Wine tour of California, when is best time

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Alan Eden
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Wine tour of California, when is best time

#1 Post by Alan Eden » January 13th, 2015, 5:52 pm

Planning a ten day holiday this year

Looking to visit areas from Napa down to Paso with days of inbetween for general holiday.

I have certain wineries to target and some we will pick as we go, my question is when is the best time to go. A few very nice winemakers have offered to show us around, my question is what months are the best to go. I understand harvest time is obviously not good but when exactly does everyone get busy ?

There are a lot of posts on wineries to visit, not much on timing though

Thanks

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#2 Post by Sean Devaney » January 13th, 2015, 6:08 pm

Alan, my vote is March through early May. Weather is generally very good and the vineyards coming to life after their winter rest, along with early wild flowers, make it my favorite time. My next choice is mid- October through November-I love the quality of the light in the afternoons in the wine country.

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#3 Post by John Morris » January 13th, 2015, 6:20 pm

I think Sean's guidance is good. But the winter can be nice, too. I always work in a day in Napa and/or Sonoma around New Years and it's lovely and quiet.
Alan Eden wrote:I understand harvest time is obviously not good but when exactly does everyone get busy ?
September and October.

I'm not sure how much it matters in California, though, unless you're arranging appointments with the winemakers themselves. Most places have tasting room staffs. It's not like Europe where you're likely to be welcome by the proprietor/winemaker most places outside Bordeaux.
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#4 Post by Alan Eden » January 13th, 2015, 6:30 pm

John

I am hoping to arrange a few visits with winemakers if possible, my objective is quality over quantity. We will visit a few tasting rooms but id rather just learn a lot about a few AVA's and dedicate a good few hours to meet some of the people i buy from if they are generous enough to offer, so i really want the times that would make this as convenient as possible for anyone kind enough to offer
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#5 Post by Nolan E » January 13th, 2015, 6:34 pm

I always loved visiting in January and February. No traffic, long visits, easy restaurant reservations. The only problem is that vineyards look pretty sparse and it can get very cold overnight.
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#6 Post by T. Schaffler » January 13th, 2015, 10:05 pm

One of the best times is post thanksgiving to mid dec. Temps usually are decent and its before the winter rains hit.

It's after harvest and pretty dead. Great time for quality visits. Especially mid week.
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#7 Post by Wes Barton » January 13th, 2015, 10:57 pm

Best is anywhere from January til late spring to beat the heat and the tourists. Summer it depends where you're going. Harvest time if you like being pandered to with superficial event touristy bullshit or annoying the crap out of anyone who has anything to do with the actual winemaking. Post-harvest can still be busy, and it's wind-down time and holidays and catch up with family and normality. It can be a good time, but don't count on it, and be understanding.
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#8 Post by Frank Murray III » January 14th, 2015, 5:59 am

Sean Devaney wrote:Alan, my vote is March through early May. Weather is generally very good and the vineyards coming to life after their winter rest, along with early wild flowers, make it my favorite time. My next choice is mid- October through November-I love the quality of the light in the afternoons in the wine country.
Agree with Sean. While I didn't get north last year, the time I have gone in past years is winter and early Spring.
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#9 Post by Brian Tuite » January 14th, 2015, 7:01 am

Definitely wait until Feb or later if you want to hook up with a winemaker of two. March-April are prime for weather and relative calm around the wineries.
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#10 Post by Bud Carey » January 14th, 2015, 7:04 am

We avoid September and October, as the people we most want to see are largely in the vineyards and unavailable.
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#11 Post by Taylor Broussard » January 14th, 2015, 7:13 am

November and December are our favorite times to visit. The weather is cool, harvest is over and tasting rooms are fairly quiet. You often get clear skies near the coast and you start to see some green back in the landscape. (The case this year, although not much during the last couple as much due to lack of rain).

March and April are also good times, although I would recommend early April. In May you can start to get warm day times which can get problematic if you're carrying wine. The one benefit to tasting in Spring is that most of the wines will be through Malo so if you're interested in tasting the most recent vintage from barrel, it's an option. You may not gather much from it though.

My honest opinion is to go in November if you can wait. Go from Napa down to the Santa Cruz mountains through San Jose, head down to Monterey/Carmel to taste some Santa Lucia Highlands and then take Highway 1 to Paso Robles. November and December are warm (65-70) and sunny on the Monterey peninsula and is a fantastic time to visit.

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#12 Post by T. Altmayer » January 14th, 2015, 8:34 am

I think it comes down to a balance between scenery (late spring to early fall) or easy access and less crowds (late fall to early spring). If its your first time, I would likely book the former as it really is beautiful and you can manage the crowds by booking reservations at more boutique wineries.
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#13 Post by Paul Luckin » January 14th, 2015, 8:41 am

just a note with Feb - April visits: for many wineries, and tasting rooms, those months are the beginning of Event Season and weekends (more than weekdays) may have more exposure to high traffic. as an example, the Wine Road Barrel Tasting takes place during first two weekends in March in northern Sonoma Co. (i.e. RRV, Dry Creek, etc.). attendees number in the thousands on those event days.

just something to keep in mind if you're looking to avoid crowds.
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#14 Post by Alan Rath » January 14th, 2015, 9:39 am

You should be here NOW. It's beautiful, hasn't rained this year and probably won't for the rest of January. Traffic is lower, restaurants are more available, etc., etc. Unless a rare storm happens to pass through, pretty much any time of the year is good - though unless you like heat and crowds, I would stay away from summer. So my answer would be any time from October through May, with a preference for November through April.

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#15 Post by Taylor Broussard » January 14th, 2015, 10:05 am

January and February (and December too) can be quite cold in Paso Robles (the lows). It's typically colder on average than Napa because of the elevation and the Santa Lucia mountains even though Paso has a reputation for being hot. It wouldn't be uncommon to see a lot of frost and lows below 30 degrees in some areas.

Just something to keep in mind.

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#16 Post by Albert R » January 14th, 2015, 6:56 pm

+1 Taylor!
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#17 Post by Jeremy C » January 14th, 2015, 7:25 pm

Nolan E wrote:I always loved visiting in January and February. No traffic, long visits, easy restaurant reservations. The only problem is that vineyards look pretty sparse and it can get very cold overnight.
This.
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#18 Post by Alan Eden » January 14th, 2015, 10:00 pm

Im not going in the cold, I suffer that for six months in Chicago. I want to sit out at night in the heat drinking my nice zin and smoking my cohiba
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#19 Post by Nolan E » January 14th, 2015, 10:27 pm

Even in the hottest part of summer it may dip into the 40s overnight. You'll be hard pressed to find warm nights in many wine regions.
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#20 Post by Andrew Morris » January 14th, 2015, 10:33 pm

Alan Eden wrote:Im not going in the cold, I suffer that for six months in Chicago. I want to sit out at night in the heat drinking my nice zin and smoking my cohiba
The odds of getting warm nights peak in late summer. I'd suggest early August. That is a nice time to see vineyards too. Usually, lots of optimism from wine makers too. While there is no sure thing, your chances for 8 or 9 at night still being in the upper 60's or better are not bad.
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#21 Post by Alan Eden » January 14th, 2015, 11:15 pm

Hang on im confused

At 10 PM in August its typically 80 degrees is Chicago, are you saying that in these wine areas it gets into the 40's ???
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#22 Post by Brian Tuite » January 15th, 2015, 5:44 am

Nolan E wrote:Even in the hottest part of summer it may dip into the 40s overnight. You'll be hard pressed to find warm nights in many wine regions.
No way. Summer evenings even in SF don't drop below mid-50s. The warmest evenings are generally during harvest months of Sept-Oct.
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#23 Post by Andrew Morris » January 15th, 2015, 7:02 am

Brian Tuite wrote:
Nolan E wrote:Even in the hottest part of summer it may dip into the 40s overnight. You'll be hard pressed to find warm nights in many wine regions.
No way. Summer evenings even in SF don't drop below mid-50s. The warmest evenings are generally during harvest months of Sept-Oct.
Late summer or early fall has the best chance of warm nights, depending on location. If you want to meet winemakers, they start getting sort of busy. newhere
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#24 Post by Brian Tuite » January 15th, 2015, 7:17 am

Andrew Morris wrote:
Brian Tuite wrote:
Nolan E wrote:Even in the hottest part of summer it may dip into the 40s overnight. You'll be hard pressed to find warm nights in many wine regions.
No way. Summer evenings even in SF don't drop below mid-50s. The warmest evenings are generally during harvest months of Sept-Oct.
Late summer or early fall has the best chance of warm nights, depending on location. If you want to meet winemakers, they start getting sort of busy. newhere
Yeah, I mentioned the best time to meet up with the winemakers upthread but now it sounds like he prefers weather over company.
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#25 Post by Andrew Morris » January 15th, 2015, 7:30 am

Brian Tuite wrote:
Andrew Morris wrote:
Brian Tuite wrote:
No way. Summer evenings even in SF don't drop below mid-50s. The warmest evenings are generally during harvest months of Sept-Oct.
Late summer or early fall has the best chance of warm nights, depending on location. If you want to meet winemakers, they start getting sort of busy. newhere
Yeah, I mentioned the best time to meet up with the winemakers upthread but now it sounds like he prefers weather over company.
Why I suggested early August. Best overall option.
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#26 Post by J Sullivan » January 15th, 2015, 7:34 am

Nolan E wrote:I always loved visiting in January and February. No traffic, long visits, easy restaurant reservations. The only problem is that vineyards look pretty sparse and it can get very cold overnight.
Just booked a trip in February for these very reasons (plus it's got to at least be warmer than here in New England).
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#27 Post by Nolan E » January 15th, 2015, 8:19 am

Brian Tuite wrote:
Nolan E wrote:Even in the hottest part of summer it may dip into the 40s overnight. You'll be hard pressed to find warm nights in many wine regions.
No way. Summer evenings even in SF don't drop below mid-50s. The warmest evenings are generally during harvest months of Sept-Oct.
I'm pretty sure we had a summer night dip into the 40s in Napa while I've been here, it probably was 4AM, so yeah probably in the evening it isn't 'cold.'
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#28 Post by robert creth » January 15th, 2015, 9:01 am

Now while the hills are green and traffic is light.

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#29 Post by Markus S » January 15th, 2015, 10:23 am

Taylor Broussard wrote:J... lows below 30 degrees in some areas.
Oh gee, so I'd need to bring a coat. This is hardly a reason not to go visit someplace. If you are coming from a place where temps can get to minus temperatures, I don't think this is an issue.

My favorite time(s) are probably April or May, after that it gets too warm, especially if you want to carry wine around in the car before leaving for the airport, and, October just for the feeling in the air like someone else suggested. Don't care for California during the rainy season, as it's rather dreary.
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#30 Post by Alan Rath » January 15th, 2015, 10:38 am

Markus S wrote:Don't care for California during the rainy season, as it's rather dreary.
December and January can have some dreariness, but odds are against it during any given week. We've had beautifully sunny days in the 60s pretty much every day this year so far.

Check out these pictures for some evidence:
http://www.wineberserkers.com/forum/vie ... 1&t=109886

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#31 Post by Patrick Friel » January 15th, 2015, 11:02 am

Another vote for November. Harvest is over. Traffic is lighter. The light is great. The sky can be an amazing blue and the leaves on the vines are beautiful colors. It's the closed thing we have to a Eastern/Midwestern autumn.

I remember enjoying the view at a November wine club pickup party at Nalle, after a freakishly easy drive up the East Bay, and thinking, "This is what people who don't live in California think it is like living in California." [snort.gif]

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#32 Post by Bob Hunnicutt » January 15th, 2015, 11:32 am

Define "best."
You can assume winemakers are busy with the harvest Sept-Oct, but it'll vary.
Lowest crowds winter. Best weather autumn.
If you want a combination of decent availability/low crowds/weather go in the spring.
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#33 Post by Larry P » January 15th, 2015, 1:45 pm

Alan Eden wrote:Hang on im confused

At 10 PM in August its typically 80 degrees is Chicago, are you saying that in these wine areas it gets into the 40's ???
I'd say mid-50s is more typical, but yes as soon as the sun hits the horizon, the temperature drops like a stone. If I go for a summer evening bike ride with temps in the 90s, if there's a chance I'll be out past dusk I pack a jacket.
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#34 Post by Taylor Broussard » January 15th, 2015, 4:07 pm

Markus, it's not about ability to handle weather, but I would assume that many people on a vacation to California would prefer not to have deal with cold temperatures and potential ice on the road in winding, rural areas. We spent time in Paso Robles during a cold snap last year and had a lovely time, but it was 24 degrees in some areas and quite chilly. But I live in California and can travel to many wine regions on a whim, it's a different scenario for those who are not residents.

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