Planning a wine-tasting trip to Sonoma County can seem daunting if you aren’t familiar with the area, wineries and lodgings, but it doesn’t need to be.
The Wine Road offers a complimentary concierge service, plus many planning tools and information on their website.
Check out the options offered by the Wine Road:
Several years ago the Wine Road began offering a complimentary concierge service to folks coming into the area. Many visitors use this service every month, and yet so many people still don’t know about this incredible amenity.
It is easy to start the process—just fill out a form about your likes, wants and parameters. The more information you provide, the more your itinerary will reflect your desires.
Some sample questions:
- Lodging Preferences: bed & breakfast, hotel/motel, country inn, cottages/cabins, or camping?
- Ideal Location: walking distance to town, in the country, or doesn’t matter?
- Wine Knowledge: Newbie, Moderate, or Expert?
- #1 priority in selecting the wineries to visit: scenic, high-end wines, limited release wines, or picnic area?
- Varieties of wine you would like to taste/buy during this visit? Followed by a long list of options.
There are more questions, all designed to ensure you have the best experience during your visit.
Once you fill out the form, press submit to send your desires directly to the Wine Road’s Concierge.
Meet Laura—Concierge Extraordinaire
The Wine Road’s Concierge, Laura Stafford started working in the wine industry when she was just 15 (not yet old enough to enjoy wine, but old enough to work behind the scenes.) She also has worked as an assistant innkeeper at a bed & breakfast, and is a Certified Tourism Ambassador for Sonoma County, giving her a great background for her role.
As soon as Laura gets a completed concierge request form, she goes to work combing through the request, and reviewing all the options available for the visitors and their upcoming visit. The Wine Road has almost 200 winery members and 60 lodging members. Laura, who is also the Wine Road’s Office Manager and Master Task Juggler, is familiar with all of them, spending time every month visiting the members at their locations.
Because the Wine Road covers such a large region, Laura said in order to plan a smooth itinerary she needs to know where you’ll be staying, or if you don’t already have a lodging selected, the first step is to find right lodging for your wants and needs.
Once you have your lodging booked, then it is time to hone in your tasting path and other activities. The Wine Road covers many, many miles, so you probably don’t want to end your wine tasting day with an hour or more back to your lodging. Here is just one instance where Laura’s knowledge can save a visitor precious time, making their stay more enjoyable. Give Laura your parameters, and she’ll give you multiple options to fit your needs.
The Wine Road’s concierge service is available year round, for everything from a day trip to a long vacation. Laura often helps visitors coming in for one of the Wine Road’s three major events—Winter WINELand, Barrel Tasting, and Wine & Food Affair—find lodging and plan their itineraries to get the most out of the event and their stay.
There are also many other activities along the Wine Road besides wine tasting. Laura can assist you in weaving in activities like biking, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and shopping, or visiting art galleries, parks, museums, the ocean, and more.
Much of the planning can be done via email, but calling Laura is also an option, especially if time is of the essence, or if something can easily be explained in a quick phone call.
Normally you’ll hear back from Laura within a day during her workweek, which is Tuesday – Friday. Laura has helped plan trips for visitors from all over the U.S., plus Australia, Canada, the UK, and more. It is Laura’s goal, and the Wine Road’s, that every visitor feels welcome and at home here. We want everyone to experience and fall in love with our Wine Road.
Other Trip Planning Tools
If you’d like to plan your own trip, or do some research on your own before you fill out the Wine Road’s concierge questionnaire, there are some other wonderful resources provided by the Wine Road.
Wine Road’s Podcast: The Wine, When, and Where of Northern Sonoma County is filled with tips for visitors, including restaurants, activities, lodging, wineries and more. Examples include episode 18 was dedicated to a three-day itinerary centered around the town of Windsor. It covered lodgings, restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops and beer (yes beer!), places to go, and wineries and tasting rooms. Episode 16 explored Healdsburg, episode 14 covered Santa Rosa, and episode 12 dove into Guerneville.
Another planning tool at your fingertips is the Wine Road website. If you click on WINERIES on the navigation bar, you’ll find yourself on a page that let’s you tailor searches by one or more of these categories: Winery name, region, wine type, or amenities. If you only want to visit wineries that produce Pinot Noir, this tool will save you a lot of time. Or maybe your group loves bocce ball along with wine tasting. No problem, one of the searchable amenities is bocce ball, and you’d have about 30 wineries to pick from. There is a similar page under LODGINGS, and again you can search by lodging name, region, lodging type, or amenity.
One of my favorite travel tools is a map. Your can request a complimentary Wine Road map on either the MAPS page or on the CONTACT US page. If you prefer to not deal with paper or are in a hurry and can’t wait for a map to arrive in your mailbox, go to the MAPS page and download the Wine Road map broken down by regions: Guerneville, Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley, and Healdsburg. If you know what wineries you want to visit, there is also an option to create your own custom map.
Under VISIT, there is even more trip planning information. Here are pages to help you plan:
One last travel tip page that is packed with great information is the VISITORS FAQ, found under WINE 101. There are 50 questions and answers to help you better understand the lay of the land as you travel along the Wine Road.
With all this newfound information about how to best plan a trip to the Wine Road, go forth and organize a day, a weekend, or a week along the Wine Road.
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