Many tasting rooms are by appointment only. These are generally small boutique and/or family-owned wineries. A fair number of tasting rooms are open without appointment. These are the larger wineries.
There also are tasting rooms that provide a center for people to taste small-winery gems from a specific area. If you find something you love, pick up a case. These come from wineries that don’t have large distribution. Remember: Talk to the people who are pouring. They are locals with a lot of juicy gossip about winemakers and the wine biz. Who used to be married to whom, and who is buying up everything in sight. Fun stuff to take home with you.
Most Napa Valley wineries charge $5 – $15 dollars to enjoy their tasting rooms. Often that cost is deducted from the price of your wine if you buy a bottle or a case. In Sonoma, there are fewer wineries that charge, and those are likely to be the high-end wineries.
Here’s something we like: It’s becoming a trend to have a chef on site who will prepare wine and food/cheese pairings. Wine is meant to be enjoyed with food! This will give you a good idea of which tastes, salty, sweet, etc., are best served with the wine you love. Back home, your guests will not only love you for your consideration, they may even be impressed.
And, some wineries do full-out several course meals with wines and foods coupled with education. The very word education stirs up something that opposes vacation, but let go of that. This is truly learning at its most fun.
Another thing we love: Wineries that are family affairs. Sonoma and Napa were established by Italian and German families, and winemaking was a family and community affair. All came together for the crush. Go to Coppola with pals or the kids and have a picnic on gorgeous grounds. Play bocce ball.
Truly, a California Wine Tour is about discovery, about joy, about exploration, about the bounty of life.
Meredith and Win Blevins are the authors of over 30 books. Check in on classes and writing tips at www.blevinswordworx.com. Like Authentic Wine Country, they believe that it’s all about the joy.