Napa Valley wine tours?
I'll be in San Francisco for a few days next month and would like to spend a day in Napa Valley visiting some wineries and sampling the wines. A tour would seem to be the best option but there are so many tour companies operating. Can anyone provide recommendations about good/bad companies? Is there any difference? How much should we expect to pay for a good tour? Thanks,
I did Platypus tour when I first moved to the area a few months ago and would strongly recommend this company. They brought us to 6 small family wineries in Healdsburg. Platypus had their shit together, all of the wineries were expecting us and had an area standing by for our arrival. The tour guide joined us in all the wineries and was a good resource to answer questions.
It is a little bit price but it includes a decent lunch.
Schedule your tour in advance because they fill up a few weeks ahead of time.
We also did another tour that unfortunately I can't remember the name of, but it was completely horrible. He brought us to places with no tasting fees (tasting fees were suppose to be included in the price of the tour), waiting in the van when he dropped us off in the parking lot, and he had no personality it felt like we were being lectured all day about the hx of wine. I had chosen this one because it was cheaper, but at the end of they day we spent more money because this tour didn't include lunch like Platypus does. As soon as I remember the tour company, I'll update this post!!
There's no 1-size-fits-all answer, so here are the pros and cons of each choice:
Private tours - one of the most expensive options, but you'll have a customized day with a private guide. You specify the types of wines you want to taste, or the types of wineries you want to visit (family-owned, known brands, architecturally significant, offering food pairings or art collections, etc.) and they set up everything. A good company is Blue Heron Tours or Vino Van Tours (Vino Van can also do a semi-private option for a little less money). The advantage is you can request specific wineries, and they take care of everything (including arranging lunch, if you want); the downside is the price. If you're serious about tasting, have specific likes and dislikes, this is a good option.
There are mass-market tours that are easy, include tastings, and offer something for everyone. I like Great Pacific (which includes lunch at the Swiss Hotel in Sonoma - $98 per person for the tour and lunch) and Super Sightseeing (includes time for lunch in Yountville but not the cost of lunch, around $70 per person, I think). The advantage is it's easy and reasonably priced; disadvantage is that you have no choice over the wineries visited, and it's a group tour (although Great Pacific operates small vans, so it's not a 40-passenger bus).
I would think any major company would provide a comparable experience, but you should be able to check them out with TripAdvisor or Yelp. Or ask your hotel concierge, they should have companies that they work with all the time.
Blue Heron Restaurant
25275 Steelhead Blvd, Duncans Mills, CA
Swiss Hotel & Restaurant
18 W Spain St, Sonoma, CA 95476