Contact Wally

Use the form on the right to contact me.

I am happy to help you plan your trip to Napa.  If you need a free winery trip planning agenda please give me as much time as you can due to the large number of requests.  I can typically turn around a custom agenda in 3 days.

Happy also to help you with restaurant and hotel recommendations, all honest and unbiased and based on my own experiences.

Cheers,

Local Wally

         

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Local Wally's Blog to Napa | NapaTouristGuide.com

Read Local Wally's Blog to Napa for up to date news, features, and stories from Napa Valley. Guest Posts Welcome!

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Plan Your Own Netflix Wine Country Getaway in Napa... on a budget!

Local Wally

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If you haven’t seen the Netflix film Wine Country with Amy Poehler you need to stop what you are doing, open up a big bottle of wine and watch it… Now! OK, spoiler alert, it’s a bit of a chick flick but there are plenty of hilarious moments. “What do you taste? There are no wrong answers…” Tip: Never answer that question.

So now you want to plan out your own weekend getaway to Napa. You want to get silly drunk, roll down hills, maybe even renew some old friendships? Well here’s the reality check - Napa is expensive. Super expensive. Like $50 per person to taste at some wineries expensive! But I can help. Yes, I can definitely help.

GROUP SIZE MATTERS IN WINE TASTING

A group of 4 or less, Napa is all yours. Once you hit 6 you need to think about reservations. And once you go over 8 you should know that some wineries just don’t want you, especially if you’re laughing and giggling and just having a great old time. The trick is to call ahead and make reservations. They might charge you more but at least you know when you arrive that they are expecting you, have a server ready for you, and have space set aside for you. Yes, some wineries are totally cool with large groups coming in unannounced - Castillo di Amorosa, Chandon, Sterling, and a few others. But even if you do get in it means long lines waiting for wine, a major buzzkill. No one wants to wait for wine so make reservations if you have a group over 5 people.

If you are coming with over 8 people just email me and let me help you. I don’t charge for this - I try to help the wineries and in turn they help me and my readers. In the end you get a deal cheaper than you could get yourself. If you are trying to ballpark wine tasting fees for any group over 8 use $40 per person, per winery, as a starting point. It can be less but for planning it’s best to be realistic.

HOTELS ARE EXPENSIVE AND BOOK UP FAST

In the movie they had this great house all to itself. Well, that’s a tall order in Napa. If you want that experience you should expand your search to Sonoma. But if you want Napa then start with hotels. You want a hotel that is close to restaurants. That’s because at the end of the day you don’t want to be driving to eat dinner. This means find a place in either downtown Napa or Yountville. Use this link to start browsing the deals - https://arestravel.com/hotel/list/3035/m211 - If you wanted that private estate in the vineyards email me - I know some wineries who have villas where you can stay. These are not published so just ask.

GET A PRIVATE CHEF EXPERIENCE WITHOUT A PRIVATE CHEF

One of the very cool things in the Netflix movie Wine Country was that they had a private chef. But if you aren’t staying in a farmhouse or just can’t afford your own chef then check out Long Meadow Ranch’s Chef’s Table. I’ve done this - it’s incredible. There’s a private communal table in the winery that seats around 10 people. Next to the table is a kitchen with your own chef who carefully and skillfully prepares a 2 hour dining experience for you, course by course, with wine pairings. It’s totally indulgent and so much fun, especially for a Wine Country getaway. I also have an offer for my readers that adds on a private cave tour if you book the dinner so make sure you email me to get that.

On an even tighter budget? Go to The Bounty Hunter for dinner where there’s great BBQ and a killer Happy Hour and tons - I mean TONS - of wines by the glass. Top notch food and authentic Napa experience.

SPA EXPERIENCE IN NAPA… ON A BUDGET

A Wine Country weekend should mean some relaxing experiences as well and Napa has no shortage of top notch, high end spas. But for those looking for a budget spa experience do something that is uniquely Napa and go soak in a mud bath. Calistoga is home to plenty of options to soak in natural spring waters filled with soothing clay and peat. Couples welcome, even threesomes (um, OK), and it’s a spa experience that you will remember for a long time.

GRAPE STOMPS, CAVE TOURS, HOT AIR BALLOONS, NAPA WINE TRAIN, NAPA HAS IT ALL

If you’re coming in Fall make sure you book a Grape Stomp. Grgich Hills has a good one where you stomp away and take home a wine stained t-shirt. Cave Tours are great during off season when it’s raining outside or on a super hot summer day when you want to get out of the heat. Hot Air Balloons start early so decide if you really want to get up early and do not plan on this after a night of fun wine drinking. And who can resist the Napa Wine Train? With lunch and dinner excursions, an excursion that drops you off at wineries, even a Wine Train and Castle trip, there’s something for everyone and a totally unique experience. And guess what, I have discount tickets so make sure you ask before booking.

OVERWHELMED? JUST EMAIL ME!

A big part of what I do here is help visitors find the Best of Napa on a Budget. All honest advice, no tricks or gimmicks, I’ll help you plan it all out and it’s all free of charge. All I ask is that you tell all of your friends about me and you follow me on instagram! Here’s to a great weekend Wine Country getaway!

Best FREE Wine Tasting in Napa Valley (Don't Tell Yelp!)

Local Wally

Best Complete List of FREE Wine Tasting in Napa Valley, including ALL the ones that Yelp! misses. Let Local Wally show you how to do Napa on a Budget and where to find all of the free wine!

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Do's and Don'ts of Napa Valley

Local Wally

Regusci Winery in Napa

Regusci Winery in Napa

Coming to Napa Valley for the first time?  Overwhelmed?  Confused?  Don't be - just follow my easy Napa Do's and Dont's and you'll be sipping wine like an expert!

DO HAVE A PLAN:  The days of driving up and down Highway 29 and pulling into any old winery that looks interesting are over.  You should have your winery stops mapped out, the first one at 10AM and the last one at 4.  Give yourself 45 minutes to an hour at each stop and make sure you google map the distance between wineries so you don't end up driving up and down the valley.

DON'T OVERBOOK YOUR DAY:  Think you can hit 8 to 10 wineries in a day?  Forgetaboutit!  Figure 4 to 5 max.  You don't want to be rushing from one winery to another.

DON'T FORGET YOUR ANNUAL WINE PASS:  There's no more free wine tasting in Napa other than Sutter Home - you know, the White Zinfandel folks, enough said on that!  Most Napa wineries now charge $25 or more per person, meaning it's very easy to run up a couple hundred bucks in fees per day.  That's why I recommend the Priority Wine Pass - it gets you two for one tastings at over 75 wineries, saving you half on your fees.  Get it here with my discount - it will be $39.99 but you only need one pass per couple.  Here's the ever growing list of wineries who accept the pass - Get the pass and I'll even help you pick out the best wineries for you if you email me with your dates.

DO MAKE RESERVATIONS:  This is especially true during the busy seasons - Summer and Fall being the busiest.  With huge crowds that rival Disneyland, waiting in line at the "come one, come all" wineries can mean long waits.  But book a reservation and show up on time and in you go like winery royalty - built in crowd control. 

Easy sipping at Inglenook Winery in Napa

Easy sipping at Inglenook Winery in Napa

DON'T DO LUNCH, DO A PICNIC:  Lunch is for suckers.  I mean, you're in Napa to taste wine, not waste two hours doing lunch.  Instead pack a picnic and make sure your winery stop at noon allows them.  That's right, not all wineries allow picnics due to regulations but here's a recently updated list of the ones who do. A little crusty bread, a little cheese, some salami, get your supplies either at Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa, Oakville Grocery, or Dean & Deluca.  And there ain't nothing wrong with just snacking on the go, dropping crumbs in your rental car as you head to the next stop.  Don't forget the waters!

DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE:  There was a time when everyone on the road in Napa probably had a bit too much to drink but don't chance it.  Either have a Designated Driver or hire someone to drive your car.  Who to hire?  Start with my friend Jamie, the gal who owns the Priority Wine Pass company.  She's my first pick not because she's my friend but because she knows all the wineries so when you walk in with her they'll treat you like a VIP.  Other drivers who have earned the Local Wally Stamp of Approval are found here.

DO VISIT THE BOUTIQUE WINERIES:  Quick, name some wineries in Napa!  I bet you came up with Mondavi, Sterling, Beringer, and maybe Castello di Amorosa, the Napa Castle.  Well guess what?  Every other first timer came up with the same names meaning these wineries will be packed.  But Napa has hundreds of wineries tucked away that offer great wine, friendly hospitality, and a Napa experience that's not unlike what you would have found twenty years ago.  Don't believe people on TripAdvisor who claim the boutiques are "second rate" - they don't know what they're talking about.  Just remember to make reservations at the boutiques and they are limited by how many people they can serve in a day so Pop In's are not allowed.

Redd Wood in Napa (Yountville) makes a fantastic steak!

Redd Wood in Napa (Yountville) makes a fantastic steak!

DO MAKE YOUR DINNER RESERVATIONS AT A RESTAURANT NEAR YOUR HOTEL:  When you're home and deciding on where to eat dinner it's easy to make the mistake of picking a place that's far from your hotel.  After all, you figure, you're only here once so who cares if you need to drive 15 miles?  Well trust me, after a day of wine tasting you're going to want a restaurant that's walking distance from your hotel or so close the air conditioner in your car doesn't get cool before you arrive.  If you do have your heart set on a restaurant that's far from your hotel, plan out your tasting day to end near your dinner destination.

DO MORE THAN TASTE WINE IN NAPA:  Don't forget that Napa has more to offer than wine tasting.  Some of the popular excursions are the Napa Wine Train, hot air balloon rides, mud baths and spa treatment, and golf.  If you plan to do any of these make sure you get the Priority Wine Pass (see above) as you can often get discounts with it.  And if you are here for more than a couple of days a side trip to Sonoma is a good getaway and a nice contrast to the more developed Napa area.

DO TIP YOUR SERVER:  It's not required but Napa etiquette is to toss in a few bucks if your wine server gave you an enjoyable experience.  And buy wine if you like it - the wineries main goal is to sell wine so go into each winery assuming you will take home a bottle or two.

DO A WINE BLENDING CLASS:  If you like wine but have a hard time describing what you like in a wine then splurge on a wine blending class.  My favorite is Conn Creek's Blending Experience where you taste 6 cabs grown in different areas of Napa and decide what you like or dislike in each one.  From there you carefully add a touch of this or that until you have a perfect bottle suited to your taste.  In the end you bottle it up, cork it, and add a label and you'll take home the perfect blend - or is it?  Do this with friends and do a blind tasting with you get home to see who made the best wine.  It's fun, educational, and you'll gain years of tasting experience in an hour and a half.  And yes, you can get a discount with the Priority Wine Pass.

Tired of the Same Old Napa Wineries? How to Taste Your Way Through Napa Like a Local!

Local Wally

Everyone stops at Mondavi Winery in Napa - But Should You?

Everyone stops at Mondavi Winery in Napa - But Should You?

Alternative Napa - Where Do Locals Taste Wine?

I totally get it - it's your first visit to Napa and the labels of the wines you see in your supermarket are haunting you.  Mondavi.  Beringer.  Sterling.  Domaine Chandon.  And that castle, yes, the famous Castello di Amorosa.  Must see, must see!  Or should you?

Sure, these are all great stops but there's another side to Napa that locals know and love and that's the smaller boutique wineries.  Don't believe what you might have read on places like TripAdvisor who claim that the smaller wineries don't have good wine.  I actually found the opposite to be true.  That's because the small wineries are hoping you buy a bottle or case so they're pouring the good stuff whereas the famous wineries have buses of people waiting to get in to snapchat and instagram their selfies.  Wine is almost secondary to the winery at some of the big names - tram anyone?

What do you want?  A castle with millions of visitors or a wine tasting getaway at a boutique?

What do you want?  A castle with millions of visitors or a wine tasting getaway at a boutique?

So where to go?  How do you visit Napa and taste like a VIP? 

Here are a few of my favorites.  First timers, go ahead and make that stop at Mondavi or Beringer but make sure you spend at least 50% of your time in these smaller wineries if you want to get away from the tourists and deeper into the heart of Napa.  For those of you who have been here before you can also email me and I'll help you pick some good ones and even help you get discounts, many unpublished, so you can taste like a VIP without breaking the bank.

Here are a few "off the grid" wineries you should be checking out.

Let me help you plan it out!  I don't charge, I don't get kickbacks from the wineries, I'm not associated with any wine shops, restaurants, or anybody!  I am just one guy who knows and loves Napa and happy to share my favorites with you, all honest and unbiased recommendations so that you don't leave Napa thinking it was a theme park.  Email me and give me your dates you will be here, the number of people in your party and whether you are a wine expert or just looking for fun places to taste.  Give me two weeks if possible and I'll get you some free Napa advice on how to taste your way through Napa like a local - on a budget, of course. 

Local Wally

Get a FREE Discount for Tram Ride and Upgraded Tasting at Sterling Vineyards

Local Wally

Sterling Winery Vineyards FREE Coupon!

I often get asked which winery to go to that offers more than just wine tasting, something that's a bit of an adventure. Maybe you have non-drinking age kids, maybe you want to give your designated driver a break, maybe you just want to do something completely different. If that sounds like you then Sterling Winery might be the ticket.

Tram at Sterling Vineyards

Climb aboard the tram for a breathtaking ride to the top of the mountain where you can take a self guided tour through the winery and then relax in a seated tasting on the patio surrounded by pine trees and a glorious view. But don't pay full price!  Instead just email me and I'll send you the promo code - FOR FREE!


2019 UPDATE: Yes, you can still get the free $10 off deal with me but if you have a Priority Wine Pass you get a FREE tram ride and tasting, save $35. The pass is $39.99 and includes free tastings at 10+ other wineries in Napa, including Charles Krug (save $65), Grgich Hills (save $25), Burgess Cellars (save $35), and many more. Visit this page to get more info.


No catches, no gimmicks, no paying to "unlock" the deal, just ask and I'll send it to you.  And yes, it was APPROVED by their Marketing Department for my readers in August 2018 so this is the real deal.  And yes, the Sterling Coupon is 100% FREE for the asking.  Get $10 off!  No unlocking this deal, just email me and I'll send it for free.  You do need to book in advance on their website to get the offer so plan ahead.

Did You Want More FREE Napa Wine Tasting Deals?

I have them! Local Wally was the very first website to collect and give away all of the free Napa wine tasting deals on one site. Today there are a number of competing sites but none of them offer what I do - free unbiased advice to help you plan your trip. I'm not a corporation, I don't have a staff of writers, I respond to every email personally and don't charge for my assistance. And I never recommend stuff I don't like! I'll help you pick wineries, restaurants, and even help you plan out a Napa on a Budget trip.

So Email me and get more free Napa wine tasting deals! And enjoy your tram ride at Sterling Vineyards!