Napa Trip in May with my wife

Headed to Napa for the first time the second week in May 2017. 

Flying to San Francisco from North Carolina, and trying to set up tours with some of the vendors I currently carry on my menu.  

 

1.Will I be able to tour these vineyards for free because I currently sell their wine? Will they let me tour their vineyards for free because I am in the industry?

2. Any suggestions on the approach to this pleasure/business trip? We are flying in on a Wednesday and staying through Sunday. Taking the red eye home late Sunday night. Want to make this as full a trip as possible, absorb as much as possible. 

I am wiling to forgo sleep to learn as much as possible.  

I am totally naive to how these trips work.  

Taking the Masterclass in Charlotte in January on Napa Valley and really looking forward to the material. 

  • Hi,
    I recommend that you call all the vineyards that you currently sell and let them know you sell their wines. Or ask your local distributor if they can set up an itinerary for you and your wife. Do this sooner than later because depending what time you are coming in May 2017 it will be busy in Napa. Also, pack a box of your cards for meeting new people in Napa and if you would like to visit any other wineries that are not on your list. I would also, look into hiring a driver. If you want to make it easier to leave from San Francisco to Napa I would suggest riding Evans which is a bus and get your rental car here in Napa.
    Make some reservations at some great restaurants for dinner in different parts of the Napa Valley.
  • 1. Most likely yes. I can't speak for every winery in Napa, but I know that I was treated extremely well by all of the producers I repped when I went (I was on the dist. side, but I'm sure the treatment for restaurant/retail folks is similar). Make sure you get with your distributors ahead of time so they can let the wineries know you're coming.

    2. Most wineries will probably be open from mid morning until early evening (say, 10-5) for tours and tastings. If you factor in the time needed for each appointment plus lunch and travel (Napa is not that big but traversing the valley can take a long time as traffic is usually pretty bad) - you're looking at a maximum of about four wineries a day (three is better). Do not overbook yourself such that you're arriving late or needing to cut appointments short - make sure you can fully enjoy each visit and get as much out of them as possible. If you carry any very small producers and decide to visit them (and you should), you may very likely end up with a private audience from the owner or winemaker. You're going to want lots of time to pepper them with questions! Also, this goes without saying but make sure you keep an eye on your drinking if you're going to be doing a lot of driving.

    Hope this helps!
  • Talk to your distributors before hand- they can put you in touch with wineries. Usually wineries are gracious to those in the industry. When you are there, pace yourself. Spit. Take business cards. Eat tacos at La Luna Market and Taqueria in Rutherford. Have breakfast at CafĂ© Sarafornia in Calistoga.
  • Like everyone else said, use your distributors to clear the path for you. I'd recommend if you want to hit some big popular places (Opus, Mondavi, Inglenook) do those on the weekdays. If it's your first trip you really should see those places as they are important historically and they are things to check off the list. On the weekend, get up into the mountains and visit the smaller out-of the-way places (Stony Hill, Corison (hidden in plain sight), Chappellet, Smith-Madrone, etc).

    I completely agree that you should do no more than 4 max visits per day. You will be stressed and scrambling if you try to do more. Ideally, one in the AM (most places start at 10), a quick lunch and two more in the afternoon. Bring cards for any drop-ins or restaurant networking. Take into account distance involved between wineries. Just because Pride and Dunn look like they're close to St. Helena doesn't mean it doesn't still take at least 45 minutes to get from one to another. The last thing you want to do is book Diamond Creek and something in Coombsville back-to-back.

    Unlike other wine regions (cough, Bordeaux), there are lots of great places to drink some refreshing non-Napa wines after a day of tasting big Cabs. Some of my favorite lists with great food are Miminashi and Taberna in Napa, Farmstead in St. Helena and Solbar in Calistoga. Terra is also a great option for fine dining that doesn't set you back as much as TFL & Meadowood. If you want to do a leisurely brunch up-valley the Grill @ Meadowood and Auberge are great options. Drinks at the bar at Meadowood is another great way to see the place without the pricey tasting menu (although it's highly recommended too).
  • Hi Jason,
    I agree with everyone's comments. Just a few more side notes though:
    -It is really respectful to book your tour with the winery and then notify your distributor, they are good at making appointments but sometimes can fall through. This way you make a connection with the actual people you will be meeting with.
    -Be careful about Saturdays and Sundays, many wineries will not do industry tours on the weekends to save space for guests. I would actually try and go to the big wineries on the weekend since they tend to see more people and might have more room.
    -Many wineries will waive your fee (I did all the time for industry when I managed a winery) but it is extremely nice to purchase a bottle while you are there to say thank you.
    -Because of timing issues, smaller wineries will be intimate and usually take an hour to an hour and a half for a tour and tasting. I usually like to plan my days with visits at 10:00 am, 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm. This will give you plenty of time to grab lunch and make sure you can make all your appointments on time.
    -Last but not least, remember it takes an hour to drive from Carneros to Calistoga, so make sure you plan accordingly! The valley is a lot bigger than people think.

    Good luck and I hope you have fun!
  • In reply to Ashley Broshious:

    Thank you all so very much .. we are really looking forward to this trip... will be our first trip sans kids since our Honeymoon 15 years ago!
  • In reply to Jason Tognarina:

    Hi Jason,

    With such great advice from so many experienced people you're all set up to have a great trip. I'll reinforce some of the comments and add a few:
    - Try to research at least a few wineries with estate wines from either single vineyard or estate vineyards in the same appellation. If you can do this in a few different appellations, it will help you get a more specific sense of place in regards to what you're tasting.
    - Spend time in the vineyards. See if some of the producers you sell can help you get into the vineyards with someone who understands them. It will give you a great perspective on the quality of what you're tasting. Many small producers are very passionate about their farming and vineyards, so they might be happy to spend some time with you if you're sincerely interested.
    - Balance the style of wineries you visit. Great points by others to visit the classics as well as mountain wineries, but there are also quite different styles of farming and winemaking in Napa.

    -  Cuisine.  If you're any sort of foodie, try to enjoy the myriad of options Napa Valley has to offer.  For a romantic time with your wife, there's not better view than the restaurant at Auberge du Soleil.  If dinner doesn't work out there for you, the breakfasts are great and the view stunning, often with hot air balloons speckling the sky in the far distance.

    It should be a great trip. Enjoy !!

    Steve