One of the most popular holiday destinations in the Golden State is Wine Country. With winding country roads, rolling hills, and endless sunshine, it’s not hard to see why this region is so popular with tourists and natives alike. Planning the perfect vacation here can be tough; however, there are few tips and tricks that will help make your Wine Country adventure the best it can be.
Booking a Wine Tour
While wineries across northern California differ significantly in the way they run, it’s always important to plan your visit ahead of time. For some wine tours and tastings, you’ll need to have a booking; however, some wineries do allow walk-ins. You’re best off checking online or calling your chosen winery, to see if you need to make a reservation. It’s also worth noting that some smaller vineyards are only open over the weekend.
There are also several ways you save time and money when booking a wine tour. Many wine tours include a tasting within their price, meaning you won’t have to book one separately, so it’s worth checking your booking to see what your chosen vineyard offers. It’s also best to set out early and try to get to your chosen winery before rush hour. Many tours in Sonoma County and Napa Valley start at 9 am, and you can beat the traffic (which is often bumper to bumper) by setting out early in the morning.
Make Sure You Have a Designated Driver
One obvious tip for touring Cali’s Wine Country is to make sure you have a designated driver. Even if you’re only going to the one tasting, you could still find yourself accidentally over the legal driving limit.
If everybody in your party is planning on drinking, the best thing to do is to book a shuttle around the region. Sometimes this is included in the price of a wine tour, which will help you save money. If you’re traveling from vineyard to vineyard in a small group, a great way to save money by using a rideshare app, like Lyft or Uber.
Take Your Time and Don’t Overdo It
You’ll find it tempting to book several wine tastings and tours over the course of a day; however, you’re best off just selecting just a couple of wineries, so you can take your time without having to rush across to make it to your next tour. If you have some spare time on your hands, one of the best ways to see Wine Country is from a hot air balloon. Many companies offer hot air balloon rides, and it’s the perfect way to see stunning panoramas of the region’s valleys and vineyards.
Another reason to only partake in a couple of wine tours is you don’t want to appear drunk when doing a tasting. Wine tastings are sophisticated affairs, and it’s often seen as rude when customers get drunk during a tasting.
Getting the Best Accommodation for a Low Price
Across the Wine Country, you’ll find hundreds of high-class hotels. Many of these hotels are pricey and don’t offer the same amenities or freedom you’d get at home. If you’re looking to save money, you might want to look at what’s available on Airbnb. Many of these rentable properties have better facilities than hotels and cost a fraction of the price.
If you’re considering an Airbnb, you may want to look at staying outside of Napa Valley. Napa Valley has strict laws in place, which means Airbnb properties must register with the government. There is a list of legal Airbnbs for Napa Valley, just be careful as not all listings are legitimate.
Taking Wine Home with You
Many holidaymakers traveling from far away find it tough to decide whether to buy bottles of wine and how to transport them home. Thankfully, several companies, including Wine Country Shipping, are solely dedicated to shipping wine worldwide. While many of these companies use temperature-controlled trucks, they may also have to use shipping services like UPS, which just used standard vans. This factor is worth bearing in mind as your wine will spoil if left for too long in extreme temperatures.
If you’re planning on bringing several bottles home and live somewhere close by, you can always drop your extra bags off at a San Francisco luggage storage service before heading to the Wine Country, to make it easier to bring back your purchases. You can also store your luggage in San Jose. Both cities are roughly an hour away from some of the most popular locations in Wine Country, including Napa Valley and Sonoma County.
Napa Valley or Sonoma County?
Napa Valley and Sonoma County are two of the most popular parts of the Wine Country. If you’re short on time, you might be asking yourself, ‘Which one is better to visit?’ Each has its pros and cons, depending on what you’re looking to do during your vacation. Napa Valley tends to be more expensive, as it’s better-known and has many high-class restaurants and hotels.
Meanwhile, Sonoma County is larger and generally less commercialized than Napa Valley. Due to its size, Sonoma can be more challenging to get around, but wine tastings and vineyard tours tend to be somewhat cheaper in this region. Both contain excellent vineyards, but Napa Valley tends to be better if you’re looking to splash some cash, and Sonoma Valley is better if you’re searching for a relaxing vacation for less money.