My Top 10 Tips For Wine Trips!
Wine trips are fun, in fact, after camping they're my favorite trip to take ;) As much fun as wine trips are, they are sometimes daunting to plan, so this blog is filled with my top 10 tips for planning a wine tasting trip!
I did two back-to-back wine trips in May and June of this year. One was my annual Oregon wine trip with my wine BFF Wine Lady Out West (@wineladyoutwest on Instagram), and one was a trip that combined Bottle Rock in Napa and wine tasting with one of my closest friends from my hometown. That's my first wine trip tip - plan a trip with friends.
1. Plan a trip with friends and divide the planning and logistics duties. Dividing the planning duties can help alleviate the pressure to plan it all yourself, and it helps ensure everyone on the trip has input.
2. Know what your "must see/do/trys" are, and share them with your party. When Afton (Wine Lady Out West) and I plan our annual Oregon wine tasting trip we each share what our "must try" wineries are, this helps with the planning, and ensures everyone has something to look forward to.
3. Be willing to compromise. I suggest deciding how many wineries you want to visit total, and how many days you want to spend tasting wine, then divide among your group so every person has a say to pick the wineries they want to visit. In my (professional wine tasting ;) experience) 3-4 wineries a day is the sweet spot, with 3 being the most ideal for spending quality time at the winery, grabbing lunch, and traveling between wineries. Trust me, it's no fun checking your watch and rushing through a wine tasting - especially when a lot of wineries will customize tastings to their customers and bring extra pours of fun, exclusive, wines, if you have time. Avoid cramming wineries into your day if you can avoid it!
4. Don't be afraid to pick wineries for reasons other than the wine. Sounds weird, right? Hear me out, some wineries have exceptional architecture, or stunning vineyards, others have unique histories or winemaker stories, and still others offer customized tasting experiences that are too good to pass up. As weird as it sounds, wine is about more than the wine. You'll really get a chance to experience wine culture by looking past the wine on your wine trips.
5. Set a budget. It's so easy to fall in love with wines during a wine tasting, and that means it's easy to blow your wine budget at the first winery. Unless you're lucky enough to not need a wine budget, I recommend deciding how much you want to spent on wine over the course of your entire trip, and keep that in mind throughout your trip. Trust me, it's almost too easy to blow your wine budget one day one of a multi-day wine tasting trip.
6. Don't get drunk and join every wine club. Yes, it happens. My best tip for wine clubs is to build it into your budget, they can get pricey, especially if you join multiple wine clubs and haven't thought about how all those wine clubs will add up over the course of a year. Most wine clubs require a 1-year commitment, so pay attention to the fine print and understand what you're committing to. Now, I'm not saying wine clubs are bad, but they are a financial commitment and some wine clubs don't allow for shipment customization (picking the wines you receive), changes (swapping wines when you know there's a bottle you won't enjoy), etc. Just pay attention to the details, and if you're confused wait until you're home to revisit the wine club idea.
7. Don't feel obligated to splurge on an Instagram-worthy Airbnb if you aren't going to spend a lot of time there. The best cost-saving tip for wine tasting trips I have is to look for a great deal on a mid-level hotel (like a Holiday Inn). Seriously, if you're only sleeping there why waste the money? Save that money for wine and great wine country food!
8. When it comes to food, look for the hidden gems. Sure, a lot of restaurants get reposted on Instagram over and over again, they often spend a ton of money on marketing, and some even pay for "best in..." awards. Don't overlook the local hot spots, hidden gems, and quirky dining spaces. Some of the best food I've eaten on wine trips has been at overlooked restaurants, cafes, and food trucks. Instagram geotags and personal recommendations are my favorite place to find local spots.
9. Have a plan for getting all that wine home! This is an afterthought for most people, but it's an important part of the planning process. Some wineries will ship wine for you, but others (especially small production wineries) won't. If you plan on buying more than you can fit in your checked luggage, do some research ahead of time and find a wine shipping service near the area you're staying in. If you can't find one online, look into hiring a wine tour guide who offers a shipping service (I did this in Champagne and it was the best decision I made!). Another option is to know your luggage wine limit - for example, I can fit 6 carefully wrapped bottles in my suitcase. Another option is to buy a wine suitcase, they can be pricey but if you travel to wine regions frequently it will likely pay for itself after just a few trips.
10. Don't forget to have fun - wine is about community, learning, history, and...pleasure! Talk about the wine you're being poured, ask questions, share your (positive) thoughts, let your sommelier or wine educator snap a photo of you and your friends, ask to see the vineyard, order the oysters or charcuterie on the menu if you're hungry, laugh and share stories with your friends just like you would at your local wine bar, and above all else, relax and enjoy yourself. Wine is a community and an experience!
The Rocky Mountain Oenophile