We have been traveling the wine country for many years. We travel year round to visit wineries and tasting rooms. Each season and month bring its own rewards in wine country. We are seasoned wine country tourists and we have some travel tips for you.
Ten Tips For the California Wine Country Traveler
Tasting room fees can quickly add up
Walk into any tasting room these days and more than likely you will be paying a fee to taste wine. In the Napa Valley the average is in the $10 to $20 range, with the high-end wineries charging much more. To save on tasting fees, share a single tasting with your partner or friend. Stop off at the local Chamber of Commerce office and pick up any discount or two-for-one coupons for tasting. If you stay at a local B&B or hotel, they usually offer a few coupons.
Tasting rooms in town save driving but you miss the experience
Napa, Yountville, Healdsburg, Sutter Creek, Murphys, you name it, they all have tasting rooms where you can walk outside your hotel or B&B and never get into a car to taste a plethora of wines. The one thing these tasting rooms lack is wine country. You came to see vineyards, wine barrels, fermenting tanks, and bottling lines. Go to a working winery and take in the sounds and smells of the wine country.
The Designated Driver
The Highway Patrol is increasing their patrols everywhere in wine country. Small towns have the local sheriff on the prowl. DUI related costs can add up to $10,000. Hire a limo, take Platypus, or have a driver that will not drink a drop.
Put the wine club on hold
Just about every winery has a wine club and joining one is always a temptation, especially when you have imbided just a tad too much. Take the brochure home with you and think about it. Wine clubs are a big source of income for the wineries. You pay top dollar for the wine even though you may get a so-called 10 to 20 percent discount. Wineries sell their wine at the top retail price, plus you always have shipping costs.
Big crowds at popular tasting rooms – avoid them
On weekends all the popular wineries are going to be crowded, often layers deep with people anxious to taste. Hit the tasting rooms before noon and you will likely find them sparse. Get off the beaten path for the afternoon and there will be fewer crowds to contend with. The best way to avoid the big crowds is to travel to wine country during the week.
Make your reservations for lodging and restaurants well in advance
This is especially true for the popular holidays, the summer season, and harvest time. Book as early as possible, you can always cancel at most lodging establishments a few days before without a penalty fee.
Experience a mix of wineries
There are many types and styles of wineries ranging from the small, single family-owned wineries to huge multi-owned wineries like Constellation, Jackson Wines, Treasure Wine Estates, and Gallo. Get a feel for both. Some have elaborate tasting rooms filled with merchandise, while the very small winery might have a tasting bar set up in their barrel room. You can search for different styles of wineries on the Winery Finder/Trip Planner.
Enjoy the wine country lifestyle. We recommend visiting three wineries max in one day. Mesh in a picnic lunch at a winery and relax for an hour or more and take in the beauty of wine country.
Avoid driving to restaurants
Find lodging within walking distance of good restaurants or check with the hotel for taxi service. This way all can enjoy, without worries, the wonderful wine produced in the wine country you are visiting.
Direct your Limo driver
If you hire a Limo driver, be sure to hand the driver your itinerary. In many cases Limo drivers will try and steer you to their favorite wineries. Many wineries require reservations for Limo groups, so make sure they know your group is coming.
It’s a good idea to bring plastic spit cups with you to remind that you don’t have to drink the whole amount poured into your glass.
Plan you trip with Wine Country Getaways
Use our handy Trip Planner to find and map wineries. Consult our lodging, restaurant, picnic and deli pages to find our top recommendations. Pick one of our wine trails.