Whether you are in Napa, Sonoma Valley, or any other wine region, wine tours in California are guaranteed to be an unforgettable affair, especially if you’re interested in wines. But in order to get more out of your wine tours (especially if this is your first time), take note of these do’s and don’ts:

The Do’s:

  1. Explore Napa Valley (as well as Sonoma Valley)
    To make the most out of your California wine tours, explore Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Napa Valley is a world-class wine region which offers so many things to do, see, and taste. Try out several wine tasting rooms, superior restaurants, and cafes. Check out some of the local hotels and inns. Attend local art exhibitions, museums, and live concerts, opera houses, and sample the nightlife offerings. For the foodies, visit the Oxbow market to have a taste of the delicacies only made in Napa — fresh and continuous produce, artisan cupcakes, coffee and chocolates, not to mention an astounding assortment of wines. Sonoma Valley, although known as a more tranquil counterpart, has a charming district that offers a wide array of top restaurants and local artisan stores.
  2. Learn true wine-tasting
    When you are at a tasting room, remember that drinking wine is both a science and an art. You just don’t drink the wine; it’s more like studying it. Evaluate the wine’s appearance such as its color (for example, the color of the white wine tends to go deeper as they age, while the red wines usually lose color as they mature). Then check the wine’s bouquet, or its aroma. Swirl the wine around the glass — this technique will help the wine to get more exposure to the air. As the wine settles, take a sniff of it. As a general rule of thumb, young wines generally will have more fruity smells, while older wines tend to have more complex aromas such as the smell of oak or grass. After that, take a small sip of the wine. As you do this, pay attention to the weight and body of the wine. It may be light and thin, or rich and heavy. You may want to assess how balanced the wine is. Then finally, savor the wine, or spit it. Don’t be shy to spit the wine if your taste buds don’t agree with it — this is not considered offensive to the staff or to the other tasters. You don’t have to like every wine you taste — just drink the wine you prefer.

    If you have to taste other wines, don’t forget to help yourself to the crackers, breadsticks, cheeses, lunch meats, as well as water. Most tasting rooms have them, which will help to cleanse your palate between tastings. If you feel a bit tipsy, stop tasting the wine; eat something and drink some water.

  3. Rent a car or employ a chauffeur-driven vehicle
    You’re in the Wine Country to enjoy, not to engage in some debate on who’s going to drive in the end. The most feasible option is to rent a car and designate someone to be the driver (or switch places). But if you’re traveling in a group, the best way is to hire a chauffeur-driven limo bus where all you have to do is to enjoy the sights, or doze off in the back seat for a while if it’s needed.

The Don’ts:

  1. Don’t forget to drink water
    While drinking water seems to be common sense, this is often ignored. Make sure you drink enough water whether before, during, or after your wine tastings. Water helps clear your palate between tastings; it also helps hydrate your body.
  2. Don’t try to go to visit too many wineries and vineyards in a day
    If you try to visit too many wineries and vineyards at a time, it means that you will spend more time hopping from one winery to another than actually spending time at the wineries themselves. Try visiting 2-3 wineries in a day, at most, and as long as you start early in the day. This will allow you enough time to discover the wineries in a more in-depth manner.
  3. Don’t just visit the popular wineries
    Add some thrill and sense of discovery to your itinerary by going to at least one relatively unknown winery. You can also try out lesser-known activities like food-and-wine pairing at Beringer Vineyards, concoct your own wines in seminars at Chateau St. Jean, or take educational and fun factory tours at Jelly Belly or Sepay Olive Oil.

There are a lot of things to do in Napa Valley other than just visiting the wineries and tasting wines. One of the most sought-after activities is riding a hot air balloon at sunrise. Balloons Above the Valley (BATV) is an award-winning company which has provided tourists safe, enjoyable, and unforgettable hot air balloon rides for nearly 40 years.

Gorgeous views of vineyards-laced Napa Valley all year round from the hot air balloon ride? Check. Fresh and hot pre-flight breakfasts? Check. Sumptuous seasonal post-flight brunch with a sparkling wine? Check. Wine tours with a lovely picnic-style lunch at the winery? Check. Shopping options at Oxbow Public Market or The Napa Valley Premium Outlets? Check. Comfort and luxury transportation on a limo bus? Check. Experienced and knowledgeable pilots? Check. Warm, smiling, and accommodating staff? Check. BATV has all of these! We also offer exclusive flights, company/corporate flights, wedding and proposal flights. Our aim is to make our guests satisfied, inspired, and hopefully come back for more.

Flying on a hot air balloon with Balloons Above the Valley is definitely a "do" when you plan your wine tours in California. And once you do, you will never regret it! For more of our hot air balloon rides and wine tours packages as well as booking information, contact us at info@balloorides.com or 800-464-6824.

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