Last summer in 2008 when gas prices peaked visitors learned the value of car-pooling. 60% of Napa and Sonoma’s visitors come from the Bay area. Where groups would previously caravan with several cars, each with two people, groups of friends increasingly rented a van and traveled as a group.
Not only is this more social, and green, but you only need one designated driver, who, in our experience, is always a women. The result of the gas crunch was a little less crunch at the tasting bars, but a lot less congestion on the roads. When groups can’t turn up a volunteer designated driver, that’s when tour company vans and SUV’s are called into service.
Spreading the expense across a group makes a tour quite reasonable, and a professional driver will happily cover a lot more wineries in a tour than a member of the group will. After all, the professional is accustomed to driving the area and they’re being paid to do this. A designated friend is inside the wineries having fun too, albeit sober, and they’re driving an unfamiliar van on unfamiliar roads with group that is becoming increasingly inebriated. That’s a bunch of responsibility.
The Napa Valley Vintners association is promoting a new touring strategy to reduce traffic. They would like people to limit their tours to smaller regions; spend your whole day between Oakville and Rutherford, or make the wineries of Carneros your day’s destination. Coincidentally, in the new edition of the Amicis Winery Guide: Dream Tours of Napa & Sonoma, we redesigned a number of tours to do just that. Since an ideal tour for many people is three wineries and a picnic, we found that there was plenty of variety to be found in smaller areas.
We still have a fair number of tours that span larger areas, because people like to see the area. As we have said many times; it’s not all about the wine!’ The region’s beauty, the shopping, the communities, the architecture and history is enough to attract people even when they don’t drink. Fortunately for the wineries, a lot of people do!
Now that gas prices are down are we going to see more traffic congestion beside the vines? It will be interesting to see. The 2007 vintage wines are beginning to be released and the in the early judging tasting those wines are spectacular. Spring time is when many of the collectors come for the release parties, when the wineries have plenty of stock and there are a wonderful variety of wines to taste.
2008, between the drought, the smoke from fires and the high gas prices was not an easy year in Napa and Sonoma. Grape yields were down 20 to 30% and visitors were down too. This year we’ve had more winter time rain and gas prices are reasonable again. While the economy is still suffering, and people are being careful, they are more hopeful and Wine Country is a good vacation deal. We’ll see!
Ralph & Lahni de Amicis, www.amicistours.com
To book a tour or ask questions CallLahni @ 707-235-2648 or use this form. We respond quickly. Rates: $65 to $75 per hour for car & driver + fuel charge, depending on starting point and number of days. No hidden fees.
Note: Most companies quote a base rate and then add hidden fees after you've been drinking all day. Good for billing, not for you. Our prices are up front and honest. Licensed by the California PUC TCP 23123, Commercially Insured.
Call 707-235-2648 for Tours, Books & Seminars Copyright Ralph & Lahni de Amicis 2013 All tasting fees, hours, wine lists, etc are subject to change.