It's finally happening. The wine trip you've been wanting to go on is finally a reality. You’ve purchased the plane tickets, taken the time off work, and booked the perfect Airbnb. Now you just need to plan the wineries you’ll be visiting and how you’ll be spending your time on your wine trip!
My husband and I recently visited Napa Valley and Sonoma for the first time and when it came time to plan the trip I was both excited and incredibly overwhelmed! There were so many wineries and tasting rooms and I wanted to visit them all, but that obviously wasn’t going to be possible in the four days that we were down there.
I want to share my tips for how I went about planning my wine trip in hopes that it helps you plan your next wine trip!
Tip #1: Do Your Research
Depending on how familiar you are with the wine region you’re visiting, it might help to do a little bit of research before visiting.
Not sure where to start? You could always book a Custom Private Tasting with yours truly and I’ll be happy to answer all of these questions for you! Other resources I recommend are Wine Folly, Wine Tourism Blogs (Wine with Paige is great if you’re visiting Napa or Sonoma), or even Instagram (search for the region you’re visiting as a hashtag).
Tip #2: Make A Wishlist
Now comes the fun part! After I had a little background knowledge on the region, I started making a list of all the wineries I would love to visit. Don’t worry if the list starts to get long, you can narrow it down later.
This step might also require some research if you’re unsure about what wineries you want to visit. Start by asking for recommendations. You can ask friends or family that have visited the region, put out a general request on social media, or even find specific Facebook groups dedicated to these specific regions and ask for recommendations there.
Other resources that can help you find winery recommendations include:
When you’re choosing wineries to add to your wishlist, be sure to note what specific experience(s) you’d like to do at that winery and how long that experience is.
Lastly, I recommend adding a variety of small boutique and large well-known wineries to your list.
Tip #3: Map it Out
Now that you have your list of wineries, it’s time to narrow it down. The easiest way to do this is to put the wineries on a map and group them together by location. This will help you get a better understanding of how far each one is from the others and will help you pare down and plan a reasonable route. You want to spend your time enjoying the tasting experience, not traveling!
This is also a great time to decide how you will travel between the wineries: designated driver, private car, Uber/Lyft, public transport, walk, bike, etc. Obviously on a day you’re walking, the wineries will have to be closer together than if you planned to Uber/Lyft!
I like to use Google Maps to map out the wineries. I use the “Your Places” feature to make a list of the wineries. You can read about how to do that here. For example, here’s the list I made with all the wineries and restaurants we visited in Napa/Sonoma.
Tip #4: Limit Yourself
Here comes the hard part. I recommend visiting no more than three wineries per day. Yes, I said three. That might not seem like a lot, but trust me, by the end of the day your palate will be thanking you for keeping it reasonable!
Let’s not forget that wine contains alcohol and even if you’re spitting (which I also definitely recommend), your palate is still going to get fatigued and you won’t be able to truly enjoy the wine once you hit a limit. (On the spitting note, don’t be afraid to ask for a spit bucket if the winery doesn’t provide one at first!)
Another way to give your palate a break is to try to break up your time tasting wine with a vineyard or facility tour, or even just time to walk around and enjoy the grounds yourself.
When building your itinerary, be sure to give yourself at least an extra half hour longer than you think you need at each spot. This will do double duty in helping you spread out the tastings along with giving you wiggle room in case you end up chatting with tasting room staff or winemakers and stay longer than expected.
Tip #5: Plan Ahead
Nowadays many wineries require reservations - the more popular the winery is, the earlier you’ll want to book that reservation. For Napa and Sonoma, I booked most of our reservations about one month in advance and even then some of the top spots (Chateau Montelena, Schramsburg, Domaine Carneros) were already starting to fill up.
Below you can see how I scheduled everything out each day so I could book reservations ahead of time while still keeping in mind time for travel and leisure.
Tip #6: Don't Forget Food
There you have it, six tips for planning the wine trip of your dreams! Did you find these tips helpful? Let me know in the comments below. What else would you like to know?