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John Souerbry's Blog

By John Souerbry | Broker in Palo Alto, CA

Tips For Spending A Day In California Wine Country

Tips For Spending A Day In California Wine CountryTips For Spending A Day In California Wine Country

There are few adventures as pleasurable as spending a day in California wine country.  The Golden State is blessed with a dozen or more wine regions that make many of them close enough for a fun day trip or a quick weekend get-away.  As a year-round resident of the Bay Area, I have the opportunity to cruise some of the world’s finest vineyards and wine-producing areas on a regular basis.  Through trial and error, I’ve picked up some helpful tips for spending a day in California wine country that I hope will make your next visit a lot more comfortable and enjoyable.

Whether we begin our adventure by waking up in a wine country luxury hotel or start our adventure from home, there are a few simple things we can do to make our time in wine country more productive and less stressful.  I realize that some of us are planners and some of us prefer to fly by the seat of our pants, so the ideas I’m sharing today are for operating somewhere in between.

Tip #1:  Identify “must see” places and plan your route accordingly.  Days in wine country should be unhurried and relaxing, so we shouldn’t be disappointed if we don’t make it to every place on our list.  That’s ok, we’ll be back.  But remorse from “I can’t believe I made it all the way to wine country and didn’t go to …” can be reduced by putting the “must see” places first on our itinerary.

Tip #2:  Make reservations.  Some wineries are not open to the general public but do offer tours and tastings by appointment.  Wineries with public tasting rooms also provide premium tours and tastings, some with food pairings.  Most require reservations made several days in advance.

Tip #3:  Unless we’ve hired a limo, we need a designated driver if we’re doing a lot of wine tasting.  As a back-up, we should have with us the phone numbers of one or more local cab companies.  All tasting rooms will call a cab for you if needed.

Tip #4:  Plan to eat.  Meal breaks help us pace our wine intake and reduce “tasting fatigue.”  Better wine country restaurants are typically packed during the summer, so make reservations.  The better restaurants in Napa Valley and Sonoma County are often fully booked for several weeks out, sometimes months, on summer weekends.

Tip #5:  Pack a day box or bag that includes:

  • Wine country maps and guides, plus notes we’ve made about places we want to see (see my notes on Winery Quest Pro for iPhone below)
  • Camera
  • A notebook or cell phone app for writing tasting notes
  • Cell phone with GPS or a hand-held GPS unit
  • A sweater or jacket and long pants
  • An umbrella (I go wine tasting regardless of the weather)
  • Bottled water (the alcohol in wine causes dehydration)
  • A picnic kit with ground cloth, paper plates, napkins, wine glasses, utensils

Tip #6:  The day before your wine adventure, fill the car with gas, go to the ATM, and do any other errands that would detract from your day in wine country.

I hope that you found these tips for spending a day in California wine country helpful.  I’d like to hear from anyone who has additional tips to share.

Photo:  Tasting Room - Leoness Cellars (Temecula, CA)


EXTRA:  Wine Country Adventure Apps I Use On My iPhone

Have you ever driven through wine country late in the afternoon and wanted to stop in just one more tasting room, only to find that many of them have closed?  Do you pull off the road and frantically search through guide books trying to find something still open nearby?  I have a faster, easier solution for you.  I recently added Winery Quest Pro to my iPhone and I was surprised by how well it works.  The product is basically a large database of wineries throughout California.  For each winery it provides its address, phone number, tasting room hours, wines produced, price ranges, web site, and other useful information.  But the best part is that you can find wineries near you by selecting a wine producing region and tapping on “Go To Map.”  A Google map pops up with wineries shown by name and color coded icon to indicate if the winery is private, open to the public, has a picnic area, and other features.  Just click on a winery’s icon to access its information page.  You can also create trip logs with tasting notes and save a list of favorite wineries.  Check it out at the App Store.

A very handy iPhone app for taking notes while tasting at a winery or at home is Wine Notes.  In addition to having fields that support quick entry of just about any feature of a wine you’d want to describe, you can also take a picture of the label to insert in your notes.

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