How to save on a wine vacation

  • By Renee Enna Chicago Tribune
  • Friday, November 23, 2012 1:15pm
  • Life

A trip to California wine country can be pricey. Here’s how my husband and I cut corners without sacrificing the experience.

Share tastings: Most tastings are $5 to $10 each; it adds up, particularly when you’re visiting several wineries in a day.

Splitting the tasting saves your palate and salvages your sobriety. And, oh, yeah, it’s cheaper.

Buy a bottle: Most wineries will comp you for the tasting when you buy their wine. A few (mostly higher-end operations) don’t.

Though we do not boycott great wineries that charge regardless of whether you buy a bottle, we agree on principle not to buy their wine. There are too many fabulous wineries that do comp you.

Don’t be shy: Talking to winery employees (most are friendly; it’s in their interest, after all) sometimes nets extra tastings, but even better, it may yield great advice.

And ask for recommendations; we have discovered charming, unpretentious wineries that were under the radar: Sunce in Santa Rosa and Casa Nuestra in Saint Helena.

Also, if you go at midweek, the tasting rooms are less frenetic, and you’ll have more opportunity to chat (and glean).

Shipping wine home: In the past, we’ve mailed a case home via a shipping service, which cost upward of $50, plus $10 for the box.

A cheaper way: Buy a shipping box (some wineries even give you one if you join their club and/or buy a couple bottles). Fill it with your faves. On your day of departure, drive the rental car straight to the skycap, and check your case as a piece of luggage. (It cost us $25 on American.)

Stay at chains: Skip the luxury hotels. You’re just sleeping there, right?

During the peak harvest month of September, we booked the Best Western Plus Dry Creek Inn in Healdsburg ($100 a night, and it was nice) and Comfort Inn Calistoga ($139 a night, and it was fantastic). Both threw in breakfast too.

And while you’re scouting for meals, focus on spots with BYOB and low or no corkage fee. Zagat helped us find them.

More in Life

Beer and cupcakes: Snohomish brewer, baker form unlikely duo

Pacific Northwest Cupcakes uses SnoTown’s brews to make beer-infused sweet treats.

Woodward Canyon Winery continues to weave masterpieces

Owner Rick Small uses grapes from vines he used when he made wine in his back yard in the 1970s.

Snohomish brewer flavors beer with chilies from mom’s back yard

Beer of the Week: Smoked rye forms sturdy foundation for SnoTown’s well-balanced Loose Rooster.

Beer, wine, spirits: Snohomish County booze calendar

Dash to Diamond Knot: Flying Unicorn Racing is teaming up with Mukilteo’s… Continue reading

Marysville theater stages Noel Coward’s timeless ‘Blithe Spirit’

The cast and crew at the Red Curtain Arts Center do a fine job with the 1940s British play.

Stringed instruments get workout at Cascade Symphony concert

Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings” is the orchestra’s first concert of the season.

Animating Van Gogh paintings proves to be trippy yet flawed

“Loving Vincent” relates the circumstances of the great painter’s death.

Confusing, muddled thriller confounds talented director, cast

“The Snowman,” based on a Scandinavian crime novel, suffers from catastrophic storytelling problems.

‘Breathe’ ignores all the inspirational movie cliches

It tells the story of a polio patient and his wife who helped change attitudes about the disabled.

Most Read