Napa and Sonoma counties in Northern California are the hub of wine making in the U.S. Considered part of the San Francisco Bay area, Napa in particular, with roughly 500 wineries, is a destination for four million visitors a year. Though many visitors – whether from the surrounding Bay Area or from out of town – may like to be spontaneous in their excursions to wineries, it pays to give some thought ahead of time to which wineries you’re going to visit.
Based on his experience as a tour guide in Napa and Sonoma, Andy Hyman, Snob Free Wine Tasting Companion author, suggests you ask yourself the following questions if you’re planning to visit Bay Area wineries:
How much time do you have and how many wineries to you want to visit in one day?
Select wineries that are not too far apart if you hope to visit more than two to three in a day. Realize that Napa is a smaller county but a further drive from San Francisco, while Sonoma covers a larger territory but many wineries in the southern part of the county are a quicker drive from many parts of the Bay Area. Check out the locations of both Napa and Sonoma wineries linked here for your convenience before you set off on your day.
How much money would you like to spend?
Wineries charge for wine tasting. Generally speaking Sonoma wineries will charge from $10.00 to $25.00 per person for a “flight” of tastings, which usually provides tastes of four to five wines. Napa wine tasting typically runs from $20.00 to $60.00 per person or more in some of the high-end wineries.
What do you hope to see and do aside from tasting wine?
Do you want to see wine caves where barrels are stored? Are you interested in how wine is produced so want a tour of the wine-making facilities? Do you plan to picnic and want a winery where you can access picnic tables near a vineyard? Will you have children with you and need an area for them to run about? Call wineries or check out their websites to see what they offer.
It may surprise you to know that many smaller wineries that are certainly worth a visit and provide fabulous personal attention require advance reservations as their staffing is limited. It can be very disappointing to drive an hour or more to a winery only to learn they don’t accept visitors except by appointment or they don’t have a license to allow picnicking at their winery. (Licensing of wineries varies based on the goals of the winery.)
Whether you’re visiting Napa, Sonoma or starting out on an adventure to visit wineries near you, get up to speed about wine tasting quickly with Snob Free Wine Tasting Companion, Wine Smart in a Day, Napa & Sonoma edition. Purchase the paperback edition here or on Amazon. Or download your ebook Kindle, iPad or iPhone or Nook.
A bit of planning can make a big difference in how much you get to savor your wine-tasting day. And savoring is what it’s all about!