If you love wine, you must visit California’s wine country. Take a couple of days to relax, enjoy the beautiful countryside, and just drink wine!
Everyone always wants to know what the best time is to visit. It really depends on what experience you are looking for. Most people want to come for harvest. So mid-September through October, Sonoma and Napa are full of tourists. Obviously, harvest is a fun time to go – you see colorful foliage, witness bunches of ripe grapes on the vines, there’s more activity on the vineyard grounds, and the weather is nicer. If you are okay with crowds, it’s a beautiful time to go. I, on the other hand, try to avoid crowds, so we visited during the quiet off-season.
I was able to visit Sonoma a few years ago in February. The weather was rainy and unpredictable, but the 50 degree weather was far better than the single digit temps at home in Chicago. The wineries weren’t quiet, but they also weren’t packed. You have to be leary about tasting rooms that are empty because you don’t know how fresh the wines are or when they were uncorked.
Most wineries are open around 10 or 11am and close by 6pm. I’d recommend taking a wine tour for a day. My husband and I took a Platypus Wine Tour. This company usually decides which wineries to go to based on the people’s preferences on the bus – whether more white or red wines are liked. Cheese, crackers, and water were served on the plush bus, and we also got a quick lesson in wine tasting, wine terminology, the wine making process. Our tour took us to 4 wineries and after the second, we had a picnic lunch on the winery grounds. The bus tour prepares the food ahead of time and sets it up outside. Platypus Tours even accommodated me with a vegetarian lunch, as we let them know ahead of time. It was just really nice to be able to relax and let someone else do the driving and plan the day. If a bus tour isn’t your thing, you can also hire a limo service or join a bicycle touring group to see local vineyards and wineries.
When in Sonoma and the surrounding area, be sure to visit a winery with a wine cave. When else can you climb underground into a cool, humid tunnel that holds barrels and barrels of wine?
But even if wine isn’t your thing, there is plenty to do in and around the surrounding area.
Lastly, if you plan on brining wine home on the plane after your vacation, you need to have a plan. The laws regarding wine shipments are complex. Here are some things you can do to get those bottles home safely:
For more tips on shipping home wine, click here.
Enjoy your time in wine country! Cheers!