Wine Country Do's and Don'ts
Updated: Dec 20, 2018
Visiting the Wine Country for the first time? Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to plan your amazing vacation!
DON’T try and plan too much
There is so much to see and do in the Wine Country. It is tempting to want to try and do it all! If possible, try and narrow down an area for the day (such as Napa Valley, or Healdsburg, or Calistoga. North Sonoma etc) and then look into the vineyards and wineries in that area. There is no way you could experience all of Napa or Sonoma even if you spent a full week there. So, if you can start with a vineyard that you know you want to visit or use where you are staying as a jumping off point, then look at the surrounding areas, that would be a way to start. Knowing you cannot “do it all,” should free you up to plan for the days you have available and enjoy them to the full. A good rule of thumb would be doing 3 vineyards and a nice lunch or 4 and a quick lunch max!
DO think about where you want to stay
Do you want to stay in Napa? The younger, trendier sister of the wine country. Or do you want to stay down the road in Sonoma? The more chill, older, laid-back and down to earth sister. Do you want a foodie boutique hotel or more of a relaxing spa hotel? There are many great bed and breakfasts, inns, and unique hotels up and down the wine trails. If you think about what you vacation experience to look like, there are many great options for every wine enthusiast.
DO make reservations for your wine tours and tastings
Each vineyard operates differently so you or your travel agent will need to look into what is required where. Most vineyards/ wineries will require a reservation of some sort and some require a payment ahead of time to reserve a seating/ tour/ tasting. Others may ask for a credit card but will not make a charge until after you arrive. Others may have a walk-in tasting that require no advance reservations or payment. You will need to look online at each vineyard’s policy and process you are considering to make sure you are not disappointed or turned away.
DO plan on getting a local driver or a car service
If you are planning on visiting more than one winery/ vineyard in a day then you should not plan on driving yourself or your group unless you have a designated driver who will not be tasting any of the wines for the day(but who wants to do that?) There are many different options when it comes to driver services...you can hire a car service to pick you up and drive you in their vehicle. You can hire a service to come to your hotel, pick you up and drive your rental car. There are also options such as Uber, the wine train tours, etc. Most services require booking for the day (8 hrs) and it is the way to go! Local drivers know the area, the roads and backroads, and most importantly will not be imbibing so that you can enjoy all your tastings and tours. Some of these services will also plan your itineraries for you based on your feedback of what you’d like to do. They are worth the money!
DON’T be afraid to try new things…and by things I mean wine
While you are in the area, it would be a great time to try sips out of your wine comfort zone. There are so many unique new varieties that you may not get anywhere else. Even if you like heavy reds, you may find several whites that you would like to purchase and have shipped back home. Some vineyards offer bottles for sale at tastings that you cannot purchase anywhere else...not online or in restaurants or stores. So branching out may widen your palette. I found that after having a great local sheep’s milk cheese, I really do like a good Chardonnay.
DO plan on staying on schedule
Every vineyard wants their guests to have a great experience. That is why most require reservations and require that you arrive within 15 minutes of your reservation or they may not honor it. They do not want guests to be rushed and miss out on any part of their tours or tastings, so multiple wineries have strict policies that if you’re running behind, they will not honor your reservation. Another reason to hire a driver service...they will keep you on schedule!
DO make restaurant reservations well in advance of your trip
There are some amazing restaurants in the region! Foodies will be right at home as there are so many award-winning restaurants in the area using the best local ingredients. That said, reservations are a must at a great number of restaurants or you may miss out. Planning ahead 30 - 60 days at least for dinner reservations would be ideal.
If you have questions please feel free to contact me at adrienne@101-vacations.