• Make the most of your time in Napa Valley

    Nikki McLain
    In June I embarked on my first trip to Napa. I was traveling with two Napa veterans, so I absorbed some valuable information from them while I was touring wine country. As a savvy traveler, I wanted to provide you with some tips and tricks on how to make the most of your your time in Napa and how to get your cherished purchases home safely to your wine fridge.

    A wine check bag, available at dozens of wineries in Napa or online at http://www.thewinecheck.com.

    A wine check bag, available at dozens of wineries in Napa or online at http://www.thewinecheck.com.

    Wine tasting / touring tips:

    • Do your research ahead of time. Before you go, do some online research or talk with your travel buddies to see where everyone wants to go. You will not see everything you want to see in one trip – unless you’re there for weeks – so narrow down a list of top vineyards you’d like to visit. Figure out where the vineyard is located, tasting fee costs, etc. Are they open or closed? Private or group tastings? Will you need to make an appointment?
    • Create a spreadsheet to keep track of your appointments, addresses, phone numbers and tasting fees (if applicable). We provided this ahead of time to our driver and it helped keep us on schedule.
    • Print a map – Our driver knew where he was going, but it helped me to understand where each place was in relation to one another. You could organize your trip in regions (Downtown Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, etc.)
    • Budget accordingly. I know approximately how much I spend on wine every month, so I took that into consideration before joining wine clubs. Many of the clubs will save you anywhere from 30-50% for joining, provide awesome discounts on the day of joining, and send shipments directly to your home on a quarterly basis. If you’re a frequent wine drinker, it’s worth joining the clubs. Better yet, go in with a few friends and split the shipment if you all like similar brands or types of wine.
    • Book a driver or car service. Don’t drink and drive. Enjoy your time at the vineyards and hire a driver to take you around.  Our hotel recommended hiring a local driver from Royal Coach Limousine Service, Inc. He took us around in an SUV and we had a wonderful time. It was well worth the extra money!
    • Remember to eat in between tastings – and not just crackers and cheese. Be sure to build meal times into your schedule. Who knew 5-6 tastings a day could be so exhausting?

    Shipping tips:

    • If you’re buying a case or more of wine, use a local shipping company (either at your hotel) or through the vineyard. This ended up being the method we chose as between the four of us we purchased almost five cases of wine! Sometimes buying in bulk helps get you better rate on shipping UPS Ground.
    • If you are bringing only a few bottles back with you, try this handy shipping solution: www.wineskin.net – these 18 inch, bubble pack lined bottle protecting skins can help you transport your 750 ml wine bottles in your checked bag. The price is affordable, as a three-pack of wine skins retails for only around $9.99.


    Have you experienced Napa Valley? If so, I would love to hear additional tips and tricks!

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