This week I’m visiting Napa Valley with my friend Michael. I felt a lot more comfortable visiting this time after coming a few times over the past 6 years. Personally, I find visiting Napa Valley to be a little intimidating, but very inspiring.
The first time Chris and I traveled to Napa Valley, we were overwhelmed with options – so many vineyards, so little time. Each offers their own experience and everyone has different taste.
It’s difficult to squeeze in more than 3-4 tastings or tours in a day, so I wanted to choose wisely. If you should have the opportunity to visit Napa Valley, do it, you won’t regret it. These are my stress free tips for visiting Napa Valley Wineries:
- Call ahead to make an appointment, even if just 5 minutes in advance. Most require reservations, some can accommodate you last minute, but still prefer to have advance notice. Walking in can be a little awkward at times, depending on the day and season.
- Use TripAdvisor or Yelp and the recommendations of friends and family to find wineries with the best experience.
- Note that some wineries are more mainstream, some have incredible wines and others have incredible experiences. Decide what you’re looking for. There’s something for everyone. I tend to prefer wineries that grow grapes on the property and open up their cellar, vineyards, etc for a more interesting tasting.
- Most wineries charge a tasting fee, but there are a handful that don’t. Many will waive your tasting fee with a purchase. Purchase a bottle of wine, wait for the total and if they give you the total with the tasting fee, ask if they’ll waive it with a second bottle purchase. More often than not, the answer is yes and for just a few dollars more you’ll take a few delicious memories home with you.
- Ask questions. Not only will you learn a lot, but you may potentially receive far more out of your visit. Many pourers will tailor their tasting to you.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for your tasting to be moved outdoors. So often tastings are in a dark, uninspiring room, but wineries have tables and chairs outdoors that offer a beautiful view of the vines.
- Don’t hesitate to ask to taste a wine that is on their menu, but not on their tasting menu. Chances are, if they have a bottle open, they’ll be more than happy to pour it for you.
- If you purchase a few bottles here and there, take them to a local shipping company like UPS to ship them home. Combining your shipping can save money and eliminate the need to sign for endless packages upon your return.
- Let the winery know what type of experience you’re seeking and ask for a recommendation, many have worked in Napa Valley for years and can offer great suggestions.
There are so many Napa Valley Wineries – some will be a hit, a few a miss, but remember, it’s all in the experience. If you’re not feeling it, move onto the next one and it just might overwhelm you with joy!
As seen in photos: Frog’s Leap, Larkmead and a special thanks to Alejandro at Madrigal Family Winery
Thanks to Westin Versa Napa for providing a beautiful place to relax and stay!