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May 5, 2011 12:59 PM

Holy Cow! Napa Wine tasting on a budget--suggestions

So I heard that downtown Napa is the Disney Land of wine tasting. I try to avoid tourists and exuberant fees where ever I vacation, however, the girls I'm planning the trip with really want to experience the hot spots.

I tried to suggest remote regions like Hess or Sonoma, Sonoma is about half the price of Napa wine tasting correct, and just as beautiful? Eitherway, any suggestions on how to do Napa on a budget would be much appreciated. Any districts, wineries, restaurants or hotels that provide deals, coupons, group discounts, etc. you could suggest would also be great. I really have to idea where to start!

Additional information:
We are a group of four party girls
Ages 21-25
Vegetarian and omnivores
No wine tasting experience (so not picky)
Would like to spend ideally under $400 each for that Friday, Saturday, Sunday weekend. (Is this possible, give me a reality check if not and let me know my options)

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  1. Honestly I would be doing anything I could to avoid Napa at that point. Tourist, tourist, fee, fee, tourist, crowd. Blah.

    One trick to finding the more personable places, however, is to see if their tasting fees are applicable to bottle purchase. Even if you do not plan on buying bottles, this will tell you if they are looking to counter tourist-drunk-wino-types or merely looking to separate you from your cash.

    1 Reply
    1. re: tj442x

      Oo good idea. I will definitely try that trick.

    2. I don't consider Hess remote. It is a little more than 4 miles from Highway 29 at Trancas Road.

      1. The first thing that occurs to me is focus on quality over quantity. Pace yourself and, as is repeatedly suggested on this board, pick two or maybe three wineries to visit per day. That alone will keep the cost down.

        One way to do this is look for places that offer something worthwhile in addition to the wine. Hess with its art is a fabulous example. I think Artesa is another with the gorgeous views. Take a tour of Jarvis' unbelievable caves. Through December Markham has an exhibit of photographs from Rolling Stone. Mumm also has photography

        Picnic lunches (and/or dinners) save $. And Napa is full of places for great picnic stuff: Sunshine Market in St Helena, even Vallerga's in Napa is pretty good. My favorite cheap vineyard view lunch is La Luna Market in Rutherford. Get an amazing $5 something burrito and enjoy it at the picnic tables over looking the vineyard in back. Cheap, but a great Napa experience. Oxbow Market is another place you can get a fairly inexpensive meal and "picnic" outside on the terrace. Also try Bistro Sabor. Salsa dancing on Saturday nights sounds just right for 4 party girls, and the food is very reasonable.

        These days I would say all but the most touristy wineries waive tasting fees if you buy a bottle, as tj442x suggested. And then you drink the bottle for lunch.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Junie D

          Junie! Thank you so much for your insight. I will definitely take your advise in finding other arts, entertainment and foodie elements that will compliment the overall wine experience.

          I can't wait to show my girlfriends the salsa option. We actually all practice some kind of latin dancing.

          1. re: Junie D

            Also Junie, are all of these places in close proximity? Or do people usually stay in one location the whole day like St. Helena, Rutherford, Downtown Napa, etc? I'd love to be able to go to three wineries (which would include a picnic spot) but most of them are located in different regions. Is there a easy-access bus or taxi for getting around to the different regions? What's my options for transportation?

            Thanks again for all your insight. I appreciate it.

            1. re: Sister_Dogass

              Public transit in the valley is not really an option for visiting wineries. Hiring a taxi or limo service is a great option, but not friendly to your budget. The city of Napa is definitely not the bucolic setting most people associate with the Napa Valley, but hotels are cheaper down here and the Napa Wine Card sounds like a good idea. The city is sloooowly starting to become more of a destination itself, but doesn't have the charm of St. Helena or Calistoga, except to us locals.

              If you have two days, maybe spend one in and around Napa and one upvalley. From Napa you can easily venture out to Hess, Artessa, and/or Jarvis (with a DD). Oxbow Market and Bistro Sabor are maybe 4 blocks from eachother in downtown Napa.

              Bistro Sabor
              1126 1st St, Napa, CA 94559

          2. If you really want to stay in downtown Napa (actually not a bad idea, because then no one has to be the designated driver), you might want to look into this:

            3 Replies
            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Ruth, I saw that actually on my first google search. Have you or anyone you know purchased this card in the past? Thanks for the tip! Curious to know your opinion.

              1. re: Sister_Dogass

                If you have a car it is pretty easy to pick three four wineries in close proximity and drive. If you do not have a car then you should probably look into a tour. has a 50% off tour that leaves from San Francisco and takes you to four or five wineries. You can also search the web for local tour companies if you are staying the weekend in Sonoma/Napa area.

                1. re: myst

                  Ooo, the tour from San Francisco sounds ideal considering we were about to rent-a-car. I check into those buses myst! thank you!