Napa Valley- Reservations Required

Appointment only wineries are worth it! They say wine is like a story and Napa Valley certainly has a lot. Don’t miss your opportunity to get all the juicy details from insiders. Wineries requiring reservations offer one-on-one time and often the chance to meet the winemakers themselves. Don’t deprive yourself of the true VIP experience by only sticking strictly with public tasting.  Make a reservation and finally find the time to relax, have a glass of wine, and take advantage of the intimate setting at these “exclusive” wineries.

Straight from the vine, freshly picked Napa Valley Grapes

Pros-Not the most experienced wine connoisseurs-fear not. Surprisingly the appointment only wineries are not as exclusive and highbrow as many may think. The wineries we experienced were down to earth and most importantly not phased by our sometimes-remedial questions.  The value of tasting are largely better, by limiting the number of patron wineries can focus on quality control rather than surviving the bum rush at the tasting bar. Savor the moment, no one is rushing you and you have the wine host all to your self. With private tasting you have a captive audience, the pourer has no reason to move on to bigger wallets- don’t be shy to ask for seconds.

Cons- yes you do have to pay a tasting fee that is on average more expensive than the public wineries. Keep in mind you are also paying for the opportunity to taste some superior quality wines available nowhere else. Why not bring home a Souvenir; often tasting fees are waived when you decide take a bottle home.

Wanting to try the experience for ourselves we called ahead and made appointments with two of Napa’s hidden gems: Fleury Estate and Schweiger Vineyard & Winery.

Front patio view from Fluery Estate Winery, Napa Valley

Appointment only Fleury Estate Winery lives up to its motto: 100% Good Juice. Their wine BDX is featured exclusively on French Laundry’s Tasting Menu- an honor that is not overlooked in the valley. Owners’ son, Eric, admits that they have no plans of making their wine available in stores anytime soon. Despite their upscale following Fleury’s atmosphere is surprising casual and fun. Eric was charming and candidly shared some of the family stories behind the wines. We spent most of our appointment with him and his passion for the family business was obvious.  Tasting highlights include: Reserve Howell Mountain BDX and the Port.

Schweiger Vineyard & Winery, Napa Valley

Historically Napa Wineries have been family owned. Boutique appointment only wineries, like Schweiger, are keeping this tradition alive, keeping both grape growing and wine making in the family. Upon arrival at this mountaintop vineyard we observed owner Fred Schweiger running a tractor through the rows. Erin our hostess sat on the balcony and chatted with us like an old friend. She told us about the wine, family history and even doted on her favorite vineyard dog.  We learned that every year wine-maker and son Andrew releases his Dedication Wine, of which he honors someone important in his life. We easily could have spent our entire day there our day was that enjoyable; at Schweiger Vineyards & Winery, “…what’s important is family and friends”.  Highlights: cheese plate with tasting & cellar and “wine blending tour”.

Interested in visiting similar appointment only wineries in Napa Valley? For a complete listing of appointment only wineries in Napa Valley please see www.napavintners.com. Check out California Tours’ Napa Valley Packages and book your private wine country get-away today!

Thanksgiving - Travel Tips for the Holiday

Travel Tips and Activity Ideas for Thanksgiving

Autumn Leaves at ThanksgivingLet’s admit it: American Thanksgiving has changed drastically from a hallowed day of giving thanks and celebrating the pilgrims’ discovery of North America, to a commercialized occasion for eating egregiously and flailing over football. However, one thing that has not changed about Thanksgiving, held on the fourth Thursday of November, is the tradition of Americans spending time with their loved ones — consequently ramping up travel business by driving or flying hundreds of miles per capita over a mere four days.

Travel tips
Because Thanksgiving is a hectic time for travel, we suggest finalizing your plans now. Advance tickets and accommodations are more available in October than they will be even in early November. Furthermore, planes will be stuffed like a traditional turkey with all the passengers jetting cross-country, so pack light to eliminate checked bag fees and ensure you have space in the overhead bins. Roads will be more crowded on Thursday for trips under 100 miles, so consider driving on Wednesday for short distances. Likewise, airport and road traffic will be heavy Sunday, so plan accordingly!

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving - Travel Tips for the Holiday

Turkey Trots and Football
Americans often gain several pounds from November to January — after all, can you really refuse Nana’s third offering of mashed potatoes with gravy? Tripwolf’s blog paints a caricature of the typical Thanksgiving post-prandial state: “TV and movies don’t usually show the very unsexy parts of Thanksgiving where you’re watching football in a half-comatose state after having covertly unbuttoned your jeans.” So get out of that house or hotel!

Burn off those two (ok, three) slices of pumpkin pie by finding a Turkey Trot run or race near you. This is great for family bonding and guilt reduction, and many events allow you to run for a good cause. Check active.com’s event listings for a race in your city. You might also opt to start a friendly game of (American!) football in lieu of watching the NFL game on TV with 39 million others — to kill time while the chefs are in the kitchen!

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York - Snoopy Balloon

© musicwala

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York
The famous parade of performers, floats and giant cartoon characters is a Thanksgiving tradition for many families as they anticipate the evening meal. For those not in New York, catch the parade on TV from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Thursday. For a good seat when viewing in person, layer up, arrive as early as 6 a.m., and sip on hot chocolate while you wait. For less stress, head to the Museum of Natural History at Columbus and 77th on Wednesday around 4 p.m. to watch the giant balloons being inflated!

Black Friday and Cyber Monday
On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, try your luck alongside the millions of others nationwide who will line up early for store sales beginning at 5 AM, but be safe! Overly enthusiastic shoppers have been known to trample and fight others just to get their deal. Cyber Monday, an online discount shopping event following Thanksgiving weekend, should prove slightly more calm!

Travel Extras

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Any advice for the best travel at this time of year?