Napa - free tastings

Aug 8th, 2009, 09:16 AM
  #1  
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Napa - free tastings

Are the free tastings in Napa worth it? We'll be there for several days and will do a few of the premium tastings but figured we'd also do some free tastings. In late Sept/early Oct are reservations necessary? Any suggestions for a 3-4 day itinerary - we're staying right in Napa.
sandiedog is offline  
Aug 8th, 2009, 11:49 AM
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I suppose it depends on where the freebies are. I do not know of any free tastings in Napa. Which wineries did you find that had them?
Linny1951 is offline  
Aug 8th, 2009, 02:46 PM
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I don't know of any free tasting either. Many years ago wineries had free tastings but haven't seen that in ages. But hopefully someone can advise you sandiedog, or go to Google to see what you can find. Or the Chamber of Commerce.

Anyway, not to tease you, but if you do find some free tastings, besides time, what do you have to lose?
LoveItaly is offline  
Aug 8th, 2009, 04:22 PM
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Maybe if you go on a tour. I heard the train may be the way to go. I don't think they want you to get free wine and then get in your car and drive.
wally34949 is offline  
Aug 8th, 2009, 06:28 PM
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Napa wine tasting isn't free that I know of. In fact, the prices for wine tasting have gone up so much many are going to Sonoma Valley and the Dry Gulch area. We were in some wineries there in March and had a great time. Beautiful area and some good wines.

The first year Castello di Amorosa Winery opened we took the tour and wine tasting and it was $25. We like Rombauer Vineyards in Napa. Fees at Rombauer are now $10 per person.
bratsandbeer is offline  
Aug 8th, 2009, 06:40 PM
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Wineries in Sonoma, Dry Creek, Russian River area are starting to charge at some times, for some wines. It's not like Napa yet, but as more people find out about it, the more likely the wineries will charge.

There are many people who taste with no intention of buying and on a busy weekend I hate to think how much free wine one of these places will go through.

I'm lucky to be able to go down and stay with my brother who lives in Cotati. We will "do" our favorite places and they seldom charge and we have time to talk to the owners or the wine maker. It really makes for a great day. When I DO visit, it's because I need to fill the wine frige so I'm a buyer.
crefloors is offline  
Aug 8th, 2009, 06:41 PM
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Most of the Napa wineries that have free tastings are appointment-only, visitor bureau (and maybe websites?) may have coupons for free tasting. Also some wineries deduct tasting fees if you buy a bottle or more.

Are free tastings worth it? Only you can decide
Dayenu is offline  
Aug 8th, 2009, 06:42 PM
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And if you are staying in Napa Valley, your hotel may have coupons for tasting/purchase.
Dayenu is offline  
Aug 8th, 2009, 06:58 PM
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If you are staying in downtown Napa, you might purchase the "Downtown Wine Tasting Card" for $20 which lets you taste wines at 14 tasting rooms for 10 cents per taste.

http://www.napadowntown.com/wine_card.html

Otherwise, the major wineries now charge for tours and tastings. Many of the higher end, boutique wineries are open by appointment only. Most wineries now charge between $10 and $20 per person. If a winery has free tasting, it is not usually the good stuff. Napa Valley wines are expensive and many tasting rooms are overwhelmed with visitors, so charging is a form of crowd control. In lesser visited parts of California, one can often find tasting rooms that do not charge fees except for their more expensive wines.
Supercilious is offline  
Aug 9th, 2009, 01:14 PM
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If you are staying at a hotel in Napa Valley, your hotel will more than likely give you coupons for half price or even free tastings so check your goody bag. We stayed at Yountville Inn and received coupons for some wineries we wouldn't have otherwise tried and were quite surprised we liked them! Beauleau comes to mind. If you are arriving in Napa Valley before your hotel check in time, you might want to stop by your hotel, see if they do give coupons, and pick them up before you start paying for tastings.

I saw a tasting coupon for BV on the following site as well as for others (like Hall):

http://napavalley.winecountry.com/index.html

It used to be that if you purchased a bottle of wine after your tasting, the tasting fee would be waived but I am finding fewer and fewer wineries that do this. They want to give you a glass with the winery name instead.

Check the websites of the wineries you want to visit as sometimes they have coupons you can print up. For example, Mumm has a coupon for 2 for 1 tastings during the week and 15% off your purchase.

Are they worth it? I think so. If you try it and don't like it, you haven't lost a thing.

"Are reservations necessary"

Are you referring to tastings by appointment? Again, check the winery's website. Some smaller boutique wineries do not do tastings on the weekend. We found larger outfits like Cakebread want you to have an appointment, but you can call and change it if you are running late. With smaller wineries, they may not have room for you at a later tasting.

If you are referring to dinner reservations the answer is yes.

Someone above said that appointment only wineries do not charge for tastings but we had to pay at Cakebread although the tasting fee for one person was deducted from the bottle we bought.

We went to a tasting at Fallia which was quite nice - 8 people in a living room type setting, we were served fresh hot cheese popovers, and a different glass for each wine. There was no charge, however, I would have felt odd if I had not bought at least a couple of bottles - which I would do anyway. Our friends did not and it was perfectly fine.

I have stopped at the visitors center and have never received any coupons worth anything there.

Wally, I don't believe the wine train stops at wineries.
Ronda is offline  
Aug 9th, 2009, 01:18 PM
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You are correct Ronda, the wine train does not stop at any winery. You are served a meal and wine while on the train.
LoveItaly is offline  
Aug 9th, 2009, 01:20 PM
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Here is my favorite site for Napa Valley Wineries:

http://www.napavintners.com/wineries/

I like the interactive map - click on the name of the winery and an information page listing there hours, etc., and web page pops up.
Ronda is offline  
Aug 9th, 2009, 01:26 PM
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Hi Love!

I believe Wally also mentioned driving after drinking. One way to reduce your consumption is to split a tasting. My daughter and I often do this and it is perfectly acceptable.
Ronda is offline  
Aug 10th, 2009, 09:13 AM
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At any hotel/motel and other places in Napa and Sonoma there is a large format pulp magazine with a name something like "wine country today", often with coupons for free or 2 for 1 tastings; flip to the back first to see if there is a list of advertisers with specials. The only winery that comes to mind immediately with free tastings is Hagafen, a kosher winery on the Silverado Trail. I know there are a few others, and many that do refund your fee if you purchase a bottle. Another option is to join the wine club which is free, gives free tastings and discounts on any bottles you buy. We have tried many, but are now only in Sebastiani, lower priced wines and we love them.
humanone is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2009, 11:16 AM
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I live in Napa, and there are many free tastings. You have to get off the tourist track. Also, many wineries will waive their fees if you buy a bottle of wine.
HiddenNapaJeepTours is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2009, 11:40 AM
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"I live in Napa, and there are many free tastings. You have to get off the tourist track."

And those many wineries would be?

"Also, many wineries will waive their fees if you buy a bottle of wine."

Waive the fee after the fact? Do you buy wine before you taste? Or are you saying that the wineries apply your tasting fee toward your wine purchase? This is quite common.
Suzie is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2009, 12:22 PM
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Here are a few wineries that don't charge tasting fees and are all family owned, not corporate:
Three Clicks
Ballentine
Trespass
White Cottage
Nichelini

Depending on their policies, those that charge tasting fees will sometimes waive the fee when you buy wine. Many of them won't charge for your tasting in advance, then if you do buy wine after you taste they don't have to do two transactions. If you don't buy wine, they will then charge the tasting fee.
NapaJulie is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2009, 12:24 PM
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Oh I see. If you pay after the tasting they can waive it. I have always paid up front. Cash on the bar, so to speak1
Suzie is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2009, 12:40 PM
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Make sure you have a meal at the Rutherford Grill right on the main route. Try the prime rib sandwich, it's awesome!!!
brewski is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2009, 01:05 PM
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I was there just this past weekend. The places we were at charged $10 for tasting but they credited it back if you bought wine.
suze is offline  

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