I love travel almost as much as I adore wine. Wine is fun because it's virtually always different, money doesn't necessarily signify quality and there is a romance to the process of creating a great glass. One of our favorite trips in recent memory was to Sonoma Valley, CA. Here are a few tips to save you money at every turn...and sip.
There are many daily non stop flights to San Francisco making the trek accessible to most. You should always be able to find a flight in coach from any point of origin in the US for 25,000 miles round trip. Use these award booking tips to ensure you never cough up too many miles. If you are having trouble finding a decent rate into SFO, don't forget that Oakland is just a few miles away and works just as well. You can fly from New York to San Francisco on American Airlines Business Class for only 50,000 British Airways miles round trip per person. Don't have British Airways miles? NO problem, you can transfer points from both American Express and Chase into the program instantly to book your flight.
On the ground we rented from SilverCar, the tech/car rental start up which features an all Audi A4 fleet. It was awesome, stylish, quick, painless and surprisingly cheap with their promotional first rental offers. Feel free to use my referral code: GOTT to receive $25 credit.
Tasting Fees // Tour Guide
Tasting fees can run $10-20 per person per vineyard. If you carry a Visa Signature Card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, select wineries comp all tasting fees for Visa Signature cardholders. Simply download the Visa Signature App for a complete list and map of vineyards in the area which waive the fees. The comps apply to cardholder and a guest! Big Savings!
We opted for a private tour guide which cost $400 for the day for our group of four. We informed the guide in advance that we wished to see non distributed boutique vineyards and found their knowledge and planning to be worth its weight in gold. The rate included all transportation, most tasting fees and insider knowledge. Being able to enjoy the wine without having to worry about the driving was, as Mastercard says, "Priceless".
Lodging // Accommodations
One "hack" we found very useful, which can gain you a "free" stay in wine country, was joining a couple wine clubs. Wine clubs are direct sales from a vineyard to its club members and often include limited editions and unique opportunities. It's a wine subscription. Many clubs offer a complimentary night or two at a vineyard cottage or room after joining their club. You buy the wine you want anyway, you stay for free, good deal. We now have a couple nights lined up in an idyllic setting at Kachina Vineyards, a personal favorite of ours. Between the miles and the free nights, everything except the wine will be free on our next trip.
Travel and wine are a hell of a combination. As a fully unqualified non professional, I can say that every sip at the source tastes better, the hangovers are less severe and the memories are totally worth it. If wine country is on your list, take a few of these tips and save yourself a few bucks to put towards MORE WINE!
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