I feel lucky to have grown up so close to one of the most famous wine regions in the world, The Napa Valley. It wasn’t until I moved home after college that I really started to appreciate good wines and discovering which wineries I like best. Now, Napa and the surrounding areas feel like a home away from home so I have gotten a good system down for every day trip or weekend adventure we have. As we transition into Summer this area is inundated with tourists and locals flocking to the valley for the warm weather, never ending wine and incredible food. Since we all know I get overwhelmed by crowds and have little patience these are the things that have helped me try and avoid some of the chaos.
Get There Early
Whether is it to a winery or a restaurant, Daniel and I always try to get there right when they open. It seems a little odd getting to a winery at 10am, but it is the absolute best time. The crowds are usually a little thinner which allows you to get more time with an employee well versed in all of the wines you are tasting. It is always a bummer when you pay for something and feel rushed through it.
Book a Tour or Tasting
If you don’t want to get to a winery really early booking a reservation is key, especially at some of the busier locations. Doing a little research ahead of time can help save a lot of frustration. A lot of wineries actually require a reservation to do a tasting or they can be closed on the weekends for private events. I have definitely had my heart set on going to a place only to find out they are having a wedding or it is by appointment only. Two of my favorite wineries, Frog’s Leap and Duckhorn cost a little more and require an appointment in advance, but have the most stunning settings and really knowledgeable staff.
Map Out Where You Want to Eat
Napa Valley is the last place I would want to find a restaurant once I got there. Similar to wineries the more prep you do ahead of time, the better. Sometimes I will make a reservation at two places and then cancel the other once I figure out exactly what wineries we are going to. Lunch places and the more well known restaurants usually have lines out the door, so if they don’t take reservations I like to get there as they open.
Join a Wine Club
I was hesitant to join a wine club for a while because I didn’t want to feel like I always had to go back to the same place. I have been so happy with our BR Cohn membership because they work with a lot of other wineries, so we get free tastings at multiple locations. We get complimentary tastings for up to four people, which is great for small groups, as well as choosing our favorite bottles to have sent to us. We chose BR Cohn because we love the wine, but it’s location in Sonoma always seems far less crowded than St. Helena or Napa. They also offer great events like live music and Summer BBQ’s.
Bypass Wineries Altogether
Some days I have a craving to go to Wine Country, but don’t necessarily want to go wine tasting. I like to hit up Dean & DeLuca or Oakville Grocery and stock up on bread, cheese and a good bottle of wine. Then I will just find a park or go to my favorite place ever, Inglenook and create a little picnic setting. Inglenook serves wine by the glass or by the bottle which is great if you don’t want a lot of wine. A day in wine country can be extremely relaxing no matter what you do and where you go. I just recommend having a really solid idea of where you want to go and making some reservations ahead of time.