How To Guide – What Wineries To Visit:
Recently I have had a lot of people ask me what wineries to visit when going on a wine tasting trip. Presumably, they are asking because they want to know where the good wine is. But for me choosing what wineries to visit is a lot more difficult and overwhelming than that. See, I want to get EVERYTHING out of these trips that I can. I want great wine, a great experience, decently priced tastings, beautiful views, and more. So I thought I would list for you everything I look for in a winery and why.
Bri’s 8 Rules To Follow:
1. Yelp Reviews-
I HIGHLY lean on the reviews of others. Where else can I get uncensored thoughts on the wine, the people, and the winery itself. Another reason I use yelp so much is I DO NOT want to go to a place that has 200+ reviews. To me, this screams crowded and commercialized. I am ok with crowd but I really dislike commercialized. A tasting experience should be personal and private, not “quantity over quality” wines being tasted at a stand up tasting bar.
When visiting a place, like Napa, that has many AVA’s take into consideration where each winery is located. First off, the valley is fairly long and it can take over an hour to get from one end to the other. No one wants to taste at one place then wait an hour before their next tasting lol. BUT, more importantly, look into the AVA’s themselves. Each area is likely to produce higher quality of specific wines. For example: the infamous Carneros region is known for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Not in to those varietals? Than you would likely want to skip this AVA. LOCATION IS KEY when it comes to wine and wine tasting.
3. Price of the tasting-
I am sure this goes without saying but the pricing is very important. Why pay $20 to taste at a winery where I have to stand at the bar with 10 other patrons when I can pay $10 more and have a sit down tasting with the winery owner or winemaker?
4. Waive with purchase-
Speaking of pricing, I always look for wineries that waive the tasting fee with a purchase. We ALWAYS purchase a large amount of wine whenever we go wine tasting. So, if I am spending hundreds (or thousands) on your wine I appreciate the tasting being waived. I’m not the only one who feels this way…head over to Yelp and read some of the irate comments people leave regarding this haha!
5. Price of the wine-
It is important to look at the price of the wines that the winery sells because why go to a place if you can’t afford to buy the wines you love? Furthermore, the price is pretty telling to me. If the red wines are $150+ I can bet that the place me be a bit “uppity” for me buzzed friends and I. Likewise, if the wines are cheap and a large quantity of wine is made I usually deduce that the wine may be good but likely not great.
6. Consider your level of intoxication-
I always schedule the more intimate experiences (those with the owner or winemaker) at the beginning of the day. If we are going to more than 3 wineries in one day, then anything after winery 3 I make sure it will be acceptable if we are a little silly/buzzed. This is when we may do a “stand at the bar” tasting or something where it is just us at the table.
7. Mixing it up-
I, also, try and have a wide variety of experiences: a big, grandiose winery, then a boutique winery, then perhaps a wine tasting bar. Throw in a cave or vineyard tour and I feel like I have experienced a little bit of everything.
8. The Experience-
Lastly, but most importantly to me, is the experience I will have at the winery. If you can’t tell already, I don’t go wine tasting to do “bar” tastings”. I want to tour caves, taste from the barrels, do food pairings, speak with the winemaker, walk the vineyards with the owner, or some other magical experience. Of course, this comes with a (sometimes hefty) price tag so I do A LOT of research on this. I look at nearly every wineries “experiences” and see what I feel is the best bang for my buck. Note: tasting fees are usually NOT waived with these bigger experiences, even if you purchase.
Put this all together and it can make for a pretty perfect, well-rounded trip. If you ever have any questions about planning a wine tasting trip (especially to Napa) please, please reach out! I have done close to 100 hours of research on this very topic. I can probably tell you more about some of the wineries tasting experiences than they can hahaha. I have this has been helpful in deciding what wineries to visit.
How do you choose what wineries to visit??