5 Tips to Make Your Napa Valley Visit Tip-Top
DON’T OVERBOOK – Nearly every visitor we meet in the Valley is on a mission to taste at 4+ wineries per day which is simply too much – trust us. We get it, there are so many amazing wineries, people feel they must cover as many as possible but you’ll only end up running behind all day, not being full engaged at each experience because of clock-watching and calling ahead to your next appointment to apologize for the delay (we see it every day). Speaking of, being late to appointments is not a good look and also stresses your driver. So, do everyone a favor and don’t book more than 2 or 3 formal tasting experiences in a day (assuming you start early), as they’ll typically take 1.5 - 2 hrs each (more than most expect). If you happen to run ahead of schedule or find yourself with extra time, then simply keep a list of wineries with open tasting policies that you can drop into for a splash until your next appointment.
LUNCH WISELY – Lunch is another logistical mistake we see folks make when planning their day by either not having any at all, or killing valuable time with a leisurely lunch. Given most wineries are only open from 11AM – 4PM, we recommend saving big meals for evenings when you can linger and enjoy. Our suggested lunch strategy is threefold: 1) Kill two birds with one stone and book a tasting experience that includes lunch – many wineries now offer culinary options, 2) Find a winery that allows picnics or outside food, 3) Eat at a restaurant with casual bar/patio service, so you can be in and out fairly fast. That said, do NOT skip lunch! Food is important when doing a full day of tastings and you don’t want to be one of those “purple teeth zombies” stumbling about at 5PM.
GO BIG & SMALL– Napa boasts some of the world’s most iconic wineries with incredibly designed tasting salons that will surely have you in awe. However, the Valley also has hundreds of smaller family-run gems that people often miss out on the intimacy of meeting winery owners, along with tasting small production labels not often distributed nationally. While soaring timbered ceilings and posh marble tables are impressive, so is sitting down at a vineyard-side picnic table and having the wine maker pour you their 400 case special production and tell you about the vintage firsthand. So, be sure to balance your winery tours between big and small.
VENTURE NEW VARIETALS – Most folks come to the Valley with pretty strong preferences on what types of wine they like: “Cab is King”, “I hate Chardonnay”, Merlot? “Mer-no!” and the list goes on. The challenge with these predispositions is that many are founded from poor showings of varietals due to mass-produced winemaking. That said, Napa is the place likely to convert you on many of the varietals you eschew, so be brave and try a broad array of wine with an open mind – you just might be surprised!
POUR MANAGEMENT– The term “tasting” is broadly interpreted across the Valley, so how much wine is actually poured into your glass can vary greatly from just a splash to more of a quarter glass. That said, feel free to communicate to your host if you’d like to keep your pours more measured versus generous. They will appreciate the heads-up and also for not having to needlessly dump their precious juice. But what if you LOVE a wine and want more? Not a problem. Most hosts will ask if you wish to “revisit” any of the wines and you can take them up on that offer, or simply ask directly yourself. It’s also important to revisit if you plan to buy and are trying to decide on vintages.
Last but not least, HYDRATE! Be sure to drink at least one glass of water at each tasting. You’ll thank us for it at 5PM (and in the morning).
For more guidance and trip planning services, please visit our DISCOVER page.
Mike, The 29 Napa