California's Napa Valley is known for world-class wines. But the problem is, many wineries charge world-class prices, too. For example, top wineries like Opus One and Far Niente charge $40 — $50 per tasting.
Fortunately, there are several ways to save hundreds of dollars (or more) during your time in Napa. As a California native, I've learned how to "crack the code" and enjoy fine wines on a beer budget. Here's five tips to get you started.
Tip 1: Stop at the Visitor Center
I've done it a thousand times myself — planned a full day in Napa but overslept and rushed like a bat out of hell to the first tasting room.
Even if you're late, you have to stop at the Visitor Center.
Yes, I know the Visitor Center sounds boring and probably the last place you want to visit, but I have a few magic words that will change your mind: "free wine tasting coupons."
The Visitor Center is located in Downtown Napa and is on the way from San Francisco to most wineries. They offer free wine tasting coupons, maps, and general information.
Napa Valley Visitor Center
1001 Second Street
Napa, CA 94559
(707) 226-5813 | https://www.visitnapavalley.com/
Tip 2: Print Coupons Online
A lot of wineries offer free or 50% discount coupons on their websites in order to get you in the door. NapaTouristGuide.com lists all tasting rooms that offer discounts, not to mention inexpensive accommodations and tips.
Tip 3: Skip the Swanky Restaurants
Napa is known for having world-class restaurants (e.g. The French Laundry) to accompany the wine. However, after a full day of drinking, your palate will be off and you won't be able to taste a $500+ expensive meal anyway.
My personal favorite place to eat in Napa is the Oakville Grocer. It's a local deli right in the heart of Napa Valley that sells gourmet sandwiches, cheeses, olives, and, of course, wine and beer.
With tables and chairs next to the rolling vineyards, it's the perfect place to stop for a picnic lunch.
7856 St. Helena Highway
Oakville, CA 94562
(707) 944-8802 | https://oakvillegrocery.com/?SID=c3ec4dcfe14791e6b78a4df0f535751d
Tip 4: Tag Along with a Local or Industry Rep
Napa locals and industry representative (i.e. anyone who works in a wine bar, high-end restaurant, or food/beverage industry) get wicked wine discounts. If you tag along with them, so will you!
Tip 5: Buy a Bottle
By observing a wine's color, legs, smell, and taste, the business tasting can get a little snobbish. In addition to the stuffy tasting rooms, many wineries offer quiet areas where you can sit, relax, and enjoy a bottle of wine. And at over ten dollars a tasting, buying a bottle can sometimes be a much better deal.
Before you hit the road, be sure to print a copy of the Napa Valley Winery Map. Some of my personal favorite spots for tasting and/or scenery — listed south to north — are Silver Oak, Frog's Leap, Duckhorn, Twomey, and Sterling, just to name a few.
Bonus: Have a Game Plan
Napa can be overwhelming, especially if it's your first time visiting. Download this Napa Valley Winery Map to help plan which wineries you want to visit. Plan your tastings in one geographic area per day to help you visit more wineries and limit your driving distance.
About the author: Darcie Connell is the founder and CEO of Trekity.com — a website and newsletter inspiring women travelers. Her travel tips and advice has been featured on Forbes, The Huffington Post, and LifeHack. Follow her travels on Facebook and Twitter.