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10 Ways to Avoid Wine Country Crowds

Not everyone loves crowds. Those who do are ultra social beings and it’s great for them. (Keep it up!) It works, because the vast majority of people love being social and in crowds.

But, there are others who prefer more intimate settings, so a list of  ways to avoid wine country crowds needs its place, too.

Most of us who are in the wine business and are a bit more seasoned than just starting out, tend to know this list. But, most people don’t, because it takes a while to come to this point, too.

1 — Think Tuesday through Thursday.

  • Weekends are definitely out.
  • So are holidays.
  • Mondays – could – be part of a holiday; otherwise it would be okay, too.
  • Fridays – could – also either be part of a holiday, or someone’s long weekend.

2 — Check first to see if a wine event is going on; if so, pick another date.

  • More education and intimate conversations will be all  yours.

3 — Find wineries that are “by appointment only.”

  • You’ll have very special attention.
  • But… be prepared to buy more than a bottle of wine.
  • You may even have nibbles to go with your food, so consider the labor and food costs.
  • I’d be prepared to buy a case of wine, at least.

4 — Travel to places less traveled, including other countries on planet earth.

  • There are 130 official American Viticultural Areas in California – alone, with examples like the following:
    • The Foothills
      • If you love cowboys, go east into the foothills.
      • If you’re enamored with the Gold Rush, the foothills also applies.
    • The Coast
      • Santa Cruz Monterey, Carmel, and Santa Barbara are gorgeous.
  • I chose to include a picture showing vineyards in Portugal (Carmim Winery in Monsarez for the landscape, and Adega de Borba for the wine cellar, and Adega de Redondo for the wine cellar).
    • Have you ever considered the Wines of Portugal?
    • You wouldn’t be disappointed.
    • You wouldn’t find crowds, except maybe in the Douro.

5 — Avoid the summer and harvest seasons.

  • From June through October, these are the busiest times of the year.

6 — Avoid the most popular winery, as hard as that may be to do.

  • You’re going to be one in a crowd of plenty.
  • These places do, though, offer small classes.
  • But, avoid group tours, because you’re back where you started.

7 — Make your journey about education, so seek out those who have an educational aspect to them. (Napa Valley is well established. Many of these programs have developed over time. You won’t avoid the traffic, but here’s how to get around the crowds).

8 — Give yourself a garden or outdoor art tour, instead of a wine tour.

  • The crowds will be in the tasting rooms, not in the gardens or exploring sculpture.
  • Clos Pegas, for instance, has great sculpture.

9 — Picnics

  • Buy a bottle of the winery’s wine – first.
  • Head to the winery’s deck or picnic grounds.
  • Enjoy the view and quiet company of friends.

10 — Rent a place on the grounds.

  • Before 10:00 a.m., you’ll be all by yourself on the property, except for staff.
  • By 5:00 p.m., you’ll again be pretty much alone.

8 Responses to “10 Ways to Avoid Wine Country Crowds”

  1. Jim Caudill says:

    Jo, thanks for including Hess in the mix. As of today, we have The Hess Art Museum back fully open on our normal schedule following a year long earthquake restoration project. Except for weekends, it’s always a bit more pastoral up here on Mount Veeder, which leads me to suggest not just a visit to Hess, but to others here on our Mountain, like Fontanella, an opportunity to dig into a region without having to travel up and down the wine roads….

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    Thanks for the update, Jim. Your art museum is so wonderful…

  3. Vinovore says:

    Some great tips on maximizing the personal touch while visiting wineries here, Jo; however, I disagree strongly with the premise put forth in tip #3, stating that you should be prepared to buy a case of wine for every by-appointment tasting room you visit. While I’m sure that would be loved and appreciated by those wineries, some of those tasting fees are already very expensive, and I think any financial obligation has already been satisfied by those charges. If I had a case of wine for every by-appt place I’ve tasted at, I’d both be broke (more so) and have an entire house full of wine that I’d never be able to get through (seriously, I already have this “problem,” and I don’t buy cases often–can you imagine if I did??). Also, one should never feel obligated to buy wine if one doesn’t really like it when tasted. A third problem is that this post seems to be written with the novice taster in mind, and novice tasters are going to be intimidated by this piece of advice–unless they have deep pockets coupled with poor money management skills. It’s an unreasonable amount of pressure to put on someone unfamiliar with tasting room etiquette, and someone who may never have bought an entire case of wine before in their lives.

  4. Jo Diaz says:

    Fred, Thanks for contributing.

    In my statement about the case, I assumed that “by appointment only” – in many small wineries [not tasting rooms] that I know – open their doors to ONLY you and perhaps some friends. They’ve either hired staff, or the wine family themselves have taken time away from their other business duties. Time is money, and if one values the time of the person who stepped away from other wine work related duties, I’d spring for the case, out of respect. [These people may not charge a cent for their time.] Now, if you go to a large winery with several tasting salons and they charge, one doesn’t need to buy a case, but a bottle or two would be the courteous thing to do. I agree.

    As regards, “Also, one should never feel obligated to buy wine if one doesn’t really like it when tasted.” The courtesy of this one:

    If you know nothing about the winery where you want to go, get educated before you make that appointment. If you’ve sampled everything, you’ll find yourself in a very awkward moment, when you say, “thanks for the tasting, bye-bye.” By appointment only is designed to weed out those looking for a free drunk fest… And we’ve seen plenty of this. This is also why tasting fees have been instituted, in the first place.

    By appointment only assumes that you’re a little more savvy about the process.

  5. Fred Reed says:

    If you see tour buses or limos, keep going.
    Kids are usually bored while you’re tasting and why would you drive with them in the car after drinking anyway? Leave them at home.
    Spit when tasting. (In the provided bucket of course.)
    Taste in wine is a personal thing, however your personal taste is not the word of god. Learn the difference between “I don’t care for this” and “This is awful”.
    Weekdays, especially rainy, cold ones are the best time to go tasting.

  6. Jo Diaz says:

    Fred, all great advice.

    The one about tasting and driving with kids… Probably one of the best pieces of advice… Unless, of course parents are responsibly teaching their kids about wine culture.

    Leave “Rumble, Tumble, Fumble, and Bumble” at home (my click through story), because four sets of parents dragging along four kids… this ISN’T what the kids would have EVER chosen for a vacation. But, I have seen a small family with kids and they’re in the process of teaching their children how to act around wine… responsibly. These are the kids who go to college and wonder why so many kids are completely out of control. It’s highly unlikely that these young adults will suffer from alcohol poisoning. It’s NOT the forbidden fruit, it’s just a beverage to accompany great food and fine gatherings.

  7. Tim says:


    Great list. I 100% agree with the “by appointment tastings”, they have made our last few visits much nicer, and generally the attention that you receive is worth the price. I’d also toss out that if you are doing seated tastings, give yourself enough time between appointments. Nothing is worse than worrying or rushing your experience because you tried to cram to much in.

    Additionally, later in the year after harvest is a great time to go, the scenery isn’t as great but the crowds are low. We’ve gone out in December the past few years and have never had a problem with crowds even at busier places.

    Thanks for sharing.

  8. Jo Diaz says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, Tim. I do agree that one shouldn’t “worry” about getting to the next tasting. How that’s done, however is VERY IMPORTANT. It’s one thing to lollygag, because you’re having such a great time; but, being the person waiting for a group that has scheduled an appointments, but is really late… Yikes:

    1) It throws off the next place’s entire day, staff, and even the tasting. I was recently at a tasting where we waited for a group, and the winemaker decided to dump the waiting wine. This was done so that when the group did arrive, the wines would be fresh.

    I’ve also had big lunches catered and then the party called to say, we just got so busy, we have to cancel so we make our next appointment on time. Or, the other one, the caterer has another event following this one. It happens and it’s a nightmare.

    It’s vitally important that SOMEONE in group is the time keeper, so everyone’s experience is the best, not just the guests going from one place to the next. More than three appointments in a day is a disaster waiting to happen. Been there and seem more than I wish I had.

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