It is the five year anniversary of the Vacation Mavens podcast! To celebrate, we are talking about one of our favorite topics — wine (and travel)! This week we are joined by Mary Jo Mazanares, from Traveling with MJ, to talk about how to go wine tasting and some of our favorite wine regions.
About Mary Jo Mazanares
Mary Jo is an avid traveler with over 16 years of digital publishing experience. She publishes at Traveling with MJ with a focus on value luxury travel, luxury for real people, not celebrities, and is currently working on Secret Seattle, to be published by Reedy Press in 2021. She and her husband Tony own Leeward Media, LLC, and publish six travel and lifestyle sites. You can follow Mary Jo at @travelingwithmj on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Wine Tasting and Wine Travel Tips
- If you are new to wine tasting, it helps to start with smaller wineries where you will get more personalized service because they aren’t as busy rushing around and serving other customers.
- Don’t be afraid to tell the pourer that you are a newbie and let them help you choose which wines to try. They will often ask some questions about what you like and then get feedback on what you taste to go on from there.
- When doing virtual wine tastings, you also want to keep it to a small group where you can have a more intimate conversation. See more about MJ’s virtual wine tastings with Washington wines or get ideas for other virtual wine tastings.
- When going wine tasting for a day, make sure you either hire a driver or set a designated driver.
- If you are going to be just sipping and tasting, not drinking the full pour, you can probably get to three to four wineries a day. However, if you really want to leave yourself time to take a tour or really engage with the staff, two to three might be a better number.
- If you are tasting with someone else, you may be able to share a pour.
- Don’t be afraid to use the dump bucket for wines you don’t enjoy or if you just don’t want to drink too much.
- If you drink a full tasting pour each time, by the end the wines might blend together and you may have a harder time differentiating between them and identifying what you enjoy.
- In some regions like Walla Walla, the downtown have a number of tasting rooms within walking distance to each other, making it easier to visit a few without needing a designated driver. You can also find this in Napa, Carmel, Sonoma, and Santa Rosa.
- Be sure to plan who and when you are going to eat during your wine tasting day. Either make a lunch reservation or plan a wine and food pairing tasting. Many wineries will also sell charcuterie boards that you can enjoy with your tasting or after.
- Three big things to consider when doing a tasting are how does the wine look? How does it smell? And how does it taste?
- For looks — swirl the wine, hold it up to the light, see how it clings to the side of the glass, is it dark/light/opaque?
- For smell, put your nose in the glass and breathe in. Can you pick up any particular aromas? Does it change over time or after you swirl?
- For taste – take a small sip and see how it feels on your tongue and your palate. Give some time to see what flavors might linger or where it hits you in your mouth. Taste again after a few minutes to see if it has changed at all.
- To learn a bit more, you can purchase a wine wheel (this is an affiliate link. If you click and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission.)
- Just remember that wine tasting and wine preference is a personal thing and there is no “best wine” just the best wine for you.
- Favorite wine regions:
- In Europe, MJ is a fan of Tuscany and sangiovese-based wines
- In Northern California, MJ loves downtown Napa
- Her home state of Washington is MJ’s favorite, especially Walla Walla
- If you are planning a trip to Tuscany, Tamara had a terrific wine tour with Tuscan Organic Tours.
- It is nice to know what varietals wine regions are known for and plan a trip based on wines that you enjoy. It will also help to have that knowledge before you do tastings.
- Oregon is well-known for Pinot Noir.
- Wineries in the south tend to specialize in sweeter wines or whites.
- The Finger Lakes region in New York is known for Dry Reislings.
- The South of France, including Languedoc and Provence, are known for rosé, among others.
- Don’t be afraid to try something new when you are traveling, especially if that is the dominant varietal in the region. It can be very different at the source from what you may have had at home.
- When you are traveling, you can’t always ship home. Some wineries are limited to certain states where they can ship and some countries, like France, charge so much that it just isn’t worthwhile. So you may want to leave some space in your luggage to wrap up a couple of bottles and bring them home that way.
- Keep in mind that your tastes will change over time. It is a journey and the object is to enjoy it along the way. Just be willing to experiment.
- Wine tastings can range from free to $30 per tasting, depending on the region and the winery.
- Typically if you buy a bottle or a certain dollar amount, your wine tasting fee will be credited.
- If you ask questions, show interest, and build a relationship with the pourer, they are likely to share some wines that aren’t typically on the tasting menu because they see true interest.
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Full Episode Transcript
[00:00:00.120] – Kim Tate
Cheers to five years. Today, we’re talking about wine.
[00:00:16.100] – Announcer
Welcome to Vacation Mavens, a family travel podcast with ideas for your next vacation and tips to get you out the door. Here are your hosts, Kim from Stuffed Suitcase and Tamara from We 3Travel
[00:00:31.100] – Kim Tate
Tamara. Happy Anniversary podcast partner. Woohoo! Five years we’ve been doing this together. We’re so lucky.
[00:00:39.530] – Tamara Gruber
We’re so lucky that we found each other and that we’ve, you know, managed to pull this off for five years. And we’ve developed such a special friendship through it. And I’m so glad I’m very thankful for you. I’m thankful for our podcast listeners. It’s just been a great experience.
[00:00:54.050] – Kim Tate
I agree. I think it’s funny because our podcast, if any of you, our fellow podcasters, you’ll know it’s you know, we’ll be very upfront, there’s not a lot of money in podcasting. But Tamara and I always say there’s just something about getting to chat with your best friend weekly and have people listen to you and get to know you. And, you know, when you guys email us or message us on Facebook or on Instagram, it means so much to us.
[00:01:17.810] – Kim Tate
It makes us happy. We’ll take screenshot and share it with people. And it’s really good. So it’s nice that we’ve created kind of a little community here and it means a lot to us.
[00:01:26.780] – Tamara Gruber
And can you just imagine this last year? I know we’re doing fewer episodes a month. But if I didn’t have you to reach out and talk to, it would have been even worse this past year.
[00:01:37.400] – Kim Tate
Agreed. It’s great. I mean, technology is so awesome that even though we’ve been separated by a country, we’re still going strong.
[00:01:45.020] – Kim Tate
We just need to get back to our trips because we’ve had some pretty epic trips. And I know today we are going to be talking all about winetasting, kind of some tips and then also a few destinations. But, you know, I thought it’d be good time before we get talking to Mary Jo all about some of our, you know, memorable trips together, maybe to celebrate our five years. I’m sure a lot of our longtime listeners will have heard of most of these, but might be kind of fun. Do you have any trips that stand out to you?
[00:02:13.310] – Tamara Gruber
Well, you know, the nice thing is that all of them have involved some wine. But, you know, I love when we go wine tasting together because while we may have very different opinions or tastes, I should say in some things like you love coffee and I hate the smell of it, you know, you’re an early riser and I’m a late riser. But like we we seem to hit the similar notes when it comes to wine.
[00:02:35.510] – Tamara Gruber
I’m so glad that we’re both like, no, no, we want the dry. We don’t want the sweet. No, we don’t want to oaky Chardonnay. Like, there have been things like that.
[00:02:43.430] – Tamara Gruber
And I’ve always been very impressed by your wine knowledge when we do go to tastings and it always makes for like a nice conversation with whoever’s pouring or if we get to talk to the winemaker. And so you’re very good travel partner when it comes to visiting wineries.
[00:02:58.520] – Kim Tate
Oh, that’s so nice. I have actually the same feeling about my experience with you because I feel like we’re kind of on the same level of awareness and we both enjoy the same things. And so I agree. I think that’s funny. I just had this funny trip memory pop up and this will show people like how much we love wine and being like with each other. We took a trip to Clearwater, Florida for a conference and Tamara got in earlier than me and I was letting her know that I was like in the Uber almost at the airport or I mean, almost at the hotel. And she ran out to some like I don’t even remember where you went.
[00:03:32.750] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, a grocery store.
[00:03:34.400] – Kim Tate
Yeah. It was like she’s like, I’m getting a bottle of wine. We need to chat. And so literally, I came in from, you know, the airplane and everything, and we popped open a wine and poured ourselves a glass and sat down. And it was an awesome start to just kind of a, you know, a work trip with your best friend is pretty awesome.
[00:03:51.050] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, we’ve tasted wine in Texas. Remember Texas.
[00:03:57.830] – Kim Tate
Grapevine. Right. That’s I mean, literally called Grapevine for a reason.
[00:04:02.300] – Tamara Gruber
It was funny because I remember being I don’t know if we were together at this part of the trip, but I was at one place where we’re doing a tasting and everyone got super excited about, like the chocolate tasting red wine, I’m like, oh, yeah, no, that’s OK.
[00:04:18.380] – Kim Tate
It is funny about the South because that was that experience that we had in New Mexico with El Paso as well. Was it was what was it like? Chili flavored that was really bad.
[00:04:29.330] – Tamara Gruber
And that was the one where I’m like, OK, I could have a glass of this or like a half a glass. But I’m not like going to have more than one. I was actually just talking to some friends recently and I had said, like, clearly I will admit that I’m not usually a person to have one glass.
[00:04:47.470] – Tamara Gruber
And so therefore if I’m going to have more than one glass, it’s going to have to be something that I want more than one glass of, because we have this winery that’s kind of down the road from us. And I made the mistake of going there when I first moved in here, not knowing that it was all like fruit wine and we were the only ones in there tasting. So I felt really bad to just like walk out that.
[00:05:06.950] – Kim Tate
Yikes. Yeah. I’m not into the flavored wines. Like the grapes have enough.Well I guess they flavor, I mean there are flavored wines, people add stuff
[00:05:15.920] – Tamara Gruber
But I do like that New Mexico one though because it was the we had a chance to talk to the wine maker, the wine he was from Chile. And so he kind of said like, look, this is not like I also make these like big Chilean reds. But I also I do this to satisfy, like, you know, a slice of our audience, like he knows where he is and what people are looking for. But then he also kind of did some of the wines that he loved, too.
[00:05:41.540] – Kim Tate
Yeah, well, and I was also remembering when we were in Santa Rosa and we got to do I love the wine tastings that go along with like food or snacks with it. And I think that’s really fun. And I know Paul and I did one of those in Northern California, I guess it was more close to central California as we were leaving the redwoods once. And it’s kind of fun to see how much it can really change the flavor of stuff. So, yeah, it was a fun experience with you.
[00:06:05.300] – Tamara Gruber
Glenn I did one of those in Mondavi once and it was, you know, completely different, you know, when he’s like, OK, you know, have a bite of this now taste it again. We’re like, whoa, totally different. Although I did learn when we went to where was it, Kendall Jackson together the year. You’re not quite as into cheese as I am.
[00:06:23.390] – Kim Tate
Yeah, no, I’m not a cheese person and I shouldn’t be really a dessert person either.
[00:06:27.580] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah and I have lactose issues, but I still love them.
[00:06:31.310] – Kim Tate
But yeah, I don’t.
[00:06:32.770] – Tamara Gruber
What is wrong with, you know, cheese and dessert, this is why you stay healthy.
[00:06:36.860] – Kim Tate
Yeah. I don’t know, I yeah. I’d much rather eat a bunch of vegetables or nuts
[00:06:41.630] – Tamara Gruber
But yeah I’m like bring me the fried stuff in the cheese.
[00:06:45.320] – Kim Tate
There’s some fried stuff I like but yeah. So I think you know, some of those memories are so awesome. I’m excited that we’ve had five years of experiences together
[00:06:54.920] – Tamara Gruber
So we’ll have to talk to Mary Jo and get some ideas and where we’re winetasting next. Maybe it’s up by you.
[00:07:01.700] – Kim Tate
I definitely think. Yeah, we definitely need to. Washington wine tasting. I also would love to do the Willamette Valley in Oregon. I’ve never really spent time there and I think we’re due for a trip there. But I know somewhere I’m definitely due for a trip with you. And that is Italy, because you know a lot about Italian wine and I know very little. So and I also would love to go get a champagne tasting and learn more about champagne. So I have some international wine tasting trips I need to do with you.
[00:07:29.330] – Tamara Gruber
Well, let’s talk to Mary Jo all about wine tasting and hopefully we can inspire some of our listeners to plan their next trip.
[00:07:36.350] – Tamara Gruber
[00:07:45.930] – Tamara Gruber
So this week, we’re here with Mary Jo Manzanares, and she is an avid traveler with over 16 years of digital publishing experience. You can see her traveling with M.J. where she focuses on value luxury travel, which is luxury for real people, not celebrities, and is currently working on Secret Seattle, which is going to be published by Readers Press in 2021. Congratulations on that. And she actually publishes six different travel and lifestyle sites. So welcome, Mary Jo.
[00:08:13.380] – Mary Jo Mazanares
Welcome. I’m so glad to be here.
[00:08:16.050] – Tamara Gruber
Well, we are always happy to talk about wine because we probably have been enjoying a little too much of it in the last year. But it’s nice when you cannot just, you know, knock it down in, you know, but you’re actually doing it with a purpose. And that’s one of the things I always love about wine tasting when we are traveling. And even some of the virtual things that are available now is to to really sit back and enjoy the experience.
[00:08:40.830] – Tamara Gruber
And I know that you’ve actually hosted a few virtual wine tastings over the last year. And so we thought it’d be nice to talk to you.
[00:08:49.010] – Mary Jo Mazanares
Well, it’s always nice to talk wine with friends.
[00:08:51.680] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, I wish we were drinking it right now, but it’s a little bit early, is a little early for you. But before we get into it all, I have to ask, do you have a favorite varietal?
[00:09:01.850] – Mary Jo Mazanares
Well, OK, so this is like asking a parent to choose their favorite child and every winemaker will tell you their favorite is the one that’s currently in their glass. So with those caveats in mind, you know, I’m a fan of the big reds, so I lean toward the the cabs and the merlots that are big and juicy. And when you take that first sip, they just explode in your mouth.
[00:09:27.320] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, I like those too. Sometimes I’m just like, really in the mood for, like, I’m all back or something, actually.
[00:09:32.000] – Mary Jo Mazanares
With a good steak.
[00:09:33.110] – Tamara Gruber
Yes, of course.
[00:09:35.420] – Kim Tate
Sounds amazing. So we thought we would kind of talk to you and just, you know, winetasting is such a huge part for Tamara and I when we travel. We love it. And neither of us have amazing you know, we don’t have credentials, we’re not experts, but we’ve come to realize that you can enjoy wine even if you aren’t an expert. So what do you think for people who are kind of considering wine tasting or wine region or visiting wineries near them?
[00:10:01.300] – Kim Tate
What tips do you have when they choose, like what wineries to go into or try a tasting at?
[00:10:07.750] – Mary Jo Mazanares
I think it’s really easy to start with smaller wineries. It just feels a little bit less intimidating. And you really have that direct connection with whoever happens to be running the tasting room. Sometimes it’s the winemaker or a family member of the winemaker.
[00:10:25.120] – Mary Jo Mazanares
And just there’s nothing wrong with saying I’m a newbie at this. I don’t know what I like. I don’t know what I don’t like. And they are generally thrilled to help you with that path of discovery.
[00:10:37.810] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, I have found that sometimes people gravitate towards like the name brands. And whenever you go into those, it’s like a factory in there. You know, it’s very busy. The pourers don’t have time to really spend with you. It’s kind of really here’s our five. You know, here’s my little recitation of what the description is. But when you go into those smaller ones, I end up like spending a lot of time and usually a lot of money, but it’s so fun.
[00:11:06.040] – Tamara Gruber
And those are the ones where, you know, if you really enjoy something, they’re always like, you know, if you like that, let me show you this, too. And it gets you know, it just turns into a whole experience.
[00:11:15.760] – Mary Jo Mazanares
And it’s it’s not it’s a journey, not a destination. And sometimes that means finding that you don’t like a whole bunch of stuff, a whole bunch of flavors that just don’t suit you. And then you find the one that you just love.
[00:11:31.630] – Mary Jo Mazanares
And the one thing I found visiting small wineries is when you meet the winemaker or the family and there’s the winery, dog or cat, there’s something about falling in love with the experience that I think has a direct influence on how you feel about the wine.
[00:11:47.590] – Kim Tate
Oh, 100 percent absolutely agree.
[00:11:50.140] – Kim Tate
I think you gave a great tip about look for those smaller wineries, because I you know, it’s the same thing I’ve had some of the best experiences have been when either I’m almost all alone in there or, you know, there’s one person pouring for when people come in and it’s just it feels more focused on you versus the larger ones that are going to attract a lot of people. You know, like you said Tamara, it’s almost like you’re on an assembly line and you got them running and they’re like, OK, which one are you at?
[00:12:17.920] – Kim Tate
And they don’t even remember where your tasting is at and they’re just pouring you another one. And so I think I think that’s a good tip because like you said, you can kind of end up in this relationship and really discover things you wouldn’t have considered before. And I think when people are starting out with wine tasting, that’s one of the, you know, most, I guess, joyous parts of it is when you discover a varietal or you discover something and you can actually put words to it and go, oh, yeah, OK, that’s what I like. That’s what I don’t like. And I think that’s cool.
[00:12:47.710] – Mary Jo Mazanares
And I think when you visit a smaller winery, or especially one that’s not really busy, it’s it is about a relationship, as you said, and you have that time to actually enjoy and learn and taste. And that’s just all part of the experience. Yeah.
[00:13:04.930] – Tamara Gruber
And, you know, I’m just kind of thinking and transitioning of the to the virtual world that some of us are in now. And I think it goes hand in hand, like I joined the virtual wine tasting. I think it was like through wine enthusiast. And, you know, of course, there’s thousands of people. You’re just listening in. You’re not actually interacting. And it was more about like, let’s use this celebrity name to try to get a lot of attention. And sell a lot of wine. And it wasn’t as much about what are we really tasting. You know, it was more about like, let’s just impress you with this, like, name and back story. So I think it must go hand in hand, like when you’re doing the virtual tastings where you can get a little bit more of an intimate experience.
[00:13:48.490] – Mary Jo Mazanares
Well, and I’ve kept my virtual tasting small. I don’t want more than ten people because that does simulate if you were actually at the winery and you have direct interaction with the winemaker to ask questions and get information. So I’ve really enjoyed keeping it far more intimate than that because that’s the experience I prefer. Now, that’s not for everyone. I get it. But I really do prefer small, intimate group when I’m enjoying my wine.
[00:14:16.150] – Kim Tate
Yeah, I think the virtual wine tastings have become, you know, kind of a really neat thing that has evolved because of, ah, you know, what am I trying to say because of the pandemic, because it wasn’t as popular then. But some of these wineries have done amazing things where, you know, you can order the wine, you know. Three bottles, six bottles or whatever, and they’ll ship it to you and you, you know, sit down one night and you can taste it with the winemaker.
[00:14:42.840] – Kim Tate
And again, like you said, Tamara, the smaller wineries, sometimes you’re almost one on one with the winemaker, and it’s really fun. So I highly recommend people who are interested to look into that. And it’s a great way to support an economy, you know, that’s definitely struggling, especially Mary Jo. You and I know on the West Coast, our wineries are really, you know, they need our help as much as possible. So I think it’s a great way for people to buy and help them out. I mean, I think people need to realize that there are a lot of great virtual opportunities.
[00:15:13.470] – Kim Tate
But let’s start and consider that in the future we are all able to travel again and we are going to be going on a wine tasting trip.
[00:15:21.810] – Kim Tate
Why don’t you start with some tips like how many wineries should you plan to visit a day? Because, yeah, you don’t always consider that the big question.
[00:15:31.320] – Mary Jo Mazanares
And first of all, I think any time you talk about alcohol, you have to make really clear that, you know, don’t drink and drive, have a designated driver, all of those kind of things, because that’s just part of the prudence of wine tasting.
[00:15:47.340] – Mary Jo Mazanares
I usually can do three, sometimes four.
[00:15:52.170] – Mary Jo Mazanares
However I taste, I don’t drink. And I think that you need to decide if you’re going to taste, which really means, you know, taking a few sips of a variety of wines or if you’re going to actually enjoy a full pour for my husband and I, you know, if we will, one full pour of a taste is more than enough for both of us to decide if we like it or not.
[00:16:16.380] – Mary Jo Mazanares
Plus dump in the bucket so so we can do three, four if they’re if we really have to. But any more than that, it just all blurs together. And we don’t know what we’ve tasted and what we’d like to what we didn’t like.
[00:16:32.230] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, I agree. We’ve sometimes done that where it’s like, you know, OK, this one I think I really want to taste my own if we have different opinions. But other times we will sometimes split a tasting flight and and do it that way, although I will say, you know, a good plug so that you’re both enjoying it and you can do whatever you like is he could hire a driver? Definitely. I mean, we’ve done some wine tours, actually.
[00:16:54.220] – Tamara Gruber
We did a wine tour in France and one in Italy. And it was just amazing. You know, it’s just so nice to have it all taken care of for you because they’re also making the appointments and setting everything up in advance for you.
[00:17:06.120] – Mary Jo Mazanares
Well, you know that you you want to totally indulge and drink a full pour of several at several locations, just find some that are close together and easily walkable from one to another. If you’re in an urban setting, you can like downtown Walla Walla. You can easily walk from tasting room to tasting room. And you don’t need to worry about driving if you’re going someplace farther, farther out than you do need to think about either an Uber or a car and driver for the whole time.
[00:17:34.590] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, I like that idea that some of the towns, you know, we’ll have tasting rooms. So some of the times the wineries will have their own tasting room at the vineyard. But like in town, they’ll have a little tasting room. And I know, like in Carmel we did that we had like a little wine passport and we just kind of walked around town. And that was it was great. But sometimes I definitely love that winery experience.
[00:17:54.360] – Mary Jo Mazanares
And downtown Napa, it has the same thing. You can taste a number of the tasting rooms downtown rather than drive out to the wineries, which are so spread apart.
[00:18:04.200] – Kim Tate
Yeah, and I think another thing to consider is food during that time. And, you know, if they offer any charcuterie boards and things on that line, it’s always good to make sure. Do you balance a little bit of food with the drinking?
[00:18:16.140] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. Like you can schedule a lunch or you can do a you know, like you said, sign up for a food and wine pairing kind of tasting or cheese and wine.
[00:18:25.140] – Kim Tate
Like you and I did when we were in Sonoma. I was remembering that when we went they had a big Mary-Jo, they had a big festival. What was that? It was like the Winemaker’s Awards. I can’t remember the name of it now in Santa Rosa. And Tamara and I, it was nice, you know, to Uber from her hotel over.
[00:18:42.300] – Kim Tate
And while we we certainly drank a lot that night and they had an Uber back.
[00:18:49.020] – Tamara Gruber
Not as much as some of those, not as much as some of the people.
[00:18:51.480] – Kim Tate
It was funny. I mean, people watching at that event was quite you know, you walked in and everything seemed normal, but by, you know, two hours in, it was quite the show.
[00:18:59.880] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. Once I saw some some shoving going on, I’m like, yeah, it’s time to go.
[00:19:05.370] – Tamara Gruber
Well, I mean, that’s kind of covers, you know, some things to think about when you’re planning a, you know, planning your day, when you’re planning a wine tasting day. But when you’re actually, you know, sitting down or standing up to taste your wine, do you have any tips or someone like what should they look at? What is your method for tasting wine? You know, what should they be looking for in terms of like taste or appearance or, you know, just without getting too fancy? But I think a little bit of understanding, you know.
[00:19:35.500] – Mary Jo Mazanares
Well, everyone will tell you that there are three things to consider when you’re doing a tasting are, you know, what does it look like? What does it smell like? How does it taste? And that’s way oversimplifying the whole science and art of wine tasting.
[00:19:51.370] – Mary Jo Mazanares
But I try to follow that at a novice to intermediate kind of level.
[00:19:56.920] – Mary Jo Mazanares
I mean, I look at what it looks in the glass. I swirl it. I put my nose deep into the glass and see what it smells like. What does that what does that do to my senses?
[00:20:06.850] – Mary Jo Mazanares
And then I sip and I have never been able to master that art of somehow breathing in and sipping and making that noise as you’re tasting. I mean, I can’t do that.
[00:20:20.500] – Mary Jo Mazanares
I give that up to the experts and the Soms who really know what they’re doing. I just take a sip and see what that first sip feels like in my mouth and what my reaction to it is. And then I take my second sip to really see how it it lingers on the palate.
[00:20:36.760] – Tamara Gruber
You know, it’s funny, my husband does that little gargle kind of thing. I’m like, I can gargle mouthwash without choking. So that’s not going to happen.
[00:20:45.400] – Tamara Gruber
But I really like to do that, you know, nice, good sniff and like, see what I’m picking up then and then see like when you taste it, are you catching those same things, you know, are you tasting something different? And then it’s really, truly amazing how much wine changes, you know, when it’s had time to breathe or if you just had something else on your palate. Sometimes I love doing those tastings where it’s like, OK, take a taste now, take a bite of this and taste it again. You’re like, oh my gosh, it’s a completely different thing. You know, it makes you realize, like, the differences there.
[00:21:18.900] – Mary Jo Mazanares
And we found that when we started doing some tastings and wanting to learn a little bit more about it, we purchased a wine wheel and I think we just got it from Amazon or something. And to help us identify what we were tasting. And the other thing we learned was there are some flavors I will never be able to recognize because I don’t know what they are.
[00:21:42.300] – Mary Jo Mazanares
And some people just can’t taste certain things and some people can.
[00:21:46.770] – Mary Jo Mazanares
I always pick up the leathery, earthy mushrooms, the smoky kind of flavors and wine, and my husband rarely notices those.
[00:21:57.420] – Mary Jo Mazanares
He picks up the dark cherries and the stone fruit. And those are just really sort of, you know, I don’t even notice. So it’s like, yeah, yeah, there they are. So very much it’s a personal thing, which is why there’s not really a best wine. It’s just the best wine for you.
[00:22:14.400] – Kim Tate
Yeah, I think that’s a good thing to consider. And I mean, I think people will learn that as they taste. And the more you do it, you’ll soon start to see like, oh, you know, that’s a that’s a lighter in appearance. You know, maybe that’s a pinot noir, you know, and OK, this is the color I’d expect from it versus OK, now they’re pouring me a, you know, Malbec. And it’s going to look very different. And and I think, like you said, it’s fun, I mean, I love when I smell wine and then I taste it. I love those moments when it’s not what I expect because I’ll pick up, you know, a lot of that. Earthy, leathery, very. Yeah. Earthy tone in the smelling. And then I’ll taste it. And it’s so jammy on my tongue and I’m like, whoa, that was not what I was expecting at all, you know? So it’s kind of funny how you can have those experiences.
[00:22:59.250] – Tamara Gruber
I always love, like the blind taste test, too, you know, when they do like the black glass or something. And and you need to to guess and I know some people are doing that with virtual wine tastings, too, but it adds like that fun element to it and almost like little competition element. You know who got it right? My husband, he’s he loves wine.
[00:23:16.110] – Tamara Gruber
And he I think one of the first times he went to Napa, he was like, this is what I would like to do when I retire is like go work in one of these places. So he actually he has gotten is like level one WSET, but then he never had time to go pursue number two. And I was it sounds terrible, but he now that we’ve been home so much, I’m like, oh, if only you could have done it online. Like now you have all this time to do it because before he’s always traveling and never able to, you know, go to the actual class.
[00:23:47.430] – Tamara Gruber
But he it’s funny, he doesn’t have the same palate that I do, not just in differences of taste, but he has a lot of trouble picking up on some of it. And I always pick on him. I tell him it’s because he drinks so much coffee. It’s like deaden his taste buds. But who knows? Like, people are like you said, they’re just very different.
[00:24:03.660] – Mary Jo Mazanares
Well, you can do a couple of levels of the WSET at home because I was looking into it thinking, well, you know, I’ve always wanted to do it, but with travel, I’ve never been able to make the commitment maybe I should do it for from home so it can be done.
[00:24:20.160] – Tamara Gruber
I’m going to have them look into it because, you know, it’s it’s been his dream. He’s wanted to do it. And so we’ll see. Maybe now would be a time to to get that next level.
[00:24:28.770] – Kim Tate
I have a friend who retired and she’s a pourer in a local little winery here in Washington State. So she loves it. It’s fun because she gets to say social and she works very part time hours and just enjoys it.
[00:24:41.880] – Mary Jo Mazanares
So, yeah, well, and it’s not uncommon with family owned wineries that you’ll have multiple generations working at the the winery, whether it’s doing the book, serve the tasting room or or some of the consumer facing activities. So it’s a multigenerational.
[00:25:01.470] – Kim Tate
Yeah, I think that’s fun when you you sit down on some of those, like you said, the smaller wineries, and you find out like, oh, you’re the winemaker. Oh, OK.
[00:25:09.390] – Kim Tate
Is it totally different than when it’s just you’re just a hired hand who’s pouring and, you know, isn’t as emotionally connected to the wines as a winemaker is.
[00:25:20.610] – Kim Tate
Well, we’ve talked about kind of some tips for what people should look for and taste and what you know, let’s imagine that we’re all ready to book a wine trip and we’re all safe to travel again. Do you have some favorite wine regions that you just love traveling to?
[00:25:37.430] – Mary Jo Mazanares
Oh, now you’re just going to be breaking my heart.
[00:25:40.800] – Kim Tate
No, I mean, we’ve got to come in again. We’ll just, you know, pretend we’re going to be imagining where we’re booking our next trip.
[00:25:48.990] – Mary Jo Mazanares
Oh, well, I think I’ll give three of my favorites. So I’m not offending too many people in Europe. I’m really a fan of Tuscany dominantly because I like the big super Tuscans Brunello Sangiovese is.
[00:26:05.160] – Mary Jo Mazanares
And that’s just, you know, where to go to the source. And I just I just loved wine tasting there. And we always wind up shipping wine home. So, you know, a. It’s also a very expensive trip, so in Europe, that would be one of my recommendations outside of Washington because my home state is obviously my favorite. I really like downtown Napa. And the reason is that you can stay close in, you can walk everywhere.
[00:26:34.960] – Mary Jo Mazanares
You don’t need a car. It’s easy to get to from a variety of airports, San Francisco, Oakland or Sacramento, the latter. I think it’s the easiest to fly in. And you can really get a lot done both tasting and having fun without having to have a car and worry about driving.
[00:26:53.550] – Mary Jo Mazanares
And there’s some great wines there and locally. Oh, it’s hard to choose a favorite, but my favorite locally here in Washington would probably be Walla Walla.
[00:27:03.570] – Mary Jo Mazanares
The given that they have several different districts, you can really focus on a district without having to do too much driving and really get some great flavors plus there downtown. So if you stay close in to downtown, you don’t have to drive everywhere. So those would be my three recommendations.
[00:27:24.930] – Tamara Gruber
Well, I’m going to give a little plug and a shout out to someone that we had a great time with when we were in Tuscany a couple of years ago, and that’s Tuscan organic tours. So they focus on like small, organic, biodynamic type of wineries.
[00:27:37.290] – Tamara Gruber
And we worked with their owner, Giacomo, and it was like one of the best days of our lives. It was so, so wonderful. Like all the little like family run kind of wineries that we visited had an amazing lunch in a tiny village, you know, learned so much about kind of the local agritourism. And, yeah, it was fantastic. So if anyone is going to go to Tuscany, definitely check them out.
[00:28:00.390] – Kim Tate
I think one of the things, Mary Jo, that you mentioned that I think is good for people to realize, especially I mean, people who are not novices will know this, but for people who are kind of not as into it, but want to get into wine tasting, it’s good to know that a lot of times regions definitely have certain varietals or certain wines that they’re known for.
[00:28:19.470] – Kim Tate
And so if you know that you really like, you know, bold reds, then a Tuscany trip might make sense.
[00:28:25.530] – Kim Tate
And of course, Tuscany, I mean, they’ve got everything. But, you know, you might want to choose based on wines you really like, whereas, you know, Tamara and I, it’s kind of funny to even mention this, but we were in El Paso and they drove us over the border. And do you even remember where that was to in New Mexico? Yeah, but I mean, I don’t remember the winery. But anyways, they drove us over the border to New Mexico to do a wine tasting.
[00:28:49.380] – Kim Tate
And it was very you know, Tamara and I are not into sweet wines. And they were a lot of sweet whites. And part of the reason they said, you know, they’re down south and people are really, you know, they’re craving a kind of cold and quenching drink as opposed to, you know, if you live in the north, a big, big red isn’t that big of a deal because you’re not going to be in sweltering hot weather.
[00:29:10.770] – Kim Tate
So I think, you know, that’s something to keep in mind when you’re planning a trip or thinking of doing a trip that’s going to do some wine tasting is figure out maybe what that region is known for. I mean, there are areas, of course, all over California and Washington state, even we’ve become quite, you know, known what used to say Oregon would be the home of Pinot Noir. But, you know, some regions definitely have a few varieties, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind.
[00:29:36.840] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, definitely. I mean, we you know, I’m thinking here on the Northeast, you know, in New York state, the Finger Lakes very well known for their dry Rieslings, like their German style dry Rieslings. And just thinking about when we were in the south of France, like the Languedoc in the Provence, very well known for their roses, you know. So definitely that’s something good to keep in mind.
[00:29:59.460] – Tamara Gruber
And I find, like a lot of the newer regions that are still developing, you know, their vines are not as old. So, you know, the flavors are probably going to still continue to develop. But a lot of those regions tend to kind of have a sweet and a dry like tasting menu.
[00:30:16.860] – Tamara Gruber
Even I think they know that their audience is, you know, may be new to it as well. And so they’re like, well, what do you like? And they kind of direct you one path or another.
[00:30:26.430] – Mary Jo Mazanares
The other thing that we found is that certain choices that we might avoid at home that we try on when we’re traveling are totally different now and we’re predominantly red wine drinkers. But at home, we would never go buy a bottle of Chablis. It is just not anything that would ever occur to us.
[00:30:47.610] – Mary Jo Mazanares
We were on a barge cruise in France and actually went to Chablis and visited the Chalbis’ there. Totally different experience. Not at all. But we would find here at home, at the store. So, yeah, you have to be willing to to do a little bit of experimenting when you travel and and realize that things aren’t necessarily the same when you’re at the source. As when you’re you’re in your home region.
[00:31:15.600] – Kim Tate
That’s such a good point. I was just going to quickly say, like Chardonnay, California chardonnays, I would normally run screaming from the brand before they put a California Chardonnay in front of me. But, you know, it’s kind of fun because as they’ve evolved, you know, the tasting rooms have learned because some winemakers are like, OK, we want to reclaim Chardonnay for California. And they’ll be like, no, you have to taste this. It’s not your traditional California Chardonnay.
[00:31:37.470] – Kim Tate
And sure enough, they’ve you know, it’s not as oaky and buttery. They put it in a steel barrel and stuff. So it’s just kind of fun to, like you said, to be able to do a tasting because it can you wouldn’t want to spend, you know, thirty bucks on a bottle when you’re trying something out. But yet, if you’re at a tasting, you you know, it’s a minor fee to just try something.
[00:31:58.350] – Tamara Gruber
That’s one of the things I love and miss about travel, too, is that, like you said, Mary Jo, like you’re in a particular region, they’re known for something. And maybe it’s something that you didn’t think you like or maybe something you never heard of before and you would have never ordered because you had no idea what it was.
[00:32:14.550] – Tamara Gruber
But when we were in France, I fell in love with the Picpoul de Pinet. It’s like a white wine that has like a lot of minerality in it, you know, because it comes from the coast and I just. Now, I’m, like, obsessed with it in the summer. I’m like, let’s get oysters and Picpoul, you know, like it makes me so happy when I can find it at home. But it just brings back those travel memories to, you know,
[00:32:35.510] – Mary Jo Mazanares
You have to go back and send some home.
[00:32:38.510] – Tamara Gruber
You know, I will say when we talk about shipping home, when we were in Tuscany, it was very easy to ship home a lot of times if you bought enough, they included the shipping. They took care of the shipping. It was all good. It was not outlandish.
[00:32:51.440] – Tamara Gruber
When we were in France, the wine was so cheap, but you could not ship it home like nobody shipped. And if you tried to find, like, one that shipped, it was going to definitely cost as much as the wine. And so it really made it not worth it.
[00:33:04.130] – Tamara Gruber
It was so disappointing because we found so many that we fell in love with. So now, you know, we just made sure we brought back a list to our local wine shop and, you know, try to get them to get what they can. A lot of these smaller wineries just don’t distribute that much, you know. So it’s enjoy it while you’re there.
[00:33:19.880] – Mary Jo Mazanares
I guess, to you know, when we find a small winery that we always figure we’ll put a bottle in our our checked luggage coming home and we’ve never had a problem with breakage. Yeah. And then if there’s someplace that’ll ship, we try to take advantage of that. But you’re right, some of the small places, they’re just mom and pop operation, then you just have to grab it and be willing to carry it home.
[00:33:43.380] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, exactly. Or carry it and drink it the next day.
[00:33:50.210] – Kim Tate
So do you have any final wine tasting tips that you could share with our listeners if they’re considering, you know, getting into wine tasting and checking this whole, like, passion of ours?
[00:34:01.790] – Mary Jo Mazanares
Well, yeah. I mean, it’s it’s a journey. And what I like 10 or 15 years ago is not what I like now. And that’s because I’ve explored and learn new things and leave your preconceptions at the door. Don’t bring them to the bottle and be willing to try something, even if you think you won’t like it, because you know you might be right. It might be. Oh yeah, no, don’t like this one.
[00:34:27.620] – Mary Jo Mazanares
Or you might be pleasantly surprised, but generally speaking, you will still learn something sometimes the path to finding your favorite wine or your favorite wine for the week or the month, it’s just learning what you don’t like.
[00:34:41.600] – Mary Jo Mazanares
So my biggest thing is just be willing to try to experiment and, you know, don’t be a jerk. Don’t try to impress people with everything that you know or think you know about wine. Just it’s community. It’s family. Just go and have a good time.
[00:34:56.240] – Kim Tate
That’s a really great advice. Yeah, I was going to also mention for people who are novices with this, maybe we could also talk about really quickly pricing so people understand, like, you know, you buy a wine tasting, but normally that’s credited if you buy a bottle.
[00:35:11.750] – Kim Tate
So what do you see as the average tastings that you’re used to?
[00:35:15.350] – Mary Jo Mazanares
I mean, well, right now it’s just all over the board. And I think that it changes based on the region in California. When I started wine tasting there, it was always free. And there may be a fee if you were getting a premier, you know, wine or something from, you know, the seller that was more spending. Now, pretty much every place is is fee based around Washington. You know, it’s really hit or miss.
[00:35:46.550] – Mary Jo Mazanares
Some places are fee based. Some are not. Sometimes it’s rebated against the wine if you buy it. Sometimes it’s if you buy three bottles, they’ll rebate it. It really is all over the board.
[00:35:57.380] – Mary Jo Mazanares
And during covid, I think the the differences in what people are doing is even greater. So just just check the wine winery or the wine tasting rooms website and hopefully they’ll have have updated it.
[00:36:12.380] – Mary Jo Mazanares
But if I’m going to spend, you know, more than a nominal amount, it it has to be one superb tasting. I know there were a few tasting rooms in California that were charging twenty five dollars for a flight of three wines and yeah, that’s that’s it.
[00:36:30.110] – Tamara Gruber
It better be tasting real premium wines and that better be the reserves.
[00:36:34.770] – Mary Jo Mazanares
Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
[00:36:37.100] – Mary Jo Mazanares
Or they’re their club wines or something. Limited edition. Absolutely agree.
[00:36:41.970] – Kim Tate
I would say I mean, most often I see five five dollar tastings is kind of pretty common, especially in Washington. But like you said, sometimes they’re not even going to charge it and especially the smaller ones are just so happy to talk to you. And then you almost always end up finding something you like and walking out of there with a bottle. So it works well.
[00:36:59.940] – Mary Jo Mazanares
But I’ve what I’ve found is, is that sometimes when you’re talking with them and they really know that you’re interested and you want to make some purchases and you want to learn more, you know, they break out some stuff that maybe wasn’t on the tasting list or they add something in because you’re not there just to get that cheap drunk on.
[00:37:18.420] – Mary Jo Mazanares
You’re actually there to learn about them and and to discover something.
[00:37:22.590] – Tamara Gruber
[00:37:23.400] – Kim Tate
I think that’s a good tip. I think the good that, you know, pulling that out a little more is make a relationship with the person doing the tasting with you, you know, actually be interested, actually try and learn. And like you said, I think, you know, you might be surprised by some stuff that you might get a sneak peek at.
[00:37:39.750] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. Ask them questions. You know, talk about how you you know, what you’re thinking of the different ones. Like, definitely it’s I’ve seen that happen many, many times because they just get excited and they’re like, yeah. And you would like this one.
[00:37:51.870] – Kim Tate
Yeah. Great. Well, we will wrap up and ask you our question that we ask all of our guests, and that is, what do you wear when you travel? Do you have a favorite brand of clothing or shoes or anything? That’s a go to travel gear item for you?
[00:38:05.490] – Mary Jo Mazanares
Well, I’m a comfort girl, so I want I want comfortable clothes. Nothing too short, too long, too tight. So I, I tend to pretty much stick with, you know, leggings and an oversize top. And I’m not particularly brand loyal in that regard. If I know that I’m going to be doing a lot of walking, you know, my feet are where I probably pay a little bit more attention. I really like Skechers. They give me lots of support. They have a variety of styles from a true trail or walking shoe to something that I can easily wear yet cobblestone streets in in Europe without standing out. So I’m all about the comfort.
[00:38:48.660] – Tamara Gruber
We are right there with you.
[00:38:49.890] – Kim Tate
Yeah, I was going to say Tamara and I are with you.
[00:38:52.290] – Mary Jo Mazanares
Good. Well, can you remind our listeners where they can find you online anywhere in lots of places, but maybe give a few.
[00:38:57.930] – Mary Jo Mazanares
I’ll give you my primary sites. I met traveling with MJ that’s traveling with MJ Dotcom. And you can find me at all the social channels at traveling with MJ as well. Great. Thank you so much. Oh, ladies, it’s so good talking wine, and I just can’t wait till we can get together and do this in person.
[00:39:17.260] – Kim Tate
I agree, especially, you know, now that we’re we’re semi local, so once we can socialize it, be easy for you and I to meet up and Woodinville or something and do some tastings, pick a winery.
[00:39:26.860] – Mary Jo Mazanares
I’ll meet you there. Yeah, sounds good.
[00:39:29.080] – Tamara Gruber
You guys can face time, me in. Sounds good. Well, enjoy. Thank you so much.
[00:39:39.010] – Tamara Gruber
OK, so we are back and I just want to give a shout out to one of our listeners, Heather Hill. She sent in a message. We were talking about places to go this summer that were good for the outdoors. And she had suggested Michigan, which I’ve actually thought about a lot, because there’s so many places there that you wouldn’t really think that you’re in the northern part of the country.
[00:39:57.820] – Tamara Gruber
You know, the water is so beautiful or there’s sand dunes. You know, there’s just so much there. So she had mentioned the national parks and Mackinac Island and Traverse City. So I may not be pronouncing that entirely correctly, but so that was, you know, a suggestion. And she also was looking for some episodes about other kinds of vacation rentals. So we’re going to look into that as well. But I just want to say thank you, Heather, for writing in to us and for giving us the suggestion.
[00:40:25.330] – Kim Tate
Yeah, that’s a great one. I know Michigan’s really popular with, you know, like cabins and lake getaways and stuff. So it sounds like a good episode we should check out.
[00:40:36.100] – Kim Tate
Well, if you guys are joining again in two weeks because we’re still on our biweekly schedule, we are going to be talking all about tips for finding hotel deals. And we’ve got something kind of cool interviewee.
Talk to you then.