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Simple Tips for a Successful Napa Valley Experience
© by April Eichmeier
I've heard several people expressing interest, or, for that matter, lack of interest in visiting Napa Valley because they don't know much about wine.

But I want to dispel the rumor that you need to be "big into wine" to have a great time in Napa -- and taking a few simple steps will make the experience smoother than a well-aged reserve Cabernet.

  • First, pack a lunch. Wineries don't usually offer much food, but several have stunning picnic areas.
  • Bring bottled water. Buying it is expensive and the amount of water you get at a tasting is hardly enough to quench a thirst of much magnitude.
  • Plan for road delays. Construction and the popularity of wine country have made traffic kind of a pain. (Look on the bright side: time in the car gives the passengers time to browse Napa Valley travel literature.)
  • On that note, have plenty of gas. Not too many, well, I don't believe any wineries have gas stations. The cities have stations, but if the roads are busy...well...you get the picture.
  • But there's hope! Going on weekdays somewhat alleviates traffic.
  • Don't forget the camera. Trust me, there's nothing like filling the family photo album with pictures of you drinking good wine.
  • Bring plenty of $5 bills-many tastings are $5 and you get a heck of an opportunity to try several kinds of wine. If that sounds expensive, think of the cost of a glass or bottle of one kind of wine.
  • Do not be afraid to visit the smaller wineries. Sometimes the owners, winemakers, or other important people are milling around. They love the fact that you've decided to visit. You may even get a more intimate tour than at larger wineries.
  • However, tours of big wineries are fun-the tour guides are often very knowledgeable about the how's and why's of wine. Additionally, tours are often held several times a day.
  • Check out deals from the web and from papers you can find in Napa Valley itself. Often you can find tasting, hotel/B&B's, shopping, and restaurant discounts. Great web sites include www.insidenapa.com, and www.napavalley.com. Both have links, news, and other useful information. Another site, www.drinkwine.com is less Napa-specific, but it has other valuable information including a list of Napa wineries.
  • Lastly, take your time-this is fun! Take the whole day, and arrange to stay somewhere in Napa if you can. You can spend the evening pouring over the day's goodies (with a glass of wine, of course!).

    Aug. 15, 2000

    To contact April Eichmeier, write her at aeichmeier@hotmail.com.

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