You're joking, right? The name Napa evokes many things – wine, romance and unfortunately, expensive. In my experience, Napa is no bargain, but there are ways to make it less expensive. Since I wanted an insider’s view on how to do it, I tapped one of my sources – we’ll call him “The Source”. While I’m not going to recommend wineries since everyone has their own tastes (and I do have my faves), this post focuses on how to do a Napa getaway without having to sell off grandma's china to pay for it. Without further ado, here are 5 cool tips for doing Napa on a budget.
Like I mentioned, this post is not about wine. Still, just for fun, here’s a bit of wine background on Napa, and its neighbor Sonoma. There’s the City of Napa and the County of Napa. Napa Valley is a designated AVA (American Viticultural Area - a designated wine grape-growing region in the U.S. distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) and is divided into approximately 16 sub-AVA’s and about 400 wineries. Similarly, there's Sonoma City and County. Sonoma is also an AVA but it’s a slightly different setup than Napa. Sonoma County covers an area just under 1,800 square miles, but the Sonoma Valley AVA is just one of 17 AVA’s within Sonoma County. Sonoma County has about 250 wineries that actually out produces Napa Valley. In my experience, Napa is very sleek and shiny, while Sonoma is more rustic and bucolic. There are many other differences between Napa and Sonoma and it’s all very complicated.
Tip 1: A. Do Lunch Instead of Dinner. B. Skip Dinner and Do Dessert.
Listen, part of the “Napa experience” is the insanely delicious food. And I’m not saying don’t enjoy yourself. Maybe one day do a really nice lunch, then save by doing a simple dinner. Or instead of a fancy dinner, do a fancy dessert and a great glass of wine. The last time I visited, we had so much wine and so many nibblies during the day that, by the time dinner came along, we couldn’t possibly eat a whole dinner. Instead, we opted for awesome desserts and a glass of champagne at the bar of a really nice restaurant. It was perfect and we didn’t feel like we missed anything.
The Source advises to check out La Luna Market & Taqueria in downtown Napa, for affordable burritos. He also recommends another local hangout in downtown Napa called Fume Bistro & Bar.
Some of the really great places I know of or that were recommended were Red Hen Cantina for great Mexican food, The Runway at Napa Airport (the best steaks in town apparently), …
Another option is to check out the Napa Farmers Market. There you can pick up unique eats and interesting gifts. For example, I picked up whiskey smoked brown sugar (delish!).
Tip 2: Go During Low Season
Winter time is a little cheaper and a lot less crowded. There isn’t much going on at wineries, but tasting rooms are less crowded so you’ll get a bit more personal attention, which might translate to a little extra wine...cheers!
Tip 3: A Place to Lay Your Head.
According to The Source, there really aren’t less expensive places in Napa. He suggested two options: staying in Vallejo, which is less than 15 miles from Napa, but for a double wine experience, he recommended staying in Sonoma and driving over to Napa. Since Sonoma County is adjacent to Napa County, to get from one to the other, the most common route is to go over the Oakville Grade. It’s also only about 15 miles and will take about 30 minutes to go from county to county, depending on where you stay, just be mindful of distances and plan your tasting route strategically, so you don’t waste time. And like I mentioned, if you stay in Sonoma County, you can also visit some of the really great wineries in there, too.
Tip 4: Stay Somewhere That Offers Breakfast.
Okay, so this applies anywhere. Many inns and hotels offer breakfast, but some don’t. Staying somewhere that offers breakfast may save you $20, $30 or $40 for a breakfast for two. You’ll still probably be drawn to some of the beautiful pastries and baked goods at some point…..
Tip 5: Wine Tours and Tastings
If you’re a real wine connoisseur, reach out to a winery, whose wines you truly enjoy. If you contact them in advance, depending on the time of the year, you may get a private tour. Please be aware that some smaller wineries do require reservations for tours and tastings, so it’s best to check on each winery’s website for tour and tasting times.
Or, if you’re so inclined, you could buy a tasting card for downtown Napa. According to the Do Napa website, the Taste Napa Downtown Card, “gives you access to artisanal wines that most people never find. Many of those are offered exclusively at the two dozen tasting rooms in Downtown Napa.” The card is gives you access to twelve of those rooms that are within walking distance of each other. The card is $15 for 2017. I haven’t bought it or know anyone who has, but it looks interesting...
So there you have it, five savings tips for Napa! I hope you go.....Enjoy!