I’ve been to Burgandy, Napa, Paso Robles, and Missouri Wine Country (ya, it’s a thing). I may not remember a single thing about wine, but I can tell you how to make it a good trip! Read on for a few of my favorite tips to make your wine tasting vacation the best it can be…
Do some research. Most wine regions specialize in certain types of wine based on what grapes grow best in the climate in that area. Be sure you’re headed to an area with that makes the type of wine you like! You’ll also want to check out which wineries are near where you’re staying and know ahead of time which ones you’re okay trekking out a ways to see. It’s also good to know if the winery is known for its wine or the ambiance of the winery, or both. If you’re used to the good ole two-buck Chuck, maybe you care more about the experience of the tasting rather than the wine.
Take your time. This is your opportunity to listen and learn. And if you’re anything like me, forget by the time you make it to the next winery! But still! Taking it all in just makes the wine taste better. I also recommend not cramming a lot of stops into one day. It’s not about the number of wineries you see or wines you taste, but about enjoying the process, culture, and taking in the day-drinking experience.
Think small. The biggest names don’t always mean the best. Just like with restaurants, sometimes the greatest little gems are the newbies just getting started who can give you extra attention and share their passion or the small-batch winemakers who purposely don’t mass produce to keep the quality top-notch. The names you recognize may be great to grab at the grocery store, but take a chance on something new and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
See the winery and not just the tasting room. I made this misstep my first time to Santa Barbara. The Urban Wine Trail was still a ton of fun, but it was definitely not what my family was expecting when they were visiting from the Midwest. If you’re able to, drive to the actual vineyard to get the full experience. In Paso Robles, we even got lucky and slipped into some appointment-only places just by driving up, hitting the buzzer and asking. It happened to be a wine festival in downtown that weekend and the wineries were happy to take care of us!
Prepare to be outside. Grapes need rain to turn into delicious vino someday, but that can make for some unpredictable weather. Pack plenty of layers when you're packing your blingsling and see if the hotel has an umbrella you can borrow for the day. A cool and rainy day can be beautiful for wine tasting if you’re ready for it!
Act like an insider. Before my first trip to Napa, a coworker at my hotel told me to bring business cards with me and ask for an industry discount. Best. Tip. Ever! I got free tastings at every single place we went, plus a discount on their bottles to take back with me! It never hurts to ask! I even started doing it at the wineries back home. If you don’t have an “in” or a friend of a friend, check out the winery’s wine club for discounts and offers that sometimes come free!
Don’t forget food! It’s easy to get carried away drinking all day, but the minute that hunger sets in, it sets in HARD. A day of wine tasting can take a turn for the worst without any food. Enjoy picnicking, offerings at the winery, or the world-renowned restaurants that many wine regions have right in their backyard.
Pace yourself if you’re drinking. I think we all know about this one, but it’s easy to forget until it’s too late. Having a plan to pace yourself throughout the day beforehand is a good idea if you don’t want to get sloppy or have to cut the day short. Or maybe you do?! That deserves a separate plan. For the best experience wine tasting, know your limits and maybe have a plan for using the spit bucket.
Get a driver. Just do it. It lets you relax and enjoy the tastings while being safe and having a local get you where you need to be without a hassle. My husband’s work arranged what was essentially a party bus to take us around Napa and it made everything a total breeze. If you have a group, I highly recommend arranging this. If you’re flying solo or with a partner, you won’t regret hiring a car service for the day, but even just planning on Über or Lyft is a fantastic idea.
There ya have it! Whether you’re a pinot drinker or a chardonnay gal, try out these ideas for your next wine vacation to make sure it’s the absolute best. Have you used them already? Do you have a favorite wine tasting tip? Let the squad know in the comments!
Cheers, clever girls!
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