Wine

How to Wine Taste for Free in California

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wine tasting californiaUnfortunately the days where all wineries offer free tastings are long-gone. However, there are still a few hold-outs in California wine country that still offer free tastings.

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, Sonoma

Open daily from 10 am – 5:30 pm, good place to start if you’re driving up from the Bay Area. Still offers complementary wine tastings, up to five tastings per person. They often have more than a dozen wines open for tasting, so my husband and I pick different wines so we can try more of them. They also have a special reserve list that you can try for $1 per tasting. For $5 you can try two chocolate “shots”. Wine in a dark-chocolate shot glass that you eat. Definitely worth the money. The Olive Press is adjacent to Jacuzzi and they offer free olive oil tastings.

Cline Cellars, Sonoma

Across the street from Jacuzzi (they also own Jacuzzi). You can try five of their non-reserve wines for free, and you can try three for their reserve wines for $5. Again, we mix it up so we can try more wine and see what we like. Open from 10 am – 6pm, so you can head over there when Jacuzzi kicks you out. 😉

Both these wineries request reservations for groups of seven or more.

Vincent Arroyo Winery, Calistoga

This is about an hour’s drive north of the other two wineries. You have to make an appointment, and for groups of four or less the tasting is free. If your group has five or more people it costs $10 a person. They usually will offer you a tour of the winery too if it’s not too crowded. You can call or go online to make the appointment. May be too far away to try on the same day; but if you have more than one day in wine country I highly recommend it.

 

If you decide to start at Jacuzzi and Cline, I recommend going to the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau a couple minute drive up the road once you’re done tasting at those wineries. You can get maps, information, and they will have buy one, get one free tasting coupons to a variety of wineries in the area. They’re open daily from 10 am – 4pm.

They also told us that some wineries offer a buy one get one free tasting if you have a Visa Signature card. The website I found with a list of wineries says it’s free tastings (not BOGO), so I suggest calling the wineries you think you want to go to ahead of time and verify what deal they’re offering.

If you’re staying at a hotel in the area, they should also be able to tell you of any special offers/deals going on and should have BOGO wine tasting coupons. Some wineries also waive tasting fees if you purchase a bottle so make sure you ask if you’re thinking about purchasing anything!

If you’re wine tasting on a budget don’t be afraid to call wineries ahead of time and ask what they offer. Some tastings are $10 for five wines, while others may be $20 for three wines. Some include a tour with the tasting fee, some don’t. If there’s a place you really want to try and they aren’t offering any specials it’s perfectly okay to order one tasting and split it between two people.

Make sure you drink lots of water, and don’t forget to stop somewhere to eat. Many wineries have food available for purchase, or you can bring your own and have a picnic on their grounds enjoying the day.

Don’t worry about trying to hit as many wineries as you can in one day. If you’re enjoying yourself somewhere and want to hang out longer, then hang out longer!

No matter where we travel, there’s always something else we wanted to see or do. We just know that will give us an incentive to go back again.

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Tiff's first big vacation was a Caribbean cruise when she was six. She first started getting interested in deals when her husband showed her the tricks to getting bought off your flights back in the late 90s. She started flying nonrev when they got married; the first unusual nonrev she did was in '05 when her family flew through San Juan to get to Dallas from Philly. They have two boys, ages 11 and 7, who she usually drags along on their travels and hopes they will grow up to love traveling as much as she does.

3 Comments

  1. Pingback: How to Wine Taste for Free in California | Globe Trotting Winos Guide to Frugal Travel

  2. Erndog

    September 30, 2014 at 12:25 am

    Head to Mendocino County and skip Napa and Sonoma altogether . . . mostly free tastings in Mendocino county along with some excellent vintages at reasonable prices . . not to mention the minimal snob factor . . . a great place to visit!

  3. m henner

    September 30, 2014 at 1:26 am

    I think Bargetto winery, with tasting rooms in Soquel (near Santa Cruz) and Monterey still has free tasting.

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