As I type this Uncorked, I am heading west to wine country. Of course I am elated about my trip, but wine region retreats don’t always feel like a vacation at the beach, where the days are filled with wake up, soak up the sun, nap, have an amazing dinner and repeat. For the wine enthusiast, wine region trips, though pleasurable, are often quite stressful. I tend to think of them as being similar to a fast and furious visit to the Louvre — trying to see and experience everything in just one day.
And I’m not alone. I have talked with several readers returning from spectacular wine regions feeling as if they need a vacation from their vacation. It happens to all of us. Just yesterday I had to pull myself back into reality during my planning — so many wineries, so little time — and I know it will happen again next time.
Most of us traveling to wine regions for vacation will have already confirmed appointments before arriving. But keep in mind, the appointments can be part of the stress. We have a tendency to want to schedule as many as possible in one trip in order to taste and experience them all. But this type of planning can lead to feeling overbooked and exhausted, not far off from the type of day at the office — running from appointment to appointment — the reason for the vacation. If you are scheduling only VIP appointments and vineyard tours, I recommend no more than three in one day. And if possible, schedule appointments at vineyards near each other on the same day to help to slow the pace of your day.
This brings us to the next tip. It’s very easy choosing your top wineries to visit and the wines you enjoy. What isn’t easy is when you are leaving one winery and realize your next appointment is an hour drive away. Arriving late can delay the tour start time and make a not so wonderful first impression at the winery.
Researching the locations of the winery is vital. Call me old-fashioned, but I keep a paper road map of the region I am visiting in front of me when making appointments. It helps me get my bearings and visualize the travel for the day. Last week my husband, being a technology guru, walked in and laughed upon seeing my road maps spread across the floor and table.
His advice was simple: “There’s an app for that.” For the tech-savvy, there are many easier-to-use tools to plan your schedule than my road maps. Google Maps and Map Quest are a couple. If you visit the winery website it will usually have links for directions to the vineyard.
If you are a foodie like me, food is just as important as the wine. I remember my first visit to Napa Valley, casually arriving (and very eager to eat) at one of the top-rated restaurants in the area. I quickly learned that, as with winery appointments, the reservation is a must. When planning your days for wineries, consider restaurants also. Call well in advance, because many will be booked as far ahead as several months.
If you plan ahead, know your map and slow down the pace, it can feel like a day at the beach — wake up, drink wine, enjoy beautiful scenery, nap, have an amazing dinner and start over the next day!