I have been nominated by my five friends to put together a trip to Napa this Fall. Since none of us have ever been to Napa, this is proving to be a challenging assignment. So I was hoping to get a local guide or service to help with the planning. I have found some of the Sprinter van services and drivers, but I am hoping to find someone who will help with the planning and logistics , not just the transportation. Does anyone have any recommendations? Thanks in advance.
Never used them. A great place to start would be a search of this site to give you some good information.
I can highly recommend Peter Bowers of Bowers Wine Tours. We have used him several times, most recently this past 5 days for my Daughter, her husband and 2 others. He is friendly and very knowledgeable and can organize everything for you.
Thanks, John. There is a lot of good info here.
Phil - That is exactly what I am looking for. I am going to contact them. Thanks.
Hi Logan- no travel planner recommendations but happy to share some thoughts that I’ve learned doing 10+ trips over the years with friends and playing the role of trip planner. Most of my contacts, ideas etc came from either here or the old TWA board.
First thing to decide and get feedback from the folks going is what they want to primarily accomplish when it comes to tasting and the overall trip.
Is your group trying to identify and visit wineries you’ve read about and always wanted to try ?
Do you want to try wines you would not have access to locally to join their mailing list and purchase ?
What budget per bottle does the group generally have ? Napa can vary from $30-300+
Are you focused only on Cab or want producers who also do Chard, Zin, and other varietals ?
More casual trip just hitting tasting rooms or would like more personal visits/tours with smaller wineries ?
Any interest in Sonoma for pinot, chard, zin ?
Lastly, don’t be afraid to shoot an email with an ask to meet or visit. We’ve had some great visits and connected with some awesome folks just by reaching out to the vintner or winemaker. Being nice and establishing that your new buyers goes along way.
Prices vary pretty widely. We did VRBO for most of our trips with our friends. We found we could get some great houses and really enjoy our time in the valley. If your going to use Hotels the City of Napa probably has the best choices but you’ll spend a lot of time in the car probably. We usually stayed in St Helena as it was well situated central spot with plenty of VRBO options.
Dining- food for us was almost as important as the wineries so we did plenty of planning on where we would do dinners. Many times we would also picnic or bring food to a tasting( we would always confirm with who were were visiting with and bring extra food as well)
Early on we learned to not do too many tastings in one day. My general rule is 3 wineries at most. Many folks on their first trips try to do way to much. Your palate will get fatigued and you’ll be rushing around and trying to keep to a schedule. I made that mistake and it’s just not fun. Also make sure to schedule your visits so they are reasonably close and your not going from one end of the valley to another on the same day. This also is not fun and you’ll waste a lot of time.
If you can answer those questions on wineries and what you’re trying to accomplish you’ll find plenty of folks myself included who can make recommendations and perhaps share connections. Lastly, if you are going in the fall you may be visiting during harvest. It’s a great time to go and the entire valley smells of Cabernet but it may limit availability for some smaller wineries.
Cheers and feel free to ping with any questions.
If a hotel is in the cards, I highly recommend a “budget” alternatives in Napa city. Last month we stayed at Hampton Inn. It was new and clean.
Check with Doug Wilder who is a member here and very connected he might be able to help.
My advice don’t do any more than 3 appointments per day!
Happy to help answer questions and make suggestions - just DM me.
For a company I would contact Ed Pollard at Tourvin. Great guy, very knowledgeable about the valley and has connections with wineries.
So much this. Nothing is ever as close as it seems when you’re in an area for the first time, and you never want to feel like you are being rushed out of a wonderful experience just to get to the next one. Clustering makes all the difference, all the way down to planning meals. Also don’t be afraid to leave some time for some random exploration, depending on how many days you have there. Sometimes you come across a name you heard about but didn’t know had a tasting space where you were. And there are endless stories of great tasting experiences that start with ‘We just happened upon this one winery and decided to check it out…’
Thank you, Karen. I will check them out. I like the idea of having an expert organize a day or two of the trip.
By the way, your Black Paw Petite Syrah sounds delicious.
Thanks, Robert. I am new, so I am not familiar with Doug. But I will check him out.
Thanks Logan - don’t forget to let us know when you finalize your trip plans. Hope to meet you.