Designating a designated driver can take a lot of fun out of wine tasting, when one person in your merry group must refrain from even the smallest sip. And while we mean no offense to limo tours or a certain well-known train, we’ve been there, done that. The good news is that other modes of Wine Country transportation exist, waiting to whisk you from winery to winery, in smart style that makes the journey as much fun as the destination.
It looks like a 1890s California Street Cable Car, but the brass trimmed ride sits on an RV chassis and wheels, for up to 30 guests. The six hour, four-winery tour, stops at spots like Raymond Vineyards, Trefethen Vineyards, and Chase Family Cellars, with lunch at celebrity chef Michael Chiarello’s NapaStyle in Yountville.
All trolley cars should have an iPod dock and rockin’ sound system, like this open-air cruiser does. The six hour, four-winery tour is a rolling party, with a witty tour guide pointing out landmarks and cracking jokes. Tastings are at boutique retreats like Tin Barn, plus bigger favorites like Imagery Estate Winery, and lunch is catered by girl & the fig.
You pick your stops for an all-day trip, in areas ranging from Carneros to Dry Creek Valley, and Napa to Calistoga, or your guide gets you insider’s access to private vineyards and customizes adventures around your chosen theme. Say “ciao,” as you cruise on your state-of-the-art vespa, then chow on lunch at a selected winery.
Venture on bicycle the civilized way, fueled by a picnic lunch of charcuterie, smoked salmon, artisan breads and cheeses. Specialized Allez road bikes offer a smooth journey for your 30-35 mile ride, and stop at as many Sonoma or Napa wineries you choose.
Go with a guide or guide yourself, it’s all good with more than 40 wineries clustered right around the Yountville headquarters. All-day packages include three winery stops of your choice and picnic lunch, while more adventurous types can take on the off-road or through-the-vineyards.
Your drivers weigh 2,240 pounds each, but that’s ok, since they are Cody and Cheyenne, beautiful blond Belgian draft horses. The gentle beasts take you on a five mile tour through rural Healdsburg, with stellar destinations including Soda Rock, Hanna, and the gothic caves of Alexander Valley Vineyards winery. Highlights include riding through the vines, barrel tasting, a chatty, clever coachman guide sharing local history, and gourmet picnic snacks served all along the way.