Regardless of where your wine country destination is these tips for visiting the wine country will make your trip easy and stress free.
Most people think of Napa Valley when they consider visiting the wine country. It’s good to know that there are other areas on the West coast that are also worth visiting. Santa Ynez in California is a wonderful area for wine tasting and so is Walla Walla in Washington state. Each area offers a unique experience with regards to food and wine pairing as well as scenery. Try them all!
7 Tips for visiting the wine country
Plan ahead Check Airbnb’s and hotels in the area near the wineries you plan to visit. Research the surrounding area to see what restaurants and other activities are available. Some Airbnb’s offer transportation to wineries or you can rent bikes.
Make reservations Never assume you can simply walk into a winery and to do a tasting. Some are reservation only and you also may encounter large groups which can result in an extended wait time. We usually make a reservation for one or two wineries a day. On occasions where we might go to a third winery, we usually share a tasting. If you have a large group hiring a driver is an option. Some wineries are more mainstream and basically just a tasting room. Others are about the experience offering tours of their vineyard and wine production area. Our favorite wineries are out of the local town and a short drive through gorgeous ranches and lavender fields. We look for good wine + places to roam and picnic on the property.
Bring picnic supplies Imagine sitting in the warm sunshine tasting wine, laughing, and enjoying the gorgeous vineyard view. Now imagine that your party is getting hungry and there are little or no food options. You will need to pack it up and drive back into town, find a restaurant, have lunch, and then by the time you’ve eaten, most of the tasting rooms are beginning to close. Keep in mind that most tasting rooms are only open for part of the day. It’s not an evening event so you will need to be self-contained for the day to visit the spots on your list.
Pack plenty of snacks (check out some of our favorite road trip snacks here) along with a picnic lunch. We pack lots of fruit, olives, salad makings for the first day and different sliced meats and cheeses to make sandwiches for lunch the following day. Make sure to bring lots of water. The weather is often warm and dry so it’s easy to get dehydrated especially when you are sipping wine. If you have the packing space, bring a wood bread board, vintage textile , ceramic plates, linens, glasses (these Moroccan tea glasses are my favorite), and candles if you’d like to create romantic ambiance for your picnic.
What clothing to bring I usually pack a little bit of everything. Dresses, shorts, tees, and active-wear. Pack light layers and walking shoes. This slip dress is great for traveling. It’s easy to throw a denim jacket, sweater, or tee over it if the weather gets cool and I like that I can wear sneakers with it. Make sure to pack lots of sunscreen and bring a hat and sunglasses.
Wine tasting fees A tasting usually consists of 4 to 6 different wines, white, red, or sparkling and the cost will vary so make sure you ask before you go. Once your party is situated (indoors or out) the host will bring each person a glass along with a list of the wines you will be tasting. The list will have a description of each wine so that you can taste the specific characteristics of each wine. Some wineries offer nibbles like chocolate, nuts, and crackers to enjoy with your wine. People in this industry love to share their wine knowledge so ask questions if you’d like! Good wine is relative. If it tastes good to you, it’s good wine. Just enjoy the experience and don’t worry about looking like you are a wine connoisseur. If you purchase a bottle of wine, the tasting fee is usually waved.
Other activities Wine tasting is usually from about noon to 4 so consider a fun activity in the morning before you head to your first vineyard. We enjoy horseback riding, hiking, running, kayaking, and general site-seeing in addition to wine tasting.
Book dinner reservations Where there’s wine there is also delicious food so book a reservation at a few restaurants. We usually book a late dinner, giving us time to reset after a sun-drenched day in the vineyards.
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