Napa Valley, located in northern California, is a favorite tourist destination for a number of reasons. However, taking a wine tasting tour through the picturesque Napa Valley wine tour is by far the most popular.
Winemaking in Napa Valley dates back to the mid 1830s, when the first commercial vineyards were planted in the valley by George Calvert Yount.
If you are planning a wine and dine tour to Napa Valley for your next vacation, then you need to know how to get the best out of it. The region boasts of over 400 wineries. While it’s not possible to take a tour of all of them within a short span time, you can experience the true flavor of California wine country by selecting some of the best it has to offer.
Types of Wine Tastings in Napa Valley
There are several types of wine tours in Napa Valley for you to choose, from depending on your individual preferences. Wine tasting tours can be arranged on your behalf by tour guides, or you can choose to plan a tour yourself. However, you need to first chalk out a budget for the tour, and then determine which type would fit into it.
The wine tours may vary in terms of the activities involved, and also your budget. Here is a list of some of the most common types of wine tours you will find in Napa Valley:
#1. Wine Bar Tasting
This type of tour is common with first time visitors, and offers different wine tasting experiences. You can either go for a reserve wine tasting, which will have a higher fee, or an all white wine tasting. A few of the wineries require a prior appointment for tasting wines at their bars. However, it is not mandatory at all wineries.
Helpful Tips:When you are at a wine bar, sit back, relax, and enjoy the tastings. Try to refrain from flexing too much wine knowledge as it might spoil the fun.
#2. Sit Down Wine Tasting
If you prefer a more personal interaction with your host, then a sit down wine tasting experience is what you need. This type of wine tasting is ideal if you have your own group. You will get to taste some of the wines that are not available at the bars, and avoid the long tours through the wineries.
Helpful Tips: Choose a sit-down tasting if you are willing to pay a slightly higher fee and may require you to make a reservation.
#3. Table Service Wine Tasting
If you would like a combination of the first two types of tastings, this is a great option. Table service wine tastings are common at wineries that specialize in sparkling wine. You can sit back and relax and be attended to by a dedicated host who will gladly explain the next drink to you. The amount of time allotted to you may vary, but you must allow at least an hour for the experience.
Helpful Tips: Bring your family or friends along for a better, more enjoyable experience.
#4. Winery Tours
If you are looking for a more interactive experience, and interested in exploring a winery’s facilities and vineyards, then you may want to book yourself a winery tour. You can learn more about wine, and the process of winemaking while you try out different types of wine.
Helpful Tips: This type of tasting is ideal for more adventurous folks and may require a reservation.
#5. Barrel Tasting
This type of wine tasting gives you the chance to sample wines directly from the barrel, while they’re still developing. Wine is seeped directly out of the barrel with a glass tube siphon for tasting. Some wineries offer guests the opportunity to purchase “futures” of their barrel samples.
Helpful tips: Barrel tasting tours are one of the most popular types of wine tasting experiences available in Napa Valley. Sometimes there is a shortage of wine glasses due to overcrowdedness, so you may want to bring your own glass just in case.
#6. Pairing Wine with Food
For those who feel tasting wine isn’t complete without food, why not try some scrumptious local dishes along with the wines? You can either go for a group food and wine tasting option or choose a private tour. Such tours may include a full chef-prepared five course meal or a simple cheese and wine tasting regime.
Helpful Tips: If you are willing to get into more activities over the tour, you might not want to miss the opportunity of being a helping hand to the chef in the preparations if permitted.
#7. Blend Your Own Wine:
You will get the opportunity to blend your own wine in a number of wineries in Napa Valley. These wineries not only offer tours through their vineyards and facilities but also provide insights on wine blending. The wine blending activities can be fun and serious both at the same time.
Helpful Tips: You can blend your own wine and even take it home for later.
The Best Wineries in Napa Valley
It comes handy if you already know which wineries in Napa Valley top the chart. While there are a plenty of options to choose from, following are a selected few which have scored better than the rest in terms of quality and services but is just a very small sample of wineries but a good start for the wine novice.
It is a family owned winery that offers quality wine tasting and tours to its visitors. It also provides private tastings by prior appointment. You will get to experience single-vineyard Cabernets from popular vineyards like Beckstoffer Dr. Crane and Beckstooffer To Kalon.
BV has a long history in winemaking and is amongst the oldest wine producers in the region. The BV wine tour allows the visitors to explore the original winery building which has been standing there for centuries.
The winery has earned its name as the producer of high-quality wine. It is also named amongst the leading wineries of the world. It offers a number of tasting options that includes the Taste of Beringer tour.
Cade Estate should be on your list if you consider breath-taking views to be an integral part of your wine tasting experience. The winery, which is LEED Gold certified, sits on Howell Mountain from where visitors can enjoy its very popular Sauvignon Blanc.
Things to Remember Before Going for a Wine Tasting Tour in Napa Valley
- Make sure that your stomach is adequately full before you begin your wine tour in napa valley if you want to avoid the wine levels from adding up.
- It is advisable to carry a jacket along on your Napa Valley wine tours since it might feel chilly at any time of the year. The temperatures in this region may vary erratically and hence, you will be more at ease in layered clothes and comfortable shoes.
- Carry your own bottle of water as it is very important to stay hydrated during the tasting tour.
- Avoid having heavily flavoured eateries just before tasting wine as it may interfere with with the experience.
Wine tasting can be fun, however, it could be somewhat baffling if you’re a first time visitor to a tasting room. You might find yourself in an awkward situation for not knowing the tasting room etiquettes well enough.
Do’s and Don’ts While visiting a Wine Tasting Room in Napa Valley.
- This is one place where there is no place for perfumes. So, remember to step in without smelling strongly of cologne or perfume as it would interfere with the smell of the wine and ruin the tasting experience of everyone in the room around you.
- Make sure you have left behind all the preconceived notions (I only like whites or only drink reds, I don’t drink dessert wines) you had about wines before going in for a wine tasting. Be prepared to try anything that is offered and you will be surprised.
- Wine tasting tours can be more fun if you realise that it isn’t just a learning activity. It is okay to gulp down some of it and enjoy. However, spitting wine is a common practice in wine tastings as it enhances the wine tasting experience.
- Buy wines but avoid engaging in too much of bargaining to make some extra deal. Some wineries or tasting rooms have policies that waive the tasting charges on purchasing a specific amount of wine from them.
- Are you wondering if it is alright to tip at a tasting room? Well, it may not be the same scenario everywhere. However, before you tip you must remember that these folks get commission over their salaries for selling wine. So, you might as well buy a wine than tipping. That said, tipping is always appreciated.
- If you like, you may retry wines but be sure of your capacity. The patron would allow you to linger if you are considering a purchase. Also, it is important to remember that no action of yours should disrupt the other people’s experiences.
Things To Do In Napa Valley Other Than Wine Tasting
Napa Valley being famous for wine production gets a large number of tourists every year. This wine producing county of north California, however, is not all about wines. The lush green landscape and the rolling hills present a splendid picture of the region. You shouldn’t miss out on this part of the U.S if you have a penchant for holiday destinations that boasts of natural beauty amongst other things.
#1. Napa Valley Wine Train
Your trip to Napa Valley may include a hike through the hilly trails or tasting exotic dishes, apart from wine tasting. If you’re planning a trip to this place, do not miss the Napa Valley wine train. The train takes its passengers on a three-hour ride, complete with gourmet lunch or dinner. The food is prepared by chefs on the train itself. During the ride you will catch a sight of the town centers and the wineries.
#2. The Auberge du Soleil Experience
There are few things in the world as relaxing and rejuvenating as sitting at the terrace of Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford sipping fine wine and gazing at the breath-taking view of the valley that stretches into infinity before your eyes. Adding to it is the lavish traditional French and Napa Valley menu for lunch at the posh hotel’s restaurant.
#3. Trip to the 19th Century Grocery:
The Oakville Grocery, which was once a gas station, exudes an old world charm being founded in 1881. The grocery finds an integral part in the history of the place. It is California’s longest continually operating store. Since it is food along with wine that defines Napa and Sonoma County, the grocery takes pride in representing its gourmet artisan food community to the core.
#4. Go Hiking:
Napa Valley, with its sprawling landscapes that comprises of more than 53,000 acres of fields, hills and mountains, provides the perfect setting for hiking or running. You can also explore the place on your bike and it would be an equally pleasant experience.
#5. Explore the Calistoga Castle:
The Calistoga Castle is a well-known tourist destination in Napa valley. The eight-level castle, inspired by Italian architecture, is made out of 8,000 tons of stone and spreads over 171 acres. The castle consists of 107 rooms and is complete with ramparts, tower, moat and a drawbridge. You can explore two levels of the Calistoga Castle with general admission tickets and also experience 5 wine tastings.
#6. Take a Walk Through St. Helena Main Street:
Napa Valley has more to it. A walk through the main street of St. Helena will allow you to check out the town’s several shops, restaurants, boutiques, galleries and more. The street is also known for the impressive architecture of the buildings that line it. The National Register of Historic places have three blocks of the town registered under National Historic District.
#7. The Artistic Side of Napa:
The town’s art galore will also steal your attention for their uniqueness and beauty. The place is spotted with a number of art galleries, museums and studios. You can explore the works of over 800 Bay area contemporary artists at the diRosa art gallery. It stands on a 217 acres of land and houses over 2000 pieces of contemporary art.
#8. The Restaurants in the Wine Country:
The valley is a favourite destination for both food and wine lovers. While vineyards constitute 9 percent of the total area, you will also come across farms and gardens offering fresh produces in abundance. You also have the option to choose from 125 restaurants, so do your research before you choose your pick.
Foodies will be glad to find 11 Michelin starred restaurants in the region. However, if luxury dining is not your thing, you can take a tour of the organic farm of Chef Thomas Keller, which is absolutely free of cost.
If you are a wine enthusiast and haven’t already had a wine tasting experience at the Napa Valley wineries, you should soon book yourself on one of the most fulfilling wine tasting tours out there. A wine tour in Napa and Sonoma valley is a classic choice for a relaxing, yet fun vacation. A trip to the valley would surely leave you wanting for more. Don’t want to plan it on your own? Well, there are a plenty of guided tours you can choose from according to your preferences.
Are you looking for a complete Napa Valley wine tasting tour package at a reasonable price? Why not check out Tango Tours for fairly priced luxury wine tour packages for Napa and Sonoma Valley? Contact us for more details.