Travel
July 2, 2015

Wine Country on the Cheap

Simple. Thrifty. Living.

Northern California boasts some of the best wine in the world, so it’s no secret that it tops most people’s destination list. But with pricey hotels, wine tastings, and restaurants, it is easy to blow your budget within the first day or two. However, there are budget-friendly options throughout Napa and Sonoma. Below are tips to keep in mind when planning your wine country getaway.

The biggest and most effective way to cut the cost of a wine country vacation is to plan your travel during the off season. Unlike other destinations, fall will be the most expensive time to travel to Napa or Sonoma, simply due to the fact that harvest starts in September with the culmination of crush in October. The least expensive time is January/February, followed by the spring months.

Some of the best wineries and restaurants tend to be off the beaten path. With more than 600 tasting rooms between Sonoma and Napa, there are a number of wallet-friendly wineries. When booking tastings keep these things in mind:

  • Skip big wineries. Large, popular wineries tend to have high tasting fees and aren’t as laid back as smaller family-run vineyards.
  • Tasting fees are waived when you purchase a bottle of wine or two. Do the math — if you purchase that lovely $25 pinot your $20 tasting is comped. It’s a no-brainer.
  • Ask tasting rooms if they have other winery recommendations for you. Often times they have a friendly relationship with the winery down the street. They may give you a free tasting card or simply say “Tell them James from Hill Cellars sent you.”

When most people think wine country, they think Napa. However, there are a number of award-winning wines coming from nearby Sonoma County. It’s basically a more relaxed, less expensive version of Napa. This also applies to lodging and restaurants. Healdsburg and Sonoma both have town squares that boast a number of tasting rooms, restaurants, and hotels.

Several tasting rooms offer large picnic areas, so you can enjoy lunch with a tasting or forgo the tasting and purchase a bottle of rose to go with lunch. Plus, there are a number of tasty delis and high-end grocers throughout wine country. A picnic amidst the vineyards is surprisingly affordable when you bring your own food.

There is high demand for lodging in wine country, so consider skipping the high prices of hotels and renting a house. VRBO has an amazing selection of apartments and homes throughout Napa and Sonoma, many times offered at a fraction of the hotel prices. Booking something last minute? Ask the owner if they are flexible on pricing. Renting a house with a kitchen also saves on dining costs.

Wine country can still be accessible without a huge bank account. You can enjoy all the valley has to offer without spending a fortune. Happy sipping!

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