Wine Country Advice/Suggestions

Let me start with this…I don’t claim to be a wine country expert by any means.  But I tend to get asked a lot about it, so I figured I’d type out a post as a primer.  That said, we have been out there 4 times now and actually had another stop planned that we had to cancel.  Hopefully, this post will help you get started with planning your own trip.

I’d also recommend reading my wrap ups/retro reviews from our Napa trips: 2016, 2013, 2012, 2010.

Sonoma Valley vs. Napa Valley

One of your first decisions is on where to go because there is a mountain range between the two regions that you don’t want to be traversing on a daily basis.  It depends on a couple things…

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What sort of wine do you like?  Cabernets – you’re much better off in Napa.  Pinots and Zinfandels – you’re probably better off in Sonoma.  These are gross generalizations, but they’re true more often than not. Continue reading

Napa – March 2016

Back to wine country…Yet again.  Fortunately (at least for Alyce), she was not pregnant this time.  Also, we were finally able to work it out so that some friends could join us.  Patrick, who grew up with Alyce and I, along with his wife Stephanie met us late the first night from Houston.

This trip was a Wednesday through Sunday.  That timing worked out for a couple reasons.  First, I used award miles and that was when flights were available within Alyce’s possible vacation time.  Second, I booked the hotel using the 4th night free benefit of the Citi Prestige card.  With that, they give you a credit for the 4th night’s room rate + taxes.  And it is the actual 4th night – not an average of the 4.  So having that be a Saturday got us a much bigger credit.

This was our first trip to wine country in Winter (even though it was a week or two from Spring).  The temperatures weren’t bad, but we had rain every day.  And not misty light rain…We had legitimate hard rain.  We must have heard the following line 10 times over the trip – “Sorry y’all had rain the whole trip…well actually, not really because we can use it.”

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That is the downside of traveling December through March to wine country – rain.  It’s not that it’s a guarantee you’ll get rain (the weekend before and after ours were beautiful), but you are far more likely to get rained on than the other times of the year.  The plus side is that room rates are less and things are generally less crowded. Continue reading

California March 2015

This was to be our first family trip with James, as well as our first trip in over a year.  But thing did not go exactly as planned…

Alyce had a week off in early March.  In planning, we knew we wanted to take James somewhere to test out flying/travelling with him prior to our planned Italy trip (in fall 2015).  It is still pretty cool in lots of places in March, so that led us back to one of our favorite destinations because we were confident that we would have good weather.  California.  And the weather was great.

The plan was to fly into San Francisco and rent a car.  Then drive to Carmel and spend three nights there.  Then spend a night in San Francisco in route to Napa, where we would spend the final three nights.  All hotels, flights, wine tastings, etc. were booked.

But that is when things went awry.  A couple days before we were set to leave, James came down with an ear infection—and that came with a strong recommendation against flying.  We weighed our options, which ranged from completely canceling the trip to Alyce staying behind and meeting me with James if he got better…to any other conceivable option.

Ultimately, we decided to go ahead and go alone for an abbreviated trip and leave James with his grandparents for a couple days.  Alyce would travel the first three days then head back, and I’d spend one night in San Francisco since we had used an award night that we could not get back.

This ended up working out well.  While I wish James would have been able to make the trip with us, the few days Alyce and I had alone were very relaxing.

On to the actual trip…As mentioned, the weather was fantastic.  Sunshine and spring time temperatures.  If anything, it was a little warm in the middle of the day.  Renting a car worked out great – driving is pretty easy in California.

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Napa – October 2013

Back to Napa for trip #3…Our first trip since returning home from our big trip.

This was – as is the usual for our domestic trips – a quick long weekend vacation.  We left on Thursday—at 5:00 a.m.  I was not even aware that flights left New Orleans that early, but they do.  The good thing about heading out that early is that we got nearly a full day in on that day, as opposed to losing a day to travel.

We flew United with a stop in Houston on the way over, and it was pretty uneventful.  One thing of note is that flight was the last one we’ll take that we had to power down our phones/ipads…at least domestically.

And because there is no other better place to mention it, I’ll do so now.  We detoured to Muir Woods before making our way to Napa.  This is a redwood forest with some walking paths and trails.  Having never been to such a place, we enjoyed the stop and considered it well worth the 45-60 additional minutes of driving.

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Napa 2012 Retro Review

General Thoughts

This was our second trip to the wine country.  This time we decided to spend the whole trip in Napa.  We were there for 4 nights/5 days in early August.  The weather was pretty similar to what I remember it being in May – cool mornings, warm to hot afternoons.  It may be a little warmer in the afternoons than May…Still very comfortable compared to Southern Louisiana.  The grapes were pretty well grown at this time, but it was still too early to try to taste any.

Our first trip we really planned around food/dining – wineries were secondary.  This time it was the opposite, wine was the primary focus and the dining was much more quick and casual.  Also, we concentrated on some of the more off the beaten path wineries/areas this time.

I planned to bring back much more wine than the first trip…but we still came back with (or are getting shipped) more wine than I anticipated.  I still believe that the best and most economical way to come back with wine is to buy a shipping box and check it on the plane.

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Napa 2010 Retro Review

I typed this up a couple years ago after we got back from Napa.  It’s long, but I had some friends that would be travelling there soon.  Plus, I like having the reports (same as now with the wrap ups).  We have since been back to Napa, so it is fun to go back and read the report.

We should be back to current stuff tomorrow.  Here is Napa 2010 with some pictures from Alyce’s facebook account:

 Napa – May 2010

I enjoyed this trip more than I was expecting too.  Going into it I was excited about all of the eating out plans and thought touring/tasting the wineries would just be a filler during the day to get to the meals…I was wrong.

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