Lisa and Bob in San Francisco and Napa Valley

Overall recommendations on the trip

∑ Print out each wineryís main webpage information and bring those with you in a folder. Sometimes by showing this, youíll get a free tasting where normally youíd pay a few dollars. It helps to read about the backround before you taste the wine. Plus, you take your own notes right on that paper - sometimes just by putting stars next to wines you love and crossing out the ones you donít.

∑ Limit yourself to just three or four wineries a day. I know, the temptation is to do as many as you possibly can stuff in a day, and "get the most out of the trip". Really, though, after the 3rd or 4th, you canít remember anything about how the others tasted, or make a valid judgment about liking or not liking those wines. To get the most out of the trip, you want to really taste those wines you go to. And remember what those experiences were like. This of course means you should ...

∑ Choose wineries that really interest you personally. Donít just plan your trip based on what others say are their favorite wines. If you love Cabernet Sauvignon, and really arenít fond of Chardonnay, then going to wineries known for their Chardonnay isnít going to do you much good. Choose a few wineries that you already love, and learn how they make their wines. Spending time at their "birthplace" will make them even more special for you.

∑ Choose one or two wineries that are really well known for making your favorite kind of wine, even if theyíre normally out of your price range. If you love Bordeaux-blend style wines, talk to Cain and see if you can get on one of their tours and tastings. Itís always good to learn what a "really good" Cab or Chardonnay tastes like, to develop your palate. And you never know when a special occasion will roll around, when youíll want to choose something you really like - not just something that you know is really expensive but might hate.

∑ Eat lots of food. Weíre not talking about 5 star restaurants necessarily. There are many inexpensive places to eat in the area, too. The McDonalds right at the entrance to the valley was our stop each morning - I admit to LOVING their sausage and egg McMuffins. Keep a box of crackers or other snacks in the car. Carry some bottles of water and Gatorade, too. Drinking on an empty stomach is a really bad idea. The more you eat and drink in between the stops, the better youíll remember and get through the day.

∑ Get good sleep. Most of the wineries shut down at 6pm every night, but there are many other things to do in this area that could keep you going all night long. If youíre going to be up for the 9am openings, to spend the most time at each winery that is possible, you want to be fresh and rested.

∑ Be nice to the servers! While it might seem a dream job to work in Napa Valley, imagine what it must be like to stand for 9 hours a day trying to keep track of who is drinking what, answering the same question over and over again, and dealing with countless drunks who want more wine. Sometimes they lose track of who asked which question, who wanted which wine. They really do want you to enjoy your experience, and want to help you learn about the wine youíre drinking. Just be patient with them!

∑ Have fun! Donít stress about it. This is a giant playground for your tongue, nose and mind. Itís about you learning what you personally like. What you like is all that matters. Donít worry about what your Aunt Betty said, or how your Uncle Joe instructed you on proper tasting techniques. Be yourself, try new things, and take notes about what you enjoyed, and what you didnít. Itís your mouth and nose. Only you can possibly know what best pleases it.

Lisa's Trip to San Francisco & Napa Valley
Lisa's Travelogue Pages