Choosing Where to Go

Sometimes your destination for wine tasting is chosen for you.  If you have a business trip to San Francisco, you may want to add on a day or two of visiting wineries.  You’re most likely to decide to go to Napa Valley or Sonoma County, if only because they are the closest.  Similarly, if you are just looking for a pleasant day in the country – with wine of course – you’ll drive to the winemaking area nearest your home.  So, for example, we New Yorkers head out to Long Island’s North Fork.

But sometimes, your objective is to take a wine tasting trip, without a particular destination in mind.  How do you select the region of Wine Country to visit?

Tuscany in September.

  • Is wine tasting the only objective?  If it is, then you want to go to an area that has many vineyards open to the public, where the quality is well known and accommodations are easy to find.  Once again, NapaNoma suggests itself, but so does Bordeaux or Tuscany or the Rioja.  That’s different than a Paris vacation with a day out in Champagne or the Loire Valley.  If everyone in your party loves wine, the first option makes some sense.  But if you have teetotalers or teenagers with you, maybe you should only inflict wine on them for a day.
  • Would you prefer a new experience or would you like to re-visit favorite places?  We can never get too much of wineries in some of our favorite valleys, Napa and the Southern Rhône.  We go back as often as we can, given available time and budget.  But California’s Central Coast or the Northern Rhône, where we have not travelled to as frequently, also have their allure.  And we’ve not yet tasted wine in Switzerland’s Dôle or Austria’s Burgenland.  Maybe this upcoming trip is when someday becomes now.

Carneros, on the Napa County side.

  • What kind of wine would you like to try for several days in a row?  We appreciate a cold glass of Gewürztraminer on a hot summer day, but we’re not up for a week of it.  So while we have tasted wines in Alsace, it was only briefly.  At the other extreme, maybe the 16% alcoholic wines of Paso Robles are too much for you this time around.  Ah, yes, Pinot Noir would be perfect!  Now you only have to choose among Burgundy, Carneros, Los Olivos and Santa Barbara, to name a few possibilities.
  • When do you want to go?  Power Tasting has long recommended that you avoid the most popular destinations on weekends.  But some of the best wineries in certain regions are only open Thursdays through Sundays.  For instance, we have experienced this in Paso Robles and the Santa Rita Hills.  Time of year also matters.  If all you’re interested in is the wines, then there’s no problem making a trip in the depths of winter.  Many California wineries release their wines in February, so that might attract you.  But if you want to see the vines with dense coverage, you need to go in the summer.  And if you want to see the harvest, you have to be in Wine Country between August and October.  (Unless you want to go to the southern hemisphere, when February through April is the right time for you.)

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