Wine Country Travel Guide
Insider Travel Tips - Part 2
by Courtney Cochran
We have tons of tips for wine tasting for advance planning before you arrive in Wine Country and then, once you have arrived. Below are just a few suggestions. Feel free to suggest more tips in our Message Boards. Also, see our Wine Tasting Etiquette Guide.
- Have a designated driver.
- Always wear layers; the cellars will be 55° F even on a 100-degree day.
- Don't wear perfume or cologne to taste; use scented lotions sparingly.
- Arrive 15 minutes early for tasting appointments; if it looks like you may be late, call ahead to give them notice.
- Do not try to do too much in a day; A good number of wineries to visit is 3 to 4 per day. Depending on your activities (e.g. touring, lunching), stays can last up to an hour or longer.
- If wine tasting in the morning, it's always a good idea to eat something beforehand, especially if you plan on visiting 2 or 3 wineries before lunch (bringing a snack along helps!).
- Always carry a bottle of water with you throughout the day; it is easy to get dehydrated.
- It's okay to spit – even better to have a designated driver.
- Tasting by appellation (e.g. Carneros, Rutherford) is a great way to get to know an area's sub-regions. This is especially true in Sonoma, home to more than a dozen sub AVAs.
- Take at least one barrel room and/or cave tour. You won't regret the extra time it takes to get this "behind the scenes" view of the winemaking process.
- Incorporate wineries of different styles into your visit; for example, starting with a sparkling producer is a great way to perk up your palate and will add variety to a mostly "still wine"-fueled day).
- Allow an extra 15 minutes' travel time to your estimate for between-winery travel.
- Smaller, family-run wineries may have less caché than the big guys, but make up for it with personal attention. Especially if meeting/tasting/touring with a winemaker is your bag, consider the smaller players for best results.
- Ask tasting room staffers for recommendations. They can tip visitors off to some of the best aprés-tasting experiences around such as dining, nightlife, etc.
- Think twice about bringing children if your goal is wine tasting; many wineries are not equipped to host children. (If you do, see our Kid Friendly Guide). The same goes for pets.
- If short on time, consider wine tasting in town. Downtown Napa, for example, is home to dozens of tasting rooms pouring a variety of wines. In Sonoma County you might want to try Healdsburg.
- Guided tours of Wine Country can take the guessing work out of where to go, but don't come cheap. Inquire with drivers about fees up front.
DINING & OTHER ACTIVITIES
- Spa treatments at resorts often include access to spa facilities throughout the day of your treatment. Go early or stay later to soak in a mineral pool, relax in a Jacuzzi or Sauna, and just enjoy the space.
- When in Wine Country for multiple days, consider alternative activities such as golf, tennis, spa visits, air balloon rides and much more!
- Eat local! Many chefs offer locally sourced produce, fish and meat. Get a real flavor of the region by digging in.
- The best Wine Country restaurants require dinner reservations; the same goes for lunch at the most popular spots.
- If you can't get a table at a popular dining haunt, eat at the bar. It's often the liveliest spot in the joint, and can be cheaper, too.
Let us know if you have any insider tips we should add! POST tips HERE.
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