With 800+ wineries in Washington State alone, visiting a winery can be as easy as driving ten minutes from home.

Here are ten tips to help make your travels in wine country pleasant and memorable.

1.Plan your day, weekend or week. Make a short list of “must see” wineries in the area you are visiting. Call ahead to make sure they will be open for guests on the day you want to visit. To avoid surprises, ask questions. What are the tasting fees, hours of operation, and are children or dogs welcome?

2.Consider the timing of your travels to get the most out of your trip. Early in the day, mid-week and off season are perfect times to visit wineries. There are no crowds and you will have the opportunity to have quality time with the tasting room staff.

3.Open yourself to possibilities. Visit smaller spots. Ask friends for recommendations of where they had a good experience. Visiting a smaller winery or one off the beaten path will add adventure to your trip, and you might even meet the winemaker, a family member and spend quality time with people behind the bar.

4.Try wine varietals and blends you’ve never had before. Who knows, you may discover a new favorite.

5.Plan your tour time. Relax and enjoy each winery. Make sure to take time to have lunch and snacks in-between your winery visits. A simple sandwich or cup of soup will keep your palate fresh and your head clear.

6.Consider hiring a driver for the day. There are many good guides in wine country who know the backroads and the interesting wineries. This will also give you the opportunity to take lots of photos as you travel from stop to stop.

7.Should you like the wines you sample, buy a bottle or two to commemorate your travels. Seek out selections that are “winery only” or part of the last few bottles from a previous vintage. Pack an empty wine box or wine carrier with you to protect your treasures. Should you be traveling in the summer months, transport your bottles within air conditioning. Sometimes wineries can ship your selections to your home if you pay for the shipping.

8.You may be asked in the tasting room what wine you like. If you don’t have an answer for that, ask the server what he or she would recommend or what they like.

9.Remember this is a wine tasting. It is not a bar. Expect to have 1-ounce tastings of several selections. If you want more, or find a wine you like, buy a bottle and enjoy it on the winery grounds. Be careful to not get too tipsy during the day. All those ounces add up. To curb consumption you may limit your visit to two or three wineries a day, with snack stops in-between each visit.

10.Sorry to say the wine you fell in love with at the winery will not taste quite as good at home. The atmosphere, the tasting room staff, the romance of the winery can never be duplicated.

* Photo courtesy of Columbia Crest