Napa Valley Wine Tasting

Napa Valley wine tasting is an adventure for all your senses...from the tantalizing pop of the cork...and the spirited mingling with fellow the exhilirating colors, aromas and flavors as you swirl, sniff and sip.

Many of America's most famous wineries are located right here and graciously welcome you for fascinating cellar tours and wine tastings. Where else can you explore so many top wineries and try new varieties while learning about them from the vintners and sommeliers who really know?

napa valley wine tastingVisitors tasting wine at Artesa Winery in the Carneros region of Napa Valley. Photo ©Zhukovsky

What to Expect

Most tasting rooms have a select number of wines available for tasting each day. You'll be handed a list of those wines in the suggested tasting order: starting from the lightest whites, progressing to the fullest-bodied reds and finishing with the sweet dessert wines.

Your server will pour an ounce or so of wine you want to taste into a glass. (Higher-priced tastings sometimes give a more generous pour.) Don't know which to try? Ask for recommendations -- your server is there to help.

Tasting fees. If you haven't visited Napa Valley in a while, you may get sticker-shock at some tasting fees. Expect to pay $40 to $50 to sample four to six wines. Some wineries charge a lot more. For a higher fee, you'll taste pricier wines and may enjoy a relaxed sit-down tasting that includes personal attention from your server. If this matters to you, call ahead - or check your options online - to eliminate any surprises.

Spit or swallow? You'll see a spit bucket on the counter in tasting rooms. Use it. You'll find that swallowers outnumber the spitters in tasting rooms (they're probably novices). However, if you're going from winery to winery, your alcohol consumption will catch up with you, influencing your taste buds for the wines to come. Of course, it'll also make you tipsy, which brings me to my next point...

Designate a driver. Before heading out, decide who will do the driving. Better yet, hire a chauffeured limousine for your Napa Valley wine tasting adventure. The limo drivers know their way around, and you'll get to relax and take in the beautiful scenery. You'll want to make a reservation a few weeks in advance.

Want to know more? Get wine tasting etiquette tips here.

wine tasting napa valleyWine tasting table at Newton Vineyards in St. Helena, California. Photo © Zhukovsky

Napa Valley Wine Tasting Tips to Know Before You Go

  • Reserve your spot. Many wineries have scheduled tours and visitors' hours that may vary throughout the year. Call before you go to find out when they're open to the public. Most tastings now require reservations. But that's not a bad thing. You'll sidestep crowds by having an appointed time to visit.
  • Avoid the crowds. You'll be standing shoulder-to-shoulder in some Napa Valley wine tasting rooms on weekends, especially during the peak tourist season (May through November). Go during the week, if you can, and you'll have your server's undivided attention. Also get an early start. Many tasting rooms open at 10 am and tend to get crowded mid-to-late afternoon. 
  • Save money. Many hotels in the valley have free wine tasting coupons on hand for their guests. Don't be shy about asking your concierge about them.