The two of you want to take a weekend wine country getaway to the Napa Valley. Most people budget for lodging and meals but often forget about figuring in the costs of their tasting room visits. Since we started tracking wineries for WineCountryGetaways.com in 2003, the tasting room fees, especially in the Napa Valley, have skyrocketed.
Let’s say you plan on visiting eight wineries during your two-day stay in the Napa Valley. That’s a pretty decent number of wineries to visit but many travelers get in much more than that. For you and your spouse or partner, the fees for those eight wineries can add a significant cost to your trip. My guess is the low-to-middle ground tasting fee for most Napa Valley wineries is about $15 per person. Throw in a tour or “Reserve” or “Special Selection” tasting and, Whoa! You are now looking at a big price tag of tasting fees for your weekend getaway.
The last couple of days I have been playing with a new iPad App called the Wine Tasting Tab. I am amazed that this little App has a database listing the tasting room fees of 800 wineries. I used this the App to research the tasting room fees in different California counties. According to my small study using this piece of technology, I found that the Napa Valley has by far the highest tasting room fees around. I don’t think that is one bit surprising to anyone that regularly visits the wine country.
When we travel to the Sierra Foothills, we are often taken aback when a tasting room charges a fee. In the Napa Valley we have the same reaction when we find a winery that does not charge a tasting fee. The other part of this equation is that in most cases the Sierra Foothill winery that charges a tasting fee applies it to the purchase of wine. According to the Napa Vintners Association, only 13 wineries apply the tasting room fees to the purchase of wine. Why so few?
Nine times out ten, we purchase at least one bottle of wine from each and every tasting room we visit. But as we travel to the Napa Valley and pay a hefty tasting fee, I am less and less inclined to purchase a bottle of wine. Heck, I already spent a fortunate tasting a tiny pour of perhaps only four wines. I feel like I am getting the shaft. I think the fees are just too high and perhaps may backfire on wineries because of new tech gadgets like the Wine Tasting Tab. Why should one go to a winery charging $20 a tasting as opposed to one charging $5 or $10?
I like going to Hendry’s Winery to taste wine in the Napa Valley. I like the old- time atmosphere that George Hendry provides in his tasting room. No fees are charged to taste. When I leave his winery, I know I am going to carry a boatload of wine out the door just because I like the way he does business. The same can be said about going up to Smith-Madrone on Spring Mountain, another old-time winery with no fancy tasting room or fancy wine talk. Ah, the good old days of the Napa Valley.