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Dec 11, 2009 11:45 AM

Bottle shock

Was recently in Napa/Sonoma for 5 day tasting/eating trip. Finally made it to Chateau Montelena after wanting to for many years. Word of advice, beware the bottle shock. There tasting room charges 20 dollars for 5 pours of 20-50 dollar wines and a snif of there 135 dollar estate cab. Seriously....Ohh and if you buy more then 100 dollars per person they will wave the 20 dollar fee. What happened to buy a bottle and wave the fee? What happened to reasonable tasting fees in general. Other similarly vaulted and critically acclaimed vintners dont charge as much or if they do they include a food and wine pairing or a teaching/sommelier type session.
Yes I know there are some out there that charge upwards of 50 dollars and I dont even want to get started on that topic. I just expected alot more from CM as I have enjoyed there wines in the past and communicated the pourer that day. Please let me know your opinion on CM and other tasting room issues

On a side note, we found a great italian restaurant off the healdsburg square called Scopa that was just awesome, fresh grilled squid, sardines with breadcrumbs, dungeness crab in swuid inked fettucini, exceptional and reasonable.

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  1. For $20 I would think you would get to go a few rounds with the winemaker in the boxing ring.

    1. Unfortunately, I don't think $20 is unusual.

      1. Personally, I would only go to the Sonoma area these days for wine tastings unless you must visit certain cult Napa wineries. The $20 fee often pays for the nice tasting room facilities and the logo glasses you keep but never use. It doesn't help the wine in the glass.

        Luckily we live close enough to make day trips out of Sonoma.

        1. Last I went tasting in August, I remember hearing something about wineries no longer being allowed to offer free tastings or walk-in appointments. I suppose they could have charged you less and I don't know the details about the new regulations, but maybe someone else does?

          12 Replies
          1. re: adrienne156

            Defintely not true. Lots of wineries have free tastings and most you can just show up any time during tasting room hours.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Well, then I guess the guys at Honig (although that is Napa county) were lying to me when they said that there was a new regulation re: appointments...

              1. re: adrienne156

                I ran into a weird thing outside of Healdsburg at Acorn where apparently a local zoning ordinance required them to hold tastings by appointment only, nothing about them having to charge a fee.

                1. re: PolarBear

                  There are some new regs in certain areas , I havent paid much attention. Neighbors are complaining about the traffic and drunks on the country roads.
                  Twenty is a bit high for Sonoma , I think overall Napa higher , but we are catching up.

                2. re: adrienne156

                  Maybe some local regulation because they're off the main drag. There are lots of wineries nearby on 29 that are open without appointments.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    In the weekly local the other day there was an article about limiting individual operations to X number of events a year......weddings , concerts , wine club events etc. I know the wine tasting rooms in Healdsburg must charge a fee , by law, although most deduct on purchase. There used to be ,maybe still, state laws on dispensing free booze at events.

                    1. re: celeryroot

                      Local laws sometimes limit the number of visitors to tasting rooms to limit traffic and noise, particularly in residential areas. State law does not require tasting rooms to charge:

                      "Rule 53 defines a 'winetasting' as the presentation of samples of one or more wines, representing one or more wineries or industry labels, to a group of consumers for the purposes of acquainting the tasters with the characteristics of the wine or wines tasted. This type of tasting generally occurs at a winegrower's place of production or an off-site tasting room operated by and for the winegrower. A winery may sell or give away these samples or tastes of its wine products."


                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        I believe it maybe a local Healdsburg law. The winetasting rooms are essentually wine stores in town .I think there are now about 10 within walking distance of the Plaza. They refer to them as winetasting rooms , some are 1 winery others have numerous . I suspect it has gotten a bit out of hand as it seems a new one opens every month. If you buy most deduct the tasting price from the wine cost.
                        Robert , didnt that law have some restrictions as to how many "winetastings" one could have.

                        1. re: celeryroot

                          If they sell various wineries' wines, then they probably are licensed as wine shops (type 20, off-sale beer and wine), since a winegrower liicense (type 2) allows tasting and sale only of wines produced by or for the winery. There are two exceptions I know of, the Family Wineries rooms in Dry Creek and Kenwood, in which each winery has its own little booth.

                          I believe wine shops have to charge at least a nominal fee for tastings.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            I think it is Wilson that also has a couple booths .
                            Within the last 2 weeks , and I forget which winery , were told they could only have 22 events a year. The locals complained about traffic and noise.
                            I think a winery can lose their license if they allow other alcohol to be consumed on the premises. Which then leads me to believe there are numerous licenses available and catered events by private individuals who lease the property,

                            1. re: celeryroot

                              Yes there are many restrictions and they vary by municipality. I do know that at Montelena their lisence only allows you to bring in montelena wine if you are having a party or event there. Otherwise they must supply any wines (for an event you might want a sparkling wine which they would have to provide and do not make). I know some of the Napa Valley wineries you are required to have an "appointment". This can consist of you calling them from the parking lot and arriving in "five minutes". Other wineries are allowed to cater to walkups. Only two wineries are allowed to sell food in Napa Valley, V. Satui and Domaine Chandon (both got grandfathered in before the restrictions).

                            2. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Those "booth" facilities have a shared premise license. I've visited several healsburg tasting rooms a couple weeks ago
                              within blocks of the plaza that do not charge for tasting.

                              The newest crackdown is limiting food samples except at licensed food facility. Not even a cracker for a palate cleanser unless it's wrapped for individual servings.

              2. Scopa has become our favorite place around Healdsburg, very reasonable indeed for the quality and quantity of foods with very good service, and friendly informal ambience (which helps because the seating is very close). we brought a ten year old Barbaresco in for our meal and the server looked at the bottle carefully before bringing out exactly the right type of glasses.

                For a tasting room experience very different than Montelena, try Preston just outside Geyserville, an organic farm which sells delicious produce in front of the tasting room and top notch sourdough loaves--about six or seven good pours and I can't even recall if the fee was $5 or ten because I never leave without fewer than six ass't bottles.