By Michael Green 

It's August, and for many of us, that means vacation time! For the wine lovers among us, its certainly convenient that many of the world's great wine producing regions are located close to prime vacation destinations. In San Francisco? It's a quick trip to Napa Valley and Sonoma. Love Champagne? Great! The region is only an hour and a half from Paris. Want to explore the hills of Tuscany? Rent a car, it's only 45 minutes from Florence. While it's great to savor a bottle of wine that transports you to a specific place, there's no substitute for visiting that place. So with that in mind, here are some tips on how to plan a memorable wine trip, whether it's a day in wine country or a week at that villa you rented in Tuscany.

1. Do your research
There is so much fantastic information on the web to help you plan a wine vacation. For starters, you can look at trade bureau websites for nearly any wine region in the world. These will help you familiarize yourself with the regions and wines in areas you will be traveling, and will also include a phone number and email to contact for more information. There are many companies that will offer their services - generally at a significant expense - to plan your wine itinerary for you. With all the resources available online, you'll most often be better off doing the research yourself. You'll probably derive more enjoyment from a customized experience based on what you've learned yourself, plus you'll save money that is likely better spent on bringing home a few extra bottles from the highlights of your trip!

2. Plan early
While you can easily just show up at a large Napa Valley winery like Robert Mondavi and hop on a tour, if you dig deeper you can find hidden wineries with smaller, more artisanal productions off the beaten path. Plan early and it can often be the owner or winemaker who actually gives you the tour. If you've ever been to Napa before, you know: it's fabulous, it's expensive, and it's touristy - it's like Disney World. So, while it can be worth the trip, next time, consider Sonoma, where more personal experiences await. Just look up my friend Clay Mauritson of Mauritson Vineyards - if you plan early you can arrange some very special experiences.

3. Don't forget to eat
Just because it's called "wine" country doesn't mean your need forego wonderful food! The duo of food and drink can go hand in hand on your vacation, just as they would at your favorite restaurant back home. Many wineries are home to fabulous farm to table restaurants, or at the very least they can give you recommendations for their favorite in-the-know haunts.

4. Don't drink and drive
This of course applies anytime alcohol is involved, but in particular, people tend to underestimate how sipping your way across wine country over a full day can sneak up on you. If you don't have a designated driver in your group, consider taking a chauffeur service from vineyard to vineyard.

 

5. Don't buy wine at a vineyard if it's available locally
While it might go against common sense, a wine at retail will generally cost less than buying it at the winery. There are times, though, when even large producers found in stores across the country will offer certain bottlings that can only be purchased at the winery. For example, at Rodney Strong Vineyards, this well-known producer of Cabernet, Merlot, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and more, crafts an awe-inspiring Malbec that can only be found at the vineyard. In those cases, for sure, take home a bottle or a case!

6. Choose a region whose wines you are already passionate about
While discovery is of course part of the excitement of a wine vacation, this does not mean you need to spend a week in a region whose wines are mostly unfamiliar to you. Even in the best known regions, places you think you know and have tried it all, there are sure to be hidden places and discoveries along the way that will deepen your appreciation for the region, and provide exciting experiences.

7. If you have a strong relationship with a wine shop, tell them about your trip
I've talked before about the importance of developing a good relationship with salesperson you trust at a wine shop you frequent. There are many reasons for this, and one of them is the help they can provide when you're planning a trip to a wine region. They most likely have relationships with a number of the wineries where you plan to travel and can both give you tips on where to visit, and hook you up with deals you wouldn't normally come across.

There's a lot that can go into planning a wine vacation, but now more than ever, with the resources available online and more wineries catering to the visiting public, it's possible to put together a trip that can be a deeply enriching experience, and one to remember.

Connect with Michael : info@michaelgreen.com

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