If you are tasting wine around Oregon these days, it seems the expectation is to pay for a tasting. Here in Elkton, we are still somewhat 'old school' in that we assume you are going to find something you like and buy at least one bottle, so most of us don't really post a tasting fee.
But I've seen plenty of folks coming through who either are just out doing an activity for the day, or traveling and can't take wine, and they are usually very happy to pay for a tasting in exchange for the (roughly) cumulative 1.5 glasses of wine and conversation. If I'm charging for a taste, I just ring up $5 per person. (If you've been tasting around the Willamette Valley, this may seem shockingly reasonable).
My buddy/co-worker, Colin and I were discussing this topic the other day, and he mentioned a paradigm shift he had, and I found it enlightening. In summary:
Assume you will be paying for your tasting. Considering, most people wine taste in pairs, let's say you're spending $10 just to sample. Now when looking at the price list, just deduct $10 from the listed price and even our most expensive bottle ($38) is worth 'splurging' for. Comparably, a bottle of white wine would be $6 after the tasting fee.
To be clear, if you are coming with the intent to buy wine, I won't charge you for a tasting. If you decide to buy during the tasting, I won't charge you for a tasting. But if you are debating whether to buy wine or not, you either walk out the door paying $5, $10 with only the memory - or for a few dollars more you can take home a nice bottle of wine to share with someone special. (Or enjoy by yourself - no judgment here.)
Now if you are used to paying $15, $20, $30 for a tasting and buying wine on top of it - you are really going to enjoy your experience tasting wines here in Elkton.
And I hope to see you soon!