Tips on planning your wine-focused expedition

Napa Valley in California has more than just wineries, boasting a robust arts scene with several high-calibre art galleries.
Napa Valley in California has more than just wineries, boasting a robust arts scene with several high-calibre art galleries.PHOTO: NAPA VALLEY/INSTAGRAM

ROME • Want to raise a toast to a better vacation experience?

Wine-producing regions such as Tuscany in Italy and Napa Valley in California already make for enjoyable destinations, but with a little planning, you can get even more from your trip.

Ms Lynda Turley, an adviser at Alpine Travel of Saratoga in California, specialises in wine-focused expeditions.

"The areas of the world where winery hopping is a big attraction tend to be incredibly picturesque and you don't have to be a serious oenophile to have a good time on a trip to one of them," she says.

She pours out some tips on how to squeeze out the last drop of a visit.

Three is the limit

Even the most die-hard wine drinkers, Ms Turley says, should visit no more than three wineries in a day.

"If you try to hit too many wineries in a single day, they'll all blur together and you'll have a harder time remembering the individual wines you tasted," she advises.

Consider hiring a wine guide

These regions usually have wine guides with connections to local wineries and winemakers.

Some even double as drivers, so you do not have to worry about driving while drinking.

Although wine guides can charge US$500 (S$664) to US$1,000 a day, she believes they are worth the investment, especially if you are travelling as part of a group and can share the cost with others.

"Wine guides can significantly enhance your trip by giving you an insider experience of the region," she adds.

You can find a wine guide through your hotel's concierge, a travel adviser or even by asking a winery you plan to visit for a recommendation.

Choose the road less travelled

Famous wine regions can be overrun with tourists.

And because many of the wineries are larger and more commercial, you are unlikely to meet the winemakers or owners to learn about the drink and how it is made.

Wineries in lesser-known areas tend to be smaller, which means you can usually meet and interact with the people behind the brand.

Ms Turley's favourite off-the-beaten-path wine destinations include the Santa Cruz Mountains in California, the Monticello area in Virginia and the wineries outside Montevideo, Uruguay.

Reserve in advance

Most renowned wineries take visitors only by appointment and get booked weeks in advance.

To avoid disappointment, Ms Turley advises making reservations for winery visits as soon as your trip dates are fixed.

And do not forget restaurant reservations in the vicinity too, because they can be tough to score in some of the most popular spots.

Plan other activities

Many wine regions have plenty of diversions.

Napa Valley has a robust arts scene with several high-calibre art galleries. Also, some of the region's resorts are destinations in and of themselves, such as Meadowood Napa Valley, which has a three-Michelin-star restaurant and a free-standing spa with numerous wine-based treatments.

Tuscany, with its hilly roads, is a prime destination for cyclists.

Bordeaux has a flourishing cultural scene, while several farms in Provence offer olive oil and cheese tastings.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 07, 2018, with the headline 'Tips on planning your wine-focused expedition'. Print Edition | Subscribe