From time to time I get emails from readers asking me for tips on how to dress while visiting the wine country. With so much to do around here, it really depends on your itinerary. For most visitors, wine tasting is at the top of their list of things to do.
Even if you’re not a wine lover, spending time at wineries can be a wonderful experience. These days, most wineries have more to offer than just great wine. Splendid architecture, beautiful gardens, unforgettable food, tempting boutiques, and breath-taking views are all fantastic reasons for spending time at wineries during a visit to Napa and Sonoma Valleys.
I don’t consider myself an expert of many things but after living in the Sonoma Valley for 15 years, working in the tasting room of a well-known winery, and visiting more wineries than I could possibly count, I feel like a bit of an authority on the subject of what to wear when wine tasting.
I’d like to share a few tips for what I like to wear when visiting wineries here in Northern California. Not visiting Napa or Sonoma Valleys anytime soon? Most of these tips would be applicable to any of the many wine regions around the world.
With style, comfort and a good time in mind, here are my 10 tips for dressing for your best ever wine tasting experience:
1) Feel-good Footwear: While there are some wineries that offer seated tastings, most are conducted on your feet. Aside from lots of standing, expect a lot of walking. You may take a guided tour that leads you into a vineyard, across a gravely parking lot or navigating the perils of a soggy green lawn. Perhaps you want to picnic and play a game of bocce ball after your tour. Better to leave the spiked heels behind in favor of feel-good footwear. You can wear your sexy heels out to dinner instead. Hurting your feet, damaging your pretty shoes, and running the risk of falling are not my ideas of a fun wine tasting day. If you want some added height, wear a chunky, sturdy heel or embrace the latest sneaker chic trend and wear trainers.
2) Layer it Up: Here in the Bay Area, we have microclimates, which means there can be great temperature differences within a short geographical distance. It’s due to our close proximity to the ocean. It can be 40 degrees, foggy and damp at 9:00 am, then by 2:00 pm it’s sunny and 80. Once the sun sets, the temperature drops again. While we do have warm evenings occasionally, it is not the norm. I always bring some sort of wrap with me when I know I will be outside at night, even in the summertime. And I often wear a tee, tank or shell as a base under a sweater or jacket if I know the weather’s expected to warm up considerably.
3) When in Doubt, Denim: Skirts, dresses, and shorts are all acceptable to wear wine tasting but if you’re not sure, always default to denim. The wine country is a casual place. You can pretty much wear denim anywhere and no one would bat an eye. Jeans are always in style, easy to coordinate, and simple to dress up. Skip the super tight jeans that pinch and bind and wear a comfortable yet modern and flattering pair instead.
4) Keep the Load Light: Unless you’re wine tasting with small children or you have some other reason for needing to bring lots of things with you, don’t torture yourself by carrying a giant bag around all day. It’s the last thing you’ll want to fuss with while wandering through a vineyard or wine cave or standing at the tasting bar. It will just make your shoulder tired and you’ll get annoyed trying to figure out where to put it while you taste. Often they end up on the floor. I suggest a small clutch, cross body bag or even a chic and modern fanny pack (they’re in now, did you know?)
5) Skip the Lipstick: A wine glass slathered around the rim with goopy lipstick is not something anyone wants to see, especially if you’re the culprit. And wine pourers don’t care for it because the lipstick often won’t come off in the dishwasher. I know this because I used to be one of the people who scrubbed lip stick residue off rims. I suggest taking a break from lip sticks and heavy glosses and going for either a tinted lip balm or a long-wearing smudge-proof lip stain like this one by Jane Iredale that won’t transfer.
6) Keep it Simple: Don’t wear a complicated outfit. Dealing with extra buttons, fussy straps, itchy fabrics, ties, laces and the like is not how you want to spend your day in the wine country. Wear clothes that you know are comfortable and low maintenance so you can focus on wine, wineries and fun!
7) Make it Dressy: Finding that sweet spot between comfort and style is not always easy. But it can be if you focus on accessories. Take that simple, unfussy outfit and amp up its dressiness with a stylish scarf, statement necklace, cool belt or fabulous pair of earrings. Play around with accessories that aren’t a burden (like clanking bracelets, high-heels or a heavy, high-maintenance handbag).
8) Skip the Sweet Smelling Stuff : A huge part of tasting wine properly involves your sense of smell. Perfumes interfere with your ability to fully appreciate and assess a wine. Wear no fragrances when visiting wineries. Even if you aren’t tasting wine, other people are and your scent can impact their tasting experience. At the winery where I worked, we were asked to not ever wear perfumes or overly scented personal products.
9) Go for Fuss-Free Hair: Fog, wind, and heat are a complicated hairstyle’s worst enemies. Wear your hair in its easiest style. A stylish pony-tail or a messy beach-y hairdo with big waves are both fashion-forward and low maintenance. Don’t have an easy hairstyle? Wear a hat! Choose a Panama in the warm weather months and a fedora when it’s cold out.
10) Wear White with Caution: Even if you’re not tasting red wines, other people are and it can end up on your clothes without you even being aware until it’s too late. While I do take chances and wear light colored clothing sometimes, and there are products that can remove wine stains, I like to leave the light-colored clothes that I am particularly attached to at home.
Before the Bloggers in Napa Valley trip in a few weeks, I’ll have another post on wine tasting focusing next time on the how-to’s, a few etiquette tips and more!
Have you visited wineries?
If so, what are your tips for what to wear?
P.S. How I Wear My: Skirt deadline is next Monday night, the 31st of March. Please send in your photo (no smaller than 500 pix wide) with a few lines about your look to firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured.