Wine Country Tours
Wine country tours can be an excellent vacation getaway to both enjoy the beautiful outdoor setting and to learn more about wine and wine making. There are many ways to plan wine tasting tours and there are many wine regions to choose from. Whether you are looking for a day or weekend getaway to a local wine country or a longer guided tour to a beautiful foreign appellation, you have many options and all of them can be fun, beautiful and educational.
Touring Wine Country on Your Own
One obvious option for wine country tours is to plan your travel to a wine country, get a map and hit several wineries on your own. This kind of exploration can be a lot of fun and gives you a huge amount of flexibility. On the downside, it may be harder to find the best spots, to get good tours or wine tastings and to get around from vineyard to vineyard.
Here are a few tips if you are planning your own wine country tours:
- Plan ahead!: Don't just show up to wine country expecting to find everything easily. Wine regions can be confusing and hard to get around, with windy, unmarked roads and the like. Before you even get there, get maps, ask around or do some internet searches for information about that region. Plan your route, at least roughly. This will help to be sure you maximize your time when you get there and avoid disappointment.
- Get a wine map: Most wine regions have detailed wine route maps for planning wine country tours. If you can't find one online, call the local tourist or visitor office and they can often point you in the right direction. Wine maps have detailed maps of the area with all vineyards listed on them so you can find your favorite wineries easily (assuming you have an updated version). These are useful ahead of time to plan your route and figure out how many and which wineries you can realistically hit during your tour.
- Find a hotel near the wineries you want to visit: Many wine regions have many hotels. Try to find a hotel close to the sights and destinations you want to visit. Exploring wine country can be a tiring process and you may be very tired, and a little tipsy, by the end of each day. You will be glad that your hotel is nearby and easy to find from where you are touring.
- Plan your transportation in wine country: Before getting there, figure out a good solution for transportation in wine country. If you are going somewhere local to you, you may drive your own car. Likewise, you can rent a car nearby. However, keep in mind that as you take wine country tours and are offered tastes of wine at wineries you may get quite tipsy. Tipsy drivers and windy roads makes for disaster so be safe. If you are driving, please spit wine you taste. Better yet, don't drive. Get a driver or join a tour that takes you from vineyard to vineyard so you don't have to worry about driving.
- Make appointments at the vineyards in which you are most interested: In many wine producing regions there are a number of wineries who have an open door policy, allowing drop in visitors to come to their tasting room to sample wines, usually for a small fee. However, many of the smaller and the more exclusive vineyards do not have an open tasting room. Additionally, if you would like to take a tour of a winery to see how the wine is made and maybe even sample some barrel samples of wine, most of these are done by appointment, although a few large wineries have regular tours on a schedule. To be sure you don't miss the vineyards in which you are most interested plan ahead and call those producers. Ask them if they offer tastings or tours and if so try to make an appointment for a time that fits with your wine tasting tour itinerary. If you plan far enough ahead, most wineries will accept appointments and will meet with you privately or in small groups to tour the facilities and/or taste the wine.
Guided Day Tours
Many day-long wine country tours are available in most wine regions. These are simply a program that drives you around the region that day, making specific stops at sights and vineyards. These wine country tours can vary in price depending on the region, the vineyards visited and the comfort of the transportation. A good example is the Wine Train in California's Napa Valley. This is a train that you get on in the morning and it leisurely makes its way through the valley, stopping at several large wineries for tastings along the way. This can be a fun way to experience wine country for the first time because it is all planned for you and you don't have to worry about driving. It is restrictive in the sense that you have no say about where it stops or for how long so if you are trying to explore specific areas or at your own pace it may not be the wine tasting tour for you.
Package Wine Tasting Tours
Many travel agencies and travel groups coordinate entire wine country tours as a package deal that covers everything from transportation to accommodations. This can be a great option if you are new to wine and don't know what to focus on and just want to get a good general introduction to wine country and wineries. It can also be a great romantic getaway for you and your loved one. It takes the worry and hassle out of planning your trip, transportation and finding the best places to go. You just schedule the trip and then sit back for the guided tour and enjoy yourself. This solves the problem of drinking and driving as these generally have a tour bus or vans that transport you from place to place in wine country. Be sure to compare many different options as wine country tours come in many types. Be sure the package includes what you want and takes you to vineyards or sights that you want to see.
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