Share your tastings
There is nothing wrong with paying for 1 tasting amongst two people. You really need to pace yourself if you plan to do this all day long. Plus, you just want a "taste". Otherwise, drinking too much wine after a while, all the wines start to taste the same.
Napa has a lot to offer during the day! Make the most of it. A number of quaint shops are here and there. You should stop in. The only thing I didn't get to do on my list was visit the Bouchon Bakery. I would have loved to pick up some pastries!
Napa Versus Sonoma
Napa was more commercialized, Sonoma was more country (and arguably nicer).
Napa was great when it wasn't busy... you could hit lots at once. Sonoma on the other hand was a better all-day event.
Napa have very few wineries with places to have picnics, almost every Sonoma one did
Don't taste what you drink at home..
Be adventurous when cruising through the valley. If there is a wine that you just love, stop by and visit the winery and have some fun. Then go and try a few places you've never heard of. The tasting rooms are a great place to experiment and learn about wines. Some wineries have special wines or blends that are only available when you visit, so take advantage of all of their offerings.
If you normally drink Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, try some Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Mourvedre, Syrah, Sangiovese or any of the other red varietals available.
The same goes for you white wine drinkers. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are great wines, but try something you've not had before such as Pinot Gris, Colombard or Chenin Blanc.
DYNASTIC WINERIES -THAT SURVIVED
TOURS & TASTING:
12707 Old Redwood Hwy, Healdsburg
Complimentary tasting and tours 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily. Picnic tables. www.foppiano.com
2000 Denmark St., Sonoma
Complimentary tasting 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily. Hourly tours on weekends beginning at noon; on weekdays by appointment. www.gunbun.com
Mirassou Vineyards, Mirassou Winery
3000 Aborn Road, San Jose
Complimentary tasting noon-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-4 p. m. Sunday. Tour daily at 2 p.m. www.mirassou.com
Mirassou Champagne Cellars
300 College Ave., Los Gatos
Complimentary tasting noon-5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, noon-4 p.m. Sunday. Tours 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. www.mirassou.com
2950 Sage Canyon Road (Highway 128)
St. Helena (707) 963-0717
Open weekends for complimentary tasting, picnicking. www.nicheliniwinery.com
389 Fourth St. E., Sonoma
Open for tastings 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Some wines complimentary, others by fee. Tours, $2.50, 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10:45 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. weekends. Trolly tours through vineyard and downtown Sonona 2 p.m. Thursday- Sunday: $5. www.sebastiani.com
Seghesio Family Vineyards
14730 Grove St., Healdsburg
(707) 433-7764 or (866) 734-4374
Complimentary tastings 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily. www.seghesio.com
Viansa Winery and Italian Marketplace
25200 Arnold Drive (Highway 121)
Sonoma (707) 935-4700
Complimentary tastings 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tours 11 a.m., 2 p.m. daily: $5. www.viansa.com
Wente Vineyards Estate Winery and Tasting Room
5565 Tesla Road, Livermore
Open daily 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Some wines complimentary, others by fee. Tours 11 a.m., 1, 2 and 3 p.m. daily. www.wentevineyards.com
(Pictured here: A Wente family portrait, taken in 1895, includes Carl Wente and his daughter Carolyn.)
Packing Bottles to Return Home
If you buy some bottles of wine over the internet, save the packer. Then, bring whatever styrofoam packers you have inside the luggage. If you don't have these, or don't have enough bottle packers at the time of leaving, wrap and tape each bottle inside a plastic grocery bag. Seal the wine as well as possible just in case the cork moves. Then, surround the bottles with dirty laundry and shoes to pad them and keep them from shifting around too much. Glass wine bottles are very durable at the base, but the necks are a potential breakage point. Champagne bottles need extra care. Even so, a case or so of wine (12 bottles) can be safely packed inside a large airline bag destine for check-in as long as they are separated from each other and from the exterior edges of the bag. Then, take the rest as carry-on. Large bottles are valuable, require extra care, and so should be packed by the winery for you. Styrofoam 12 and 6 bottle packers that isolate each bottle can be safely taped and checked-in as luggage. Dress casually, but not cheaply. Many times when working in the tasting room, I found that intoxicated customers, women with low cut or tank tops or men with flowery Hawaiian style shirts and sandals, presented a version of America that other tourists sneered at. From late spring through fall harvest, I recommend khaki shorts, fine fabric short sleeve polo shirts, and casual leather shoes with soles able to trek through a little dirt or over the wet pavement of a cellar room floor. Jewelry and fancy cars are OK. Theft and robbery is rare in the wine country. Bring anti-acids and motion sickness pills. Driving the windy roads of the wine back country will bring the worst out of a slightly inebriated passenger. Bring a wide angle lense for shooting images of winery equipment. Make sure to bring plenty of memory for the digital camera. It helps to have plenty to snack on during busy wine tasting days. The more wine consumed, the more food required to keep it under control. Stop at Oakville Grocery or some other market in the valley to stock up on food for the road. Don't try to be on a diet when in the wine country, but during meals focus on quality, not quantity. Some of the world's best restaurants are in the wine country.