What NOT to do When Traveling in the Wine Country: An Open Letter to Wine Tourists
As the weather warms and the vineyards grow green something else happens in Napa County; tourists appear in flocks. As in all wine growing regions, wine tourism, is a huge source of revenue and we’re happy to see the visitors come, however there are some common sense rules that need to be adhered to if you or someone you know are visiting a wine region.
1) DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE!!! PERIOD.
If you are the designated driver on a wine tasting trip it should be very high in your mind that while your group of fun-loving folks is enjoying the spoils of harvest, YOU need to be able to navigate the roads in a legal and courteous manner. Please, Please, Please either spit during the tastings or refrain from tasting at all. We want everyone to have a great time so maybe switch off days with other members of your party but don’t think that you can get behind the wheel of a car just because you haven’t been drinking full glasses all day. Just because you don’t see a patrol car doesn’t let you off the hook either. If you are obviously drunk and driving, we, as the residents of said region, WILL call your license plate into the Hwy patrol. We just want every one to be safe.
2) Please pay attention to the drivers behind you.
Going 20 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone is NOT acceptable; I don’t care how beautiful the scenery is. Some of the people you’re sharing the road with are not on vacation and do have somewhere to be at a set time. If you notice that you have a line of cars (say 3+) behind you and you still want to go slow, do the responsible thing and pull off to the side to let everyone else by. This will keep everyone’s day going on track. If you have 10+ cars behind you, follow the above procedure then keep an eye out for the next speed limit sign and adjust accordingly. If you don’t pull over and we’re forced to pass when allowed, don’t give us the stink eye just because we passed you. You know who you are!!
3) Don’t bash the last place you stopped.
There’s a reason the saying “Heard it through the Grapevine” came about. While we all love to hear how much you enjoyed our wines but if you’re upset about the last place you went it’s probably not a great idea to complain about it to the next tasting room. This is a small industry and word gets around quickly. There are many wineries owned by the same companies or individuals and you may be bashing a sister winery unknowingly. Also by saying how fabulous your last place was it does sometime motivate the tasting staff to top your last experience with their own. Stay positive and rave about the great tasting rooms. Just leave the bad ones where they are.
4) Don’t get mad at the farm equipment on the road.
You’re visiting an agricultural region which does need agricultural equipment such as tractors and big rigs hauling fruit around. If you’re in the wine region and you’re behind a tractor don’t get upset. They are very good at following Rule #2 and will generally pull off when safe to do so. Be sure to wave and smile as a sign of “Thanks” on the way by. It will make you and the driver of the tractor feel better. As for the grape trucks during harvest, just think about all the lovely wine those grapes will make once they reach their destination winery. It’s part of the wine lifestyle so enjoy it if you’re in this situation.
4) Don’t assume you can wander through the vineyards on the side of the road.
While vineyard lined roads are fantastic to drive down please don’t think this is an open invitation to wander on in. This can, at minimum cause minor harm to the vines and at worst can expose you to whatever chemical was just sprayed that morning. We don’t go wandering through your flower garden at home so please stay to the allowed areas. Keep your vineyard wandering confined to wineries that invite you to get a closer look and enjoy the views of the vines from the side of the road elsewhere.
5) Watch for Bicycles!
I personally know a number of people, including myself, who love to get on a bike and ride out the stress of the day in a winery (yes even at wineries there is stress!) after work or on the weekends. Getting on a bike is also a very nice way to explore the areas around Napa sans auto! While you’re driving please be careful of bicyclists, especially on sharp corners. Slowing down and widely passing when safe is greatly appreciated. We’ll try to give you as much room as possible.
By following these guidelines your trip to the wine country can be enjoyable for both you and the people who live there. Be safe. Be smart. Don’t be an obnoxious tourist.