Mention you're going to Napa at work and watch the cubes empty as the people surround you with their advice. Look, you don't trust these people to return your stapler, you really want to trust them with your vacation?
Better to trust Local Wally and the Napa locals who know how to plan a Napa wine tasting vacation. I've collected the most frequently asked questions I've received in the past few years to help get you going in the right direction.
MOST POPULAR: Summer is when most tourists visit- and when Napa is most packed. Make restaurant reservations far in advance and book a lot of tours or private tastings to get away from the crowds.
MOST INTERESTING: Fall is when the grapes are harvested and crushed. The smell of ripe fruit is in the air and it's great fun to see the fruit being made into wine.
MOST LIKELY TO GET RAIN: November through March is the rainy season, but also the least expensive time to visit.
MOST MUSTARDY: In Spring the vineyards are overflowing with mustard plants, the weather lovely, and the crowds thin, making this a great time to visit.
DOWNTOWN: A small town vibe and urban setting, downtown also is typically less expensive than other areas. Top Picks
YOUNTVILLE: The ultimate location with ultimate restaurants within walking distance and vineyards close by. Top Picks
ST HELENA AREA: Smack in the middle of the action and the vineyards. Top Picks
CALISTOGA: Far north, everything from cheap mudbath motels to elegant new resorts. Top Picks
WHY BOOK WITH LOCAL WALLY?: Booking your hotel with me is what keeps this site running. It's safe and secure, it's BBB approved, and you'll never second guess if you got a good rate with my Best Rate Guarantee. If you like my site, please help me keep it alive by booking through me. Thanks!
I won't say that Napa Valley is lenient on driving under the influence, but let's face it, the county jail would be busier than V. Sattui's picnic grounds if the cops started strictly enforcing drunk driving laws. In reality, if you're wine tasting versus wine drinking , you really don't drink that much wine if you pace yourself.
But let's say you've already had a DUI or you just plain want to avoid the first (good idea), then go with someone like Platypus Tours . They'll pick you up at your hotel, take you to the best wineries (some with pre negotiated discounted fees), and you'll have fun meeting new people while taking in some history about the valley. Entertaining and reasonably priced, it's a good alternative for those wanting to have fun - without the worry.
As for taxi's, forgetaboutit! You'll be waiting all day for them to pick you up, or spend a fortune having them wait as you taste.
FREE COUPONS: Don't let anyone tell you that there are no more free two-for-one coupons! Just go to my Napa on a Budget page and I've listed every one I could find for you. Just print and go! I also list FREE TOURS and other penny pinching tips. Make sure you bookmark that page as the coupons change monthly.
SONOMA: A hop, skip and a jump away (well, maybe 30 minutes) and you're in FREE WINE HEAVEN! Study up on my sister site, Sonoma Tourist Guide, where I've collected every single dang coupon on the entire web - all for free, of course!
TOP WINERIES TO VISIT: Newbies can't go wrong cruising up Highway 29 and stopping in at the big name wineries like Mondavi, Rubicon (Coppola), Beringer, and the Napa castle, Castello di Amorosa. Take the time to do a tour at at least one of the big name wineries.
For a deeper dive, Cakebread offers small tasting groups, Schramsberg has a fantastic cave tour if you like champagne, and Frog's Leap has a fun and lighthearted tour around their farm. Those looking for wine caves and plenty of wines to taste should head to Del Dotto. Speaking of barrels, Grgich Hills includes barrel tastings with your tasting fee on Friday afternoons. Peju is a fun stop with server Alan, an old school guy who raps about wine - yes, he raps! For serious wine lovers who don't want a stuffy Opus One experience, go to Alpha Omega, my favorite winery. Read more at: HIGHWAY 29 and SILVERADO TRAIL
IF YOU CAN ONLY EAT AT ONE RESTAURANT: Mustards Grill for upscale California comfort foods in a casual, yet trendy setting. Mustards never disappoints.
FOR FRENCH FOOD ON A BUDGET: Michelin star Bistro Jeanty isn't on everyone's "cheap eats" list, but order carefully and you can get out of there for less than you might think for a restaurant of this caliber.
LOVE FOODTV? EAT HERE: Celebrity chef Michael Chiarello is a Napa resident and is often seen at his new restaurant, Bottega, the place to be seen as well. Or go with Iron Chef Morimoto at his new restaurant downtown. It's like watching TV, only you get to eat the food.
LOCAL HANGOUT: Though it's a chain, locals flock to Rutherford Grill for a seat at the bar. Casual and friendly, no corkage fee, and great food.
THE BEST OYSTERS AT THE BEST PRICE: Hog Island Oysters are known for their top quality - and high priced - oysters. But on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 5 to 7 you can slurp half price and wash it down with a $3.50 pint.
THOMAS KELLER'S TRIPLE THREAT: The French Laundry is considered one of the top restaurants in the world, Bouchon is a friendlier priced French bistro, and Ad Hoc is a chefs restaurant serving up one menu that changes daily.
COMPLETE GUIDE AND REVIEWS: Go to my dining guide for reviews on all the best Napa dining options.
PRO'S AND CON'S OF THE WINE TRAIN
Good: Pretty cool to dine on a completely refurbished train. The Wine Train runs from Yountville to St. Helena with a number of options, from dinner to Mystery Murder shows to daytime stops at wineries.
Bad: While the food is admirable for being cooked on a moving train, it's not at the same level of any number of Napa restaurants. The train ride itself is bumpy and once the sun goes down there's not much to see outside. Plus, you're stuck for 3 hours.
Summary: For a food experience, take the same money and spurge at any number of great restaurants with well known chefs - for less. But if you love trains or just want to try something different, it's a unique experience that you won't want to miss.
FREE COUPONS: If you're a winery or Napa business and want to list a coupon, it's FREE. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
BANNER AND GRAPHIC AD BOXES: With thousands of wine loving visitors a day, putting your ad on my Napa and Sonoma sites is your target audience. Banners will appear on secondary pages but Boxes can appear on the homepage (depending on space)
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NOW WHAT ?
LET'S CHECK OUT SOME HOTELS!
SPRING 2013: Thank you everyone for making this one of the most popular sites on Napa. Very cool.
The big Napa news is that we now have our own online store called Napa Valley Home & Garden. We're bringing the best of Napa Farmhouse living right to your home. Check it out - we're open for business!