No such thing as a free taste? Wine tasting fees are becoming more common in the Northwest.
TNT photo by Janet Jensen
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The fall edition of Wine Press Northwest pours some heat on a wine-country debate.
"Tasting fees. That's what gets the blood boiling," writes Andy Purdue, the magazine's editor.
California wineries have charged tasting fees for some time. They were intended to quash the happy-hour-on-wheels vibe that threatened to sour the bucolic Napa Valley.
Now more Pacific Northwest wineries are charging visitors who want to sample products in their tasting rooms. In some cases, tasting fees ($5-$10 for a flight, depending on vintages,) are refunded with certain purchases.
Here's what one winery tells Wine Press Northwest:
"We don't really mind the expense of $1,575 per week just for opening bottles for our tasting room, but when three couples come in and spend one or two hours of our employees' time and don't have the courtesy to buy even one bottle of wine, then I wonder if maybe we should charge a tasting fee."
Said another winery: "I can't think of another industry that would even consider doing with their products what wineries are expected to do with ours."
Here's what a wine lover who finds tasting fees distasteful said:
"I find tasting fees ridiculous and insulting. You go to taste wines to see if you would like to buy them. And if you buy, that's the winery's reward for offering the tasting."
Said another: "Oregon has fabulous wines, but they also have outrageous tasting fees. It's not unusual to pay $10-$20 for just a couple of sips. We rarely purchase wine directly from the wineries anymore because of these fees."
Here's what a wine lover who doesn't mind tasting fees said:
"Tasting fees allow wine lovers to savor the wine experience free of guilt and a feeling of obligation to purchase. The winery has recouped some of its cost, and the taster can enjoy the experience without pressure."
And another: "Why should wineries give away their products to frat boys and other freeloaders who have no intention of buying?"