Planning a trip to California wine country
Al and I will be departing for what has become our bi-annual exploration of California wine country. In our two weeks of meetings and wine tasting we’ll travel through Santa Barbara, Monterey, Napa, and Sonoma. On the itinerary? Some old favorites and top sellers and places that we have always wanted to visit. What is more important than our actual plans and meetings, however, is what I can our ‘free’ time to explore the undiscovered. With that in mind, I thought a post on some tips on planning a wine country trip to California (or any other wine production region) was in order.
1. Leave “FREE” time: Yes, it is important to see Domaine Chandon or Robert Mondavi once in your lifetime…but do not let those bigger types of wineries dominate your days. Our go-to plan, start out with a bigger winery in the morning each day and talk to the tasting room managers, they’ll give you the secrets to the small, hidden gems and sometimes even set you up with tasting.
2. Four wineries a day, no more: There is a point, for everyone, where you cannot taste anymore wine. We’ve found, in general, that comes at four wineries. Pick three to four to visit a day, take the extended tour and tasting, enjoy and then go have a nice, big meal.
3. Pack snacks: More and more wineries offer cheese and appetizers at their tasting rooms. But you will be tasting a lot of wine. Keep the car full of crackers and sparkling water to keep your palette (and head) clear.
4. Splurge for the expensive tasting: A $100 tasting fee sounds like a lot. But trust me, if a winery is charging a large tasting fee there is a reason for it. It is awesome, and they don’t want everyone invited to it. So go, it may be the best tasting of your life.
5. Do not sign up for the Wine Club: Most wineries would kill me here, but if you have a great experience at a winery take the information for the wine club home with you. Think about it for at least one week and then, if you want, sign up. I see too many people (like myself) get caught up in the fun of the tasting room experience and arrive back home with more club memberships than they can count on one hand. Wine clubs are a financial and culinary commitment, make sure you can afford (and drink) all that wine that you agree to purchase.