As someone who’s spent a fair amount of time out tasting (and working a tasting room) in Napa Valley, I can honestly say it’s not what you’d expect. Glitz and wine-filled glamour? Sure! But to make the most of it, it takes a little more preparation than just showing up day of ready to drink.
Here are the top five recommendations I’d make for preparing for and enjoying your trip to Napa.
1. Make appointments.
The number one mistake people make when coming is is not making appointments in advance. If it’s just a few of you and you don’t really care where you go, you’ll probably be fine planning a couple days before, but life is much easier when you plan in advance. Most of the higher end places require appointments, and while some have an online booking system, that’s not always the case so calling in advance to book is your best bet.
2. It ain’t cheap.
The average Napa Valley wine tasting is around $70 these days. Depending on where you choose to go, tastings will range from $50 to $150+, and while there are a few free ones, your best bet for quality is to pony up.
Is it really worth it? Depends on where you go, in my opinion. Some factors to consider include: how many wines you get to try, if it comes with a tour / personal experience, glass or the tasting fee is waived with a minimum purchase, if the wines are highly priced as-is, the size of the pours (see below), etc.
3. If you plan on drinking, get a driver or Uber.
Napa cops take their jobs very seriously. Regardless of the obvious safety hazards of drinking and driving, I would never assume you can just have a glass or two and get away with it. They know people come here to drink, know locals love to drink, and vigilantly do their duty sunup to sundown.
If you’re here to have fun, hire someone and remember that regardless of driving situation, you can still get kicked out of tasting rooms for being too drunk.
4. You do not have to finish every glass.
Going off of #3, if you want to fully enjoy your trip to Napa I would not recommend booking more than three tastings a day. It’s a lot to fit in, and unless you’re a pro more than three (or two with drinks at lunch) can get dicey.
While it’s tempting when you love wine, no one is going to blame you for dumping whatever bit is left in your glass so you don’t get too hammered. Except maybe your friends, two seconds before they get kicked out of the tasting rooms themselves.
5. Bring cash for tip.
Many places do not have a tip line when you pay for your tasting, so if you do have exceptional service bring cash to let them know you appreciated it. Keep in mind not everyone makes money off of how much wine you buy, so a dollar here and there can really go a long way.
But above all, ENJOY! Napa is an incredible place and I hope this helps you make the most of it! Also working on a similar post for Sonoma since it’s a slightly different ballgame out there.
If you have any other questions or want specific winery recommendations, let me know!