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May 16, 2011 07:01 PM

Anyone toured Sonoma Wineries and used a Wine-Road pass?

Hey, heading from Vegas to Sonoma for a week at the end of the month. I've stumbled upon "Wine Road" , which is, among several other things a Ticket you buy for 1 or 3 days that gets you free tastings in around 80 wineries, plus discounts on wine/merchandise. It's a steal at around $25/$50 respectively. Many of the wineries were ones on my 'hit list" already.
Does anyone have any experience with this? It looks too good to be true.

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  1. From what i have seen, most wineries charge about $5 for tasting which is waived if you by a bottle. And I get a bit of a fuzzy tongue after my third stop, so 15 or so tastes are about my limit. I think it sounds like a better deal than it is.

    3 Replies
    1. re: budnball

      I'd love a list of those $5 tastings. Some comps if you buy, but $5?............. not that I've found.

      1. re: Midlife

        I went to the Wine Road link skabov provided and checked out about 20 wineries listed. Most charged $5-10 with some going up to $20 for a tour and tasting. Some charged more for resevered or library bottles but all waived fees for purchase. I suppose if you plan on hitting up more than 5-10 places it can be a deal.

        1. re: budnball

          I just didn't want to give the OP the wrong impression as to cost comparison. I checked about 10 of the listings myself and the only specific fee amount I saw was for the Wine Road event itself, and that was free. I rarely see specific $ tasting fees on winery websites, and can't remember paying less than $10 when I've been charged. YMMV.

    2. A number of the wineries listed offer complimentary tasting even without the $50 pass. Maybe assemble a list of wineries you would like to visit and contact them to find out how they handle tasting. Fee, no fee, fee waived if one or more bottles are purchased, etc. Also, some of those wineries offer a type of tasting reciprocity. If you pay a minor tasting fee and one of them, they give you a card that entitles you to free tastings at other wineries.

      Have a fun trip!

      1. Thanks for the feedback.
        I actually took the logical step of calling a couple of the wineries that are on the list that I intend on visiting;
        Hanna and Sbragia, both were very excited about the program. So...I'm in, I'll report back after the trip...June 10ish.

        1. Back from Sonoma and the results are in. The WR Pass, while a nice idea, was basically unecessary for us. As budnball and sailing77 stated, most wineries waive their tasting fees when you buy wine. Fees varied from complementary at several to $12 at Iron Horse with many in the $5-$10 range. La Crema honored the pass even though they weren't on the program. All-in-all we would have made out about the same withouot the pass, in fact we didn't use it on the third day. The pass is also for Northern Sonoma wineries, Russian River, Dry Creek, Alexander Valley, etc. Wasn't of any use down near Sonoma proper. The person these passes would benefit most IMHO is the true wine-tourist, only there for the tasting experience, or someone on a tight (no wine purchase) budget.

          10 Replies
          1. re: skaboy

            Thanks for the report. Did you end up purchasing any bottles?

            1. re: Sailing77

              Indeed, came home with about 4 cases of various. A bit more of white, Iron horse, Hook n Ladder, Novy, and B.R Cohn's Woody White, which surprised me as a Red drinker. Got some of that too though... :)

            2. re: skaboy

              Thx for the follow-up. Hope you enjoyed the winter weather. LOL Any good buys? Any swill? What impressed you and disappointed?

              1. re: budnball

                Winter weather indeed! Had to hit up a mall in Santa Rosa and but some cold weather gear as my shorts and flip-flops weren't covering it. Impressed...Iron Horse, Siduri, B.R.Cohn, Nickel and Nickel in Napa. Distressed: Ferrari-Carano, beautiful but snooty, Folie a Deux (Napa), worst tasting experience in 10 trips to various wine regions, zero conversation, $7 tasting fee for relative bile, and no refund of the tasting fee when wine was purchased. There's probably more but I'll have to reflect. Good trip all in all. Headed over to Napa for the last day when Flowers vineyard cancelled our appointment.


                1. re: skaboy


                  Did you make any "sympathy" purchases? I admit that once in a while that happens to me. If the winery is small and the person serving the wine is very enthusiastic I will sometimes just buy a bottle of the lesser of all of the evils.

                  1. re: Sailing77

                    You bet! Guilt gets me every time. We had a particularly interesting at one of the smaller Dry Creek valley tasting rooms. We were enjoying a very nice complimentary tasting when the wife/owner of the label's husband and wife duo came in and tried to "hard-sell" us on the wine club. This is an exclusive club-only winery and quite pricey, needless to say we were a bit put off by the tactic. We bought a bottle just to escape. Yikes!

              2. re: skaboy

                Glad to hear you had a good trip. 4 cases? Nice!

                As extra information, I've found there's a sonoma B&B association that has some kind of pass bundled into some of their member's lodging fees. Even at the price of "free", in my last trip I didn't find it terribly useful. We tend to buy a bottle or two everywhere we visit, whatever we liked most. I do tend to drink as few wines as possible to make more stops (which increases fees), but still - the tasting fees are minimal when you're doing a moderate amount of purchasing.

                1. re: bbulkow

                  Sounds like we have the same M.O.

                  1. re: bbulkow

                    My GF and I received one of those Sonoma B&B passes when we stayed at a B&B last April. Probably the best use of these type of passes is for the "wine tourist" who is there for the tasting experience over several days and not necessarily purchasing and/or on a tight budget.

                    We weren't going to use it ourselves (my GF is much more of beer aficionado, and neither of us are truly geeky about wine), but we did find a secondary use - we found we had nothing better to do one day to our day's main destination and we hit a couple wineries that were conveniently on the way. As it turned out, we ended up buying a bottle of wine we liked best from the two places we hit up anyway, so I'm guessing they might've waved the tasting fees anyway pass or not.

                    1. re: josquared

                      I'll tell you of one place in Sonoma that does not waive the tasting fee even if you make a purchase...Geyser Peak. And it is not as though their wines are rare gems either.