For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of exploring the well known California Wine Country, put it on your bucket list now! It is absolutely gorgeous and really appeals to all walks of life. California makes up 90% of the wine produced in the country. In the entire state of California there are over 1200 wineries, in the region known as “Wine Country” just north of San Francisco there are over 400 wineries. Now, some of you are lucky enough to call this your backyard, but for us in Los Angeles, I sadly have to admit that in the past few years I have only just begun to dabble in it. I am by no means a conosiour (although I have a hard time drinking cheap wine now because of it) but I did fall in love with the culture, experience and the novelty of it…oh and of course, the wine!
I am currently a member at five wineries. What I didn’t know before I started was that you can taste at a winery for free if you are a member. The memberships don’t cost anything until you get your shipments (either quarterly or bi-annually for the most part). This is a perk in my eyes. You get discounts on great wine, surprise shipments throughout the year and you get to have access to and visit the locations and taste for free whenever and however much you want.
Which finally brings me to my most recent trip to Wine Country. My sisters, mother and I finally (after being of legal drinking age for too long to even discuss) booked a mother/ daughters weekend getaway. We ended up finding an amazing house in Sonoma through AirBNB that was perfect. Great outdoor space, comfortable beds, an incredible chef’s kitchen and style that made me want to live there full time. I come from a family that loves to cook so it was great, we made the most amazing meals the whole weekend.
Because I had the most experience out of us all I ended up taking on the planning for the most part once we got to Sonoma.
First step – transportation. The most important thing and is key to having a stress free and safe wine tasting experience is figuring out how you are going to get around responsibly. Generally these places are pretty spread out too so even though you think you are “just tasting” often these wineries have a bit of a heavy pour and by the second or third stop you really shouldn’t be driving and let’s be honest, you don’t really want to stop there! There are many ways to get around this; booking a car service, party bus, limo or a genius service called Designated Drivers. Designated Drivers are fully insured drivers and will drive your own car which is great for groups of four to six (or less) depending on your car. Additionally – if you don’t have an itinerary already made up they will build one out for you specific to what your likes are. Get you access into places that may not normally be able to take you in. They can drop you and look for parking, call ahead to make sure there is availability and no appointment needed, feed you and show you some hidden gems and definitely the most cost effective way to get around.
We started our day at Domain Chandon which is primarily known for their champagne, or sparkling wines. It seemed like an appropriate way to start the day since we got going at 10:30am. The tastings are a bit on the pricey side, but if you join their club (which I did after the tasting) it ended up being free for all of us. They also have a restaurant there so if you wanted to go earlier for brunch as long as you make reservations ahead of time it would be a great way to start the day. A tasting anywhere usually ranges from three to five different types of wine.
Next we hit up Silverado which is the very first winery in Wine Country I had ever been to and will always hold a special place in my heart. If there is a wine tour to do it's the private wine tasting under the oak tree in their vineyard. You really can’t go wrong though at most of these places and it really is all about your personal preference. We also stopped at Reverie which also has a fun quick tour and Markham.
There is so much to share about Napa and this trip and so many potential trips that can come in the future but at least for this first post I will keep it simple with this check list.
1. Place to stay
2. Designated driver service (bonus to this if you don’t know much or don’t have friends to help you plan is they will customize the tour for you)
3. Friends, family or loved ones you want to have a blast with
4. Food and water!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nicole Woods is a California native who has worked in the entertainment industry for sixteen years. She is an internationally traveled entertainment executive by trade, yet a California woman at her core. California identifies who she is; down to earth, successful, beautiful (inside and out), positive and always looking for more.
With a passion for finding her own journey and a love for all categories this publication includes, now, no matter where she is in the world, she can always have a part of home with her and a community to share it with.