Wine Country on a Budget

Why do we go to Wine Country? To get away from the rat race for a few days, soak in some gorgeous scenery and, of course, taste a lot of wine.

But it can be expensive, particularly if your Wine Country destination is Napa Valley or Sonoma County. Lodging, meals and winery tasting fees can add up, depleting your budget for those special take-home bottles.

What to do? Here are four tips, based on my (none of your business how many) years of Wine Country expeditions…

  1. If the name of the place where you plan to stay includes the word “Resort,” make other plans.

    Not everyone will agree with me on this, but I’ve always felt that the place I stay while on vacation is, first and foremost, a place to sleep. Rather than spending several hundred dollars per night at a posh resort, you can sleep quite comfortably in Napa or Sonoma for $100 or less, especially during non-summer months. Several of the chain hotels/motels even include breakfast in their rates.

  2. Share a tasting.

    With tasting fees having reached double digits at many wineries, it’s easy for a couple to spend $100 or more per day just on those fees. At most tasting rooms, the pours are generous enough that two people could enjoy a few sips each. By sharing, you can cut those tasting fees in half.

  3. Purchase a bottle.

    Sometimes it’s a posted policy, and sometimes it’s a simple courtesy: A majority of wineries today will waive the tasting fee if you simply buy a bottle of wine. And, in most cases, that bottle need not be the ultra-expensive Estate Reserve Proprietor’s Choice Silver Anniversary Cuvee.

  4. Be nice.

    Engage the tasting room personnel in conversation. Ask their advice on restaurants where locals go. Inquire about which wines they really like. Sometimes, a bottle that’s not on the tasting menu will suddenly appear from under the counter.

Tomorrow: We’ll help you plan a trip to California’s Arroyo Grande Valley wine country.

Posted in Editor's Journal
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