Wine tasting is one of my favorite things in life to do. Being able to visit beautiful places with amazing scenery, listen to music of your choice, with great company, have the wind blowing in your hair with the top down, and getting to taste many different wines is my idea of heaven. There are so many wonderful places to go since most states now have wineries.
I went wine Tasting in Napa a few days ago while riding on the back of a motorcycle. I know it’s probably not the safest thing in the world but the driver wasn’t drinking so I really got to enjoy myself. After going to Napa numerous times and almost always trying different wineries, I find it incredible that I still have not gone to all of them! I have some favorites but there are so many mind blowing wineries in Napa it is hard to pick just a few.
When wine tasting in Napa, it is important to pick an area within Napa and stick with it. Many people don’t realize how large Napa is from one end to the other. It can take more than an hour to drive from Calistoga, the most northern point, to Los Carneros, the southernmost point. If you decide to visit wineries all over the Napa at once, that leads to a lot of wasted time driving and a lot less tasting! There are a total of 13 sub AVA’s (American Viticulture Areas) in Napa. AVA’s are the specific areas that wine comes from and the smaller the AVA, the more expensive the wine is going to be. For example, a wine that is from Napa sounds more exclusive than a wine from California. We can take this a step further, a wine from Rutherford (a region within Napa) is more exclusive than a wine from Napa since all the grapes have to come from the region that is identified on the label. Depending on where you are coming from or staying, that would be a good way to pick the region to focus your tastings in. If you are coming from San Francisco then stick with the southern part of Napa but if you are staying somewhere in Napa try and focus in the region you are staying in.
Time flies when you are having fun. I am always amazed when I go wine tasting that there is less time than I think! Tasting rooms open at ten and almost all of them close at four; which is so early! Who starts wine tasting at ten am? Unless you are very dedicated to getting up early to get to the wineries, you already start losing out on those valuable tasting hours. Each winery you visit takes at least a half hour and it takes time to get from one winery to another. Designate the most detail orientated person in your group, who loves maps and scheduling, to come up with an efficient way to plan out your day to see the most amount of wineries with the least amount of driving. Do not let this person have complete control of your day; wine tasting is meant to be fun after all. In Napa, there are so many wonderful wineries in such a concentrated area, you can focus on one small area such as Yountville, Los Carneros, Rutherford, St Helena or another, and save the other areas for a different day. I would leave at least an hour in between appointments because the people running the tastings don’t appreciate you being late. I would also highly recommend making appointments ahead of time as you will receive much better service.
After you have planned out your day, don’t forget to pick a lunch spot. Drinking from start to finish without any food is the key to ending up as one hot mess. Unless that is your goal, then I would either pack some snacks or pick a lunch spot. I would actually pack an easy lunch like sandwiches or some bread and cheese and eat them at one of the wineries that allow food. This saves time and money. I am all about maximizing the time spent wine tasting so these are my pointers.
Hitting up big wineries with the famous names is always cool like Silver Oak, Opus One, Mondavi, Chateau Montelena etc. and I would aim for one of them because it’s fun to go somewhere famous. However, I would really try to find out some of the smaller ones that are laid back, smaller production, less crowded and a different kind of experience. It is so rewarding to discover a winery that you and your friends haven’t heard of or aren’t too familiar with and fall in love with it. It feels more sentimental.
Have a wonderful time tasting in Napa and let me know if you have any questions with anything!