Local Winemakers Tips’, Tasting March 16

Photo by Matthew Henry

Downtown Corvallis will transform once again into a wine tasting paradise on Saturday, March 16 for the annual Downtown Corvallis Wine Walk. From 3 to 7 p.m., retailers will host tastings of regional wines and other craft beverages. Among the featured wineries are Tyee Wine Cellars, Spindrift Cellars, and Compton Family Wines, who together offer these five tasting tips for all wine walkers to try:

1. Make it memorable: “When tasting wine, I suggest to just have fun with it because it can be as casual or as complex as you choose to make it,” says Tyee winemaker Merrilee Buchanan Benson.

Tabitha Compton, owner Spindrift Cellars & Compton Family Wines agrees, noting that wine tasting doesn’t need to be a stuffy or formal occasion. 

“Forget your good manners. It’s acceptable and you are encouraged to slurp, smell, and spit,” she says.

2. Hands on the stem please: Whether you are using a stemmed or stemless glass, how you hold it is not just a matter of etiquette. The heat from your hands can warm the wine and as a result, alter the flavor and scent. When using a stemless glass, hold it from the base. Compton recommends holding a stemmed glass from the stem to maintain the temperature, plus this technique makes it easier to swirl the wine.

3. Get swirly: Each winery representative encourages wine tasters to swirl their wine to unleash the aromas within. 

“Definitely swirl the wine in the glass to coat as much of it as you can. Get your nose in there and move the glass up and down and side to side,” says Brian Benson, manager and farmer at Tyee Wine Cellars. 

“You’ll find that the wine glass, and the wine itself, have smell sweet spots where the fragrance is not only stronger but more clearly defined.”

4. The nose knows: Wine tasting involves paying attention to scents as well as flavors, since the senses of both taste and smell are connected.

“When you take a sip of wine, allow it to linger on your taste buds while swishing it around the entirety of your mouth — even under your tongue,” says Compton.

Brian encourages, “Once you sip the wine (and I do mean sip), hold it in your mouth for a few seconds. This is a good time to hold it up to the light and watch the light play through the wine and the glass.”

5. Take notes: The Bensons suggest making notes of any wines you enjoy. Some ideas include using your phone to photograph the bottle, making sketches, or simply noting your impressions.

“When I like a wine, I think about ways to describe what I like about it and that helps me remember a particular wine and what sets it apart from the rest,“ Merrilee remarks.

Tyee will be hosted by the Whiteside Theatre during the wine walk, and Spindrift by Inkwell Home Stores; check the wine walk map on the day of for the Compton Family Wines’ venue. Admission for the Wine Walk is $15. Sales begin at 2 p.m. on March 16 at Footwise, The Clothes Tree, Sibling Revelry, the Toy Factory, and the Inkwell Home Store.


By Samantha Sied