When you plan a wine tour it’s not just a matter of maps, routes and tasting fees. You should also consider your body's physical reactions to the taste of the wine. While wine tourism is about more than just the wine: never forget the importance of the palate.

Think about it this way. If you got up in the morning and someone who loves you set a cup of coffee in front of you, and you responded with, “No thanks darling, this morning I’d like to start with Cabernet Sauvignon,” you’d probably get one of those looks. Being packed with tannins, unless that Cab Sauv has spent some serious time aging it is a little hard on the taste buds right out of bed (even then, it would be a stretch!). Why? Because while you are sleeping, your body is up to 10,000 times more sensitive to smells, tastes and external stimuli, and that sensitivity carries over a bit in the morning until we are really up and running. When you go wine touring you have to prepare yourself as if you were going to an athletic competition. Wine touring is a lot of fun, but it takes a lot out of you.

We were out on what turned into a complicated wine tour in Northern Napa the other day, lots of high-end, by-appointment wineries, located up steep, winding roads, and it occurred to me that even experienced winery tourists still make rookie mistakes when planning wine tours. In this case the clients chose to visit a string of wineries, one after the other, that hammered their palates into submission with too many BIG RED wines. Their palates got over-saturated and desensitized until every wine started tasted the same. The person who planned the tour also made the classic mistake of assuming everyone would like what he liked. Since this was a mixed group, and women's palates tend to be more sensitive (that's why they say that Pinot Noir, the delicate red, is a lady’s drink) the girls were not pleased. If you are starting your tasting early in the day (most tasting rooms open at 10), then ease your palate into the fray with some nice white wines—maybe a sparkling wine—just like having a salad and shrimp before the steak.

When you plan a wine tour remember that not everyone's palates are the same. Generally there are three types of tasters: tolerant, sensitive and hyper-sensitive. The difference is how many taste buds they have on their tongues. Many men are tolerant—they can drink their coffee black, or with cream, or however they can get it. Many women are sensitive—they need milk in their coffee. A small number of people are hyper-sensitive: “cream and sugar, or even a cup of green tea please.” They'll say, “Yeeech, that’s horrible,” while the tolerant taster is taking a second sip.

Your palate starts off sensitive and over the course of the day, the alcohol and remains of different flavors stick to your tongue and diminish that sensitivity. So when planning a wine tour, start with wines that require a fresh palate to appreciate: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir or Sparkling Wine (normally made from chard and pinot). Slightly heavier flavors are Syrah and Zinfandel. The biggest flavors are the Bordeaux-style reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Tasting a Pinot at the end of the day when the palate is anesthetized can be a waste of a good wine, unless you precede the tasting with a hearty lunch and an abundant amount of water to drink to clear the head and clean your palate.

Big red wines are popular because they can reach through the mish mash of a meal's flavors and get the palate’s attention. Because men tend to be tolerant tasters the tannic reds, with lots of punch, appeal to them. This is less true with women who prefer white wines and the complexity of Pinot Noir. But, in the course of a day of tasting, everyone’s palates get less sensitive, especially if they drink the wine. Professionals spit the wine out for three reasons; they need to maintain their sobriety, concern for their livers, and most germane, alcohol numbs perception and makes everything taste good. The only way to taste dozens of wines side by side and still do a clear analysis is to spit them out, but no one on vacation wants to do that.

Ralph & Lahni de Amicis are authors of the Amicis Winery Guides, and owners of Amicis Tours. They have written over twenty books on health, design, business and travel. Their Smart Phone Apps, Napa Valley Wine Tour, and Sonoma Winery Tour are a tour guide's approach to these beautiful area, complete with thousands of photos, videos and insights. Visit them at

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