Napa Valley on a Budget – It can be done
The recent announcement by Heitz Cellars of their $1000-per-person wine tasting experience, and the recent opening of Napa’s Stanly Ranch ($1000-a-night rooms), triggered a bevy of news reports on the high cost of visiting the Napa Valley. Lettie Teague wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “Who can afford Napa Now, not this Columnist.” The article brought somewhat of a rebuttal from S.F. Chronicle wine writer Esther Mobley, “Yes, Napa’s expensive. But you can still visit on a budget.” Both online newspapers require a subscription, so you may not be able to read these articles. No worries, because we have our own take about visiting the Napa Valley on budget. We have been visiting the Napa Valley much longer than the above wine journalists. Our first trip to the Napa Valley was in 1967.
Sadly, we must report that visiting Napa Valley wineries is not as much fun as it used to be. We can’t afford to purchase most of the wine, and the tasting fees are very high compared to other wine regions. We also feel a little uncomfortable with what is now the norm, the appointment-only tasting format. We get too much wine speak and not enough casual conversation with other visitors.
We have been keeping track of what it costs to taste wine in the Napa Valley for several years. We track ten wineries and list the price for the lowest level of a wine-tasting experience. The average price in 2020 was $32.50 per person; now, in 2022, it is $54 per person. Take a look at the list and start your research on which wineries might fit your wine-tasting budget.
Beringer has a one-hour tasting experience for $45 per person, The Legacy Tasting. “Choose five wines from our current collection of these limited released wines available only here at the winery. Each of the wines showcase a vineyard, variety, or growing region. After their experience, guests can enjoy a walk around the beautiful gardens and estate.” There is also a $30 self-tour experience that includes the historic caves and a glass of wine. The Rhine House is a lovely structure dating back to 1883. See more here.
There is no getting around the high tasting fees. If you are on a budget, it means fewer wineries to visit. Choose wisely. You can save on fees if you visit a tasting room in the towns, but it is more fun and educational to visit a working winery. When your tasting is done at a winery, ask if you can see the cellar and barrel room and take a walk in the vineyards. You might get the nod!