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Tips on Wine Tasting in Napa Valley

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It’s easy to spend your travel budget on wine tasting fees alone. This article offers tips on how to get more for your dollar when in Napa Valley.

The Tasting Fees

This is anecdotal but before the dot-com bubble of 1997-2000 if you were to visit Napa Valley wineries only offered free wine tastings. During the dot-com era the number of folks who moved to the Bay Area and had disposable income skyrocketed. They wanted to spend that money and Napa Valley was an easy hour to two-hour drive away. With this sudden influx of new visitors the wineries had to adjust their procedures and institute tasting fees. This allowed the winery recoup money lost on the wine being served in the tasting room. Even after the dot-com bubble burst the wineries kept the tasting fees.

There are wineries in the industry that have priced their tasting fees at $25 or higher per person. This tasting fee might garner a visitor tastings of five different wines with pours for each tasting being minimal. The quantity might equal one glass of wine. Mind you, a tasting need not mean a full glass of wine. Wine tasting is not to get drunk. You are wine tasting to see if you enjoy the wine or not. Yet these wineries are selling bottles of wine that cost less than or the same as the tasting fee. Proportionally the cost of wine tasting is too high. Additionally most wineries have stopped waiving the tasting fee if you buy a bottle of wine. If you and a friend buy a tasting fee and each buy a bottle of wine a single visit could cost a $100 per winery.

Of course, a tasting fee is understandable. The wineries can’t just give away their wines for free. It is an extensive production to make a bottle of wine. It takes years from the moment the vines grow the grapes to the time a wine bottle hits the shelves. Plus, many people are involved with the production of the wine. This includes the employees in the field, wine makers, and tasting room attendants. If every person who wine tasted bought a bottle of wine it’s possible tasting fees could stop. Except there exist individuals who go wine tasting with no intention of buying wine. Regrettably this practice of tasting fees hurts those visitors who are new to wine and those who love wine and want to try out different wines and wineries.

Those new to wine may find tasting fees to high and avoid ever tasting at wineries. This leads to wineries loosing potential customers and prevents a person from even finding out how much they may enjoy that winery’s wine. For long time wine drinkers that same high wine tasting fee may stop them from visiting a winery and that too is a lost consumer. My suggestion to wineries is that their tasting fees should not be more than half of the cheapest bottle of wine in the tasting flight. If someone will buy a bottle of wine you don’t need to comp the entire tasting fee, but you should give a percentage off the total sale. Rewarding customers is a good practice and could land you a consumer for life.

Internet research can help you find wineries with no tasting fee, a low tasting fee, or tasting fees that go towards buying a bottle of wine. If you have a winery you want to visit but don’t want to pay the high tasting fee, my suggestion is to skip the tasting room. Instead, buy a bottle of their wine out right. For example, pack yourself a picnic lunch. Go to Frank Family Vineyards, buy a bottle of their wine, and ask them to uncork it for you. Snag a spot at one of their picnic benches outside and you and your group can split the bottle while eating lunch. If you have a big group you can buy more than one bottle. You’ve gone from a small pour in a tasting center to savoring the wine in a relaxed setting.

Crowds

Regardless of which wineries you visit there will be crowds. The number of people visiting Napa Valley has increased over the past couple of decades. If you’re with a big group and you’re just there for a fun outing this may not be an issue. If you’re there only for wine tasting it can be annoying. You don’t want to struggle for a spot at the wine bar or be jostled while trying to sip your wine. The only way to avoid crowds is to visit Napa Valley during the off-peak season, or weekdays. Visit wineries the moment they open in the morning to avoid crowds. If you are visiting Napa Valley with a large-sized group try calling the wineries ahead of time to let them know when you will visit them. There are wineries that offer group rates, with discounts on tours of the winery or packaged deals that include wine pairings with food. There are wineries that have specific tastings areas for larger groups that you can reserve ahead of time.

Release Day Events

Another tip to get the most out of your dollar is to attend a winery’s release day event. There are wineries that offer one or two such events a year. There is an entrance fee that may appear steep but includes unlimited tastings plus hors d’oeuvres. The best part of these events is the chance to try higher end bottles of wine. The wineries are attempting to sell cases of newly released wine, including cases that can run upwards of over a hundred dollars a bottle. If you’ve never tried wine that expensive these events allow you to do so. A lot of people attend release day events, be sure to arrive as early as possible. Even though it’s crowded, these events are wonderful for a group outing. Release day events are held outside or in event halls, which means more space than if you were inside a tasting room. Wineries that put on great release day events are Silver Oak Cellars and Groth Vineyards & Winery. Check on-line for other wineries that may host such events.

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Napa Valley on a Budget

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Frank Family Vineyards: 38.559106, -122.521703
Silver Oak Cellars: 38.440849, -122.381457
Groth Vineyards & Winery: 38.449131, -122.379458
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Frank Family Vineyards
Tips on Wine Tasting in Napa Valley
Frank Family Vineyards, Larkmead Lane, Calistoga, CA, United States
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Silver Oak Cellars
Tips on Wine Tasting in Napa Valley
Silver Oak Cellars, Oakville Cross Road, Oakville, CA, United States
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Groth Vineyards & Winery
Tips on Wine Tasting in Napa Valley
Groth Vineyards & Winery, Oakville Cross Road, Oakville, CA, United States

 

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