Tour the Napa-Sonoma Wine Country in Luxurious Style
If you have an interest in exploring California’s beautiful wine-growing regions, but aren’t sure how to approach it on your own, consider arranging a personalized tour. Whether you’re a visitor to the San Francisco area or a local who wants to treat guests to a deeper knowledge of your region, booking a luxury tour with a knowledgeable guide is the best possible way to enter the wine world.
A personalized tour can involve as much or as little direction as you’d like. Expert guides with deep relationships in the winemaking community will consult with you ahead of time about exactly what aspects of wine are most exciting to you and your guests: Biodynamic winemaking? Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon? Viticulture? If you have only a beginner’s knowledge about wine, a personalized wine tour will give you confidence and sophistication in this field.
On the other hand, if you’re already interested in a particular winery, your guide can arrange a visit there and quite possibly offer a deeper connection with the winemaker than you would be able to manage on your own. Tour company owners nurture relationships with both the small family-owned “boutique” wineries as well as the well-known premium estates, so as to offer a broad array of choices.
What you should know
Typically the tour experience is structured for a minimum of five or six hours. In that time, you can expect to visit three or four wineries, and enjoy a delicious lunch as well. Some tour companies are simply local limousine transportation services who have added wine tours as a side offering. It’s a good idea to make sure your driver has personal expertise, since you’ll want more than simply driving service.
Look for tours which use SUV-type vehicles, rather than traditional limousines. With custom details, SUVs can be spacious and comfortable, offering big windows and front-facing views that allow you to truly enjoy the beautiful scenery. Also, some of the smaller wineries on rural roads can’t accommodate traditional limousines.
The best luxury tours are entirely shaped around your personal hopes, interests, and pickup location, so they don’t publish generic fee schedules. Per-person costs decrease if there are more than two people in your party, and some tour companies have vans which can accommodate groups of up to 10 or 12. Some tour charges may not include the wineries’ tasting fees of $10 to $50+ per person, so it’s good to check on this ahead of time.
Not just wine
Since the experience of fine wines is not separable from beautiful foods, tour operators will make lunch reservations for you, or pre-arrange gourmet picnics on a winemaker’s porch. The Napa Valley produces local artisan olive oils, balsamic vinegars, cheeses and chocolates, so special sit-down tastings of these can also be incorporated into your perfect day. Some tour companies offer photography services as well.
To get you started
Perata Luxury Tours, located in Napa, offers personalized tours of the wine country. Currently #1 on Trip Advisor’s list of 140 things to do in Napa, they are the go-to company for many San Francisco hotels, when guests inquire about wine-country tours. Perata guides are happy to discuss your preferences ahead of time and design a day that exactly suits your wishes.
Flex Wine Tours also receive high ratings on Trip Advisor. Flex is a small, family-owned tour company, named for the spacious SUV that they use. The owners personally drive guests on a uniquely created tour, offering their sommelier knowledge and extraordinary behind-the-scenes access to boutique wineries. Flex is especially knowledgeable about some of the next generation, new winemakers and newer facilities.
Intimate Wine Tours offer a different slant on service, providing guides who drive your own car or rented vehicle. These expert drivers will also be happy to make reservations ahead of time, recommend restaurants, and develop spur-of-the-moment adventures. Their services are very affordable, averaging about $50 per hour.