Wine tours can be great! You have a designated driver, you have the whole day planned out for you, and all you have to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the wine!
Wine tours are a lot of fun, but sometimes it is even more exciting to plan a day in wine country on your own. You can hand-pick the wineries, stay as long as you want at each one, and have the flexibility to change your plans as you go.
Here’s how to plan a self-guided wine tour:
Step 1: Finding a driver. Whether it be a friend or public bus, you MUST have a designated driver. This person may be able to take a few sips here and there (your friend… not the bus driver), but they can’t be doing full tastings with you. Usually a friend who cares less about wine or just is SUPER nice will offer to be the DD.
There may also be public transport options like the iHop bus in Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia. This bus has thirteen “hops” around Hunter Valley wine country. It is hop on, hop off, and the spots that have been chosen have multiple places (wineries, eateries, shopping, etc.) that you can go to from each stop. You may want to stay longer at certain stops which is fine because the bus picks up every seventy minutes, so you have the chance to decide how long you’d like to stay. My Mom and I used this in Hunter Valley because there were specific wineries that I was interested in seeing, and we wanted to be flexible to plan our own itinerary. The bus service worked flawlessly for us!
Step 2: Choosing the wineries. This is the hard part. Many wine regions have hundreds of wineries, making it very difficult to decide on which ones to go to.
First, choose the number you plan to be able to see in one day. I usually plan 3-5 depending on how early I’m starting. If I start very early, I may be able to fit five in, but it’s a lot of wine tasting. Remember that most wineries close between 4:00-6:00 pm, and you don’t want to rush around too much, Shoot for a certain number of wineries, but know that you may end up seeing less depending on how the day progresses. Go to the ones that you want to see most early in the day in case you run out of time later on.
I think the best way to create your list is to choose one or two large wineries and other small ones. Have 1-3 that you definitely want to see, and then allow your group to be flexible to have time to stop at others that you decide look interesting on the day of. Even if you aren’t too familiar with the wineries in the area, do a few searches. Chances are, you won’t go wrong.
Step 3: Enjoying the day. Make sure to eat a big breakfast and a big lunch! It’s no good to get too tipsy too early because then you may need to cut the day short. Keep hydrated with water and don’t hesitate to eat snacks along the way. Be sure to pace yourself and enjoy!