We just updated our list of free tasting rooms for 2016 and, well, the results aren’t pretty. Only a handful of free tasting rooms remain in Oregon, Paso, and Napa. Sonoma, on the other hand fares much better.
What happened to the free tasting rooms?
The trend away from free tastings has been driven largely by a shift in thinking around the tasting room business model. Tasting rooms have historically been treated as a showcase for a winery’s products. Operating them at a loss was considered acceptable, although hopefully the loss would be offset by wine club signups and bottle sales. The new trend is to monetize tasting rooms as much as possible, backed by some high-profile industry reports which indicate how much money free tasting room are leaving on the table.
Free tastings still abound.
For those of us who enjoy free tastings, there are still options. Many tasting rooms still refund your tasting with a bottle purchase (although that too is changing: many wineries now only comp tastings with purchases of 3, 4 or even 6 bottles.)
Additionally, many wineries offer free tastings with Yelp! check-ins and tasting coupons are readily available from sites such as Wine Country This Week and Local Wally’s. Your hotel may offer free tasting coupons and some wineries will also have coupons available for other wineries nearby.