Harvest season may be nearing its end for many vineyards in Napa Valley, but it’s never too early to start planning for next year’s getaway from late August through October! This time of year is heaven on earth for wine connoisseurs. Whether it’s the fragrant smell of grapes or the Instagram-worthy lush landscapes that draw you in, there's no better time to swap city living for a day in wine country. Here are eight insider tips to help you plan ahead and make the most of your epic wine adventure.
1. Narrow down your wish list.
If you’re visiting during harvest season, you’re in for a real treat. Besides sampling some great wines, you’ll have the chance to get your hands dirty (literally)! Instead of cramming 10 wineries into your visit, narrow down your wish list to a handful of venues. This allows you plenty of time to learn about the process for harvesting grapes without feeling rushed. If you do want to visit several wineries, try to keep it to no more than three per day and plan about one hour for each.
2. Make reservations.
Harvest season is a popular season for tourists, and can you blame them? While crowds are unavoidable, you can limit your stress by making reservations well in advance of your trip. Some wineries limit the number of visitors each day, so if you snooze, you just might lose. If you're looking for an interactive harvest experience, it's a good idea to book that ahead of time, too. It requires some extra planning, but it will pay off in the end.
3. Visit during the week.
Since harvest season attracts so many tourists, try visiting midweek if possible. While this might pose a challenge for those with strict work schedules, it’s worth a shot. Weekends are especially crowded, which is why weekdays are ideal for receiving a more personalized tour. If weekdays aren’t an option, make sure you plan a little extra time in between stops. Starting your day early helps, too. After all, the early bird gets the worm!
4. Hire a driver.
If you plan on visiting a few wineries each day, consider hiring a driver, it’s the responsible thing to do. Sure, it’s an added expense, but it will make for a much more relaxed and enjoyable ride. Alternatively, if traveling in a group, take turns being the designated driver. For rides on the go, book with Uber or Lyft. Both mobile apps allow users to request a ride at the last minute. Payment is made via the credit card on file, so you won’t have to worry about carrying enough cash in your pockets.
5. Be curious.
There’s a lot of information to take in during any winery visit, but don’t be shy, ask questions. Most winery employees love their industry and they're more than happy to answer questions. That said, don't treat them like walking encyclopedias. Engage them in conversation and allow them to demonstrate their expertise. Ever wondered why grapes grow so well in Napa or how wines age? If so, ask away!
6. Attend a winery special event.
Many wineries have harvest-themed events and this is a great opportunity to make the most of your trip. For example, every year, Peju celebrates the harvest season with our annual Harvest Celebration Dinner where guests enjoy wine tasting, a sit down dinner in the HB Vineyard and dancing under the harvest moon. In addition there are numerous other opportunities to attend a monthly food and wine pairing where you can learn about what types of foods pair best with different styles of wine.
7. Enjoy the beautiful winery gardens.
Instead of splurging on a fancy meal at a local restaurant, pack your lunch. After your wine tasting at Peju, spend some time strolling through the gardens then lay down a blanket near the koi pond to take in the scenery while enjoying your lunch on the lawn. There are a few bistro tables available as well but these tend to fill up quickly. Surrounded by flowers, sculptures and gardens, it's the ultimate escape from the harvest crowds. Since you’re already on the winery grounds, as a special treat, purchase a bottle of wine before you leave and enjoy it with your lunch.
8. Theme your trip.
Deciding to visit a winery during harvest season seems pretty specific, right? Wrong! You might have narrowed down your list in terms of dates and times, but there's still a lot to consider. For example, are you a huge Chardonnay drinker or do you prefer Cabernet Sauvignon? Research which wineries specialize in the style of wine that you prefer and allot the most time to those particular wineries. If you can’t make up your mind, opt for Peju, as they produce both red and white wine varietals.
Enjoy all the varietals that Peju, a family-owned winery in Napa Valley, California, has to offer. We invite you to explore our website for more information about experiencing our wines and events.