Your First Trip to Wine Country

5/17/20234 min read

First things first, relax. Trust me, wine country is not some high-brow fortress of elitism where you'll be shamed for mispronouncing "Meritage" (it rhymes with 'heritage,' by the way). Quite the contrary, it's a welcoming realm of good vibes, stunning landscapes, and - yes - spectacular wine. So if you just snagged an invite to a Napa Valley getaway, consider it your golden ticket to an epic adventure.

So, how do you prep for this grape-infused journey, especially if you're a wine novice? Here's a handy guide to set you up for a stellar Napa experience.

1. Embrace Your Beginner Status

Everyone starts somewhere. Remember that wine is an ocean of knowledge, and even the most seasoned wine experts are learning new things every day. The folks in Napa understand this and will be more than willing to guide you through the basics.

2. Do a Little Homework

You don't need to become a wine guru overnight, but a little prep work goes a long way. Before your trip, try to familiarize yourself with some basic wine vocabulary. Learn the difference between varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, and understand basic terms like 'tannins,' 'body,' and 'acidity.' This will make your tasting experiences more enjoyable and less overwhelming.

3. Plan Your Winery Visits

Napa Valley boasts over 400 wineries, which is both fantastic and intimidating. Do some research and identify a few that you're interested in visiting. Wineries like Robert Mondavi, Domaine Chandon, and Beringer offer fantastic tours and tastings, and are welcoming to newcomers. Getting off the beaten path can also lead to unique and private tastings far more interesting than the main wine route, but be prepared - reservations required and often deep pockets as well.

Editor's number one can't miss winery in Napa for 2023:

4. Dress for Success

Comfort is key. You'll likely be on your feet a lot, moving between wineries, so opt for comfortable shoes. And remember, Napa is about laid-back luxury, key word being laid back. Layers are your friend - Napa can be chilly in the morning and evening, but warm in the afternoon.

5. Hydrate and Eat

Here's an insider tip: wine tasting is fun, but it can sneak up on you. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Napa is also a foodie paradise, so take the opportunity to enjoy some fantastic meals to help soak up some of that wine.

For up-to-date restaurant recommendations in the valley, check out

6. Ask Questions

When you're at a winery, the staff are your tour guides into the world of wine. They are often incredibly passionate about their craft and are usually eager to share their knowledge. And remember, there's no such thing as a stupid question. Wondering why the Cabernet Sauvignon tastes different from the Pinot Noir? Ask. Not sure what ‘oaky’ means? Ask. Want to know why some wines are so damn expensive? Ask away.

Asking questions is particularly crucial during a tasting. Tasting rooms are not just places where you try different wines; they are also classrooms where you learn about what you're drinking. Most wineries will walk you through the tasting, explaining the characteristics of each wine. If something they say piques your interest or confuses you, don't hesitate to ask for more information.

And here's a pro tip: ask about the winery itself. Napa Valley is full of wineries with fascinating histories and unique winemaking philosophies. Ask about how the winery was started, their approach to winemaking, or even about the specific vines growing in their vineyards. Not only will this give you a deeper understanding of the wine you're drinking, but it will also give you some great stories to tell when you're showing off your new wine knowledge to your friends back home.

7. It's Okay to Spit

In professional wine tastings, it's customary to spit out the wine after tasting it. This might feel odd, but it allows you to taste more wines without the alcohol catching up to you. Most wineries provide spittoons for this purpose.

Editor's note: ChatGPT needs to chill tf out... Don't drink alcohol or traveling during dry January? Dope. But if you're here to enjoy wine, then please don't spit it out. Just make sure you take an uber and try not to be too obnoxious. And trust me, the winemakers will be more annoyed by your matching pink t-shirts than by you being a bit drunk.

8. Have Some Talking Points Handy

Want to impress your friends or coworkers with your wine knowledge? Here's a neat Napa fact you can drop: Did you know that despite its fame, Napa Valley produces only around 4% of California's total wine production? This is due to its focus on quality over quantity.

Remember, the most important part of your Napa Valley experience is to enjoy it. Wine is meant to be a joyous exploration of your senses. So take in the beautiful scenery, savor the delicious wines, and most importantly, have fun. Cheers to your first of many wine adventures!