truffle tastings for $8.00 or $10.00.



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About the Author:

Teresa Schmidt, a copywriter who owns and operates Sprout Creative, comes from a long line of brewers, bootleggers and saloonkeepers. She moved to Bellingham 13 years ago to write, hike, ski and paddle—but it was the beer that really sold her. She also loves wine. And cocktails. And good food. To work it all off, she runs around in the woods at every opportunity.

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