The wife and I had a great time a couple of years ago wine tasting by flying into Sonoma, CA (STS) via Alaska Airlines. It was great getting out of the D.C. cold and into 72 degrees and sunny California weather. So we decided to try it again this year. Unfortunately, as most of you know, Mother Nature has decided to end the drought in California and then some! Oh, well, we could still enjoy wine even if it was cloudy. This flight was actually on Alaska Air’s subsidiary Horizon Air. One great deal for this airline is a beer or wine in economy – so you can start the tasting early!
STS is a really small airport, but served by Alaska from both LAX and SEA. Bonus is that you get to count a case of wine as free luggage flying out!
Last time we did this, I used the VISA Signature benefit of free wine tastings at a bunch of wineries to save money. Previously, the deal varied at each winery, so some were real bargains, others not so much. Now they have standardized the benefit as a Buy-One-Get-One offer so basically 50% off. Note that this now extends to VISA Infinite which did not exist two years ago.
So I knew we could take that option, but I tried something new by looking at what I could find on Groupon. I found way better deals such as a wine tasting for $12 for two with a $10 credit towards purchasing a bottle. Another difference was that the VISA benefit was generally the larger wineries, while the Groupon was for smaller or out of the way locations. This turned out to be much better and almost every place we visited, we would not have found on our own. Not to mention we got great value from most of the places. Most of the tastings were supposed to be for a sample of five wines, but almost all the locations gave us more than that – one place we actually got eight!
Here are quick reviews on the ones we visited. Didn’t have a bad experience at any of them, so give them a shot if you are out in Northern California.
Mutt Lynch – In Windsor, a modern town only ten minutes north of the airport. The interesting thing about this place was that it was a wine and chocolate pairing. Five wines and five chocolate samples added an interesting dimension to the normal tasting routine. They don’t make the chocolate, but it is from Healdsburg about 30 minutes north of there. As you may guess from the name, dogs are very welcome here.
Family Wineries – In the Dry Creek area of Healdsburg. This location is one of those where they have consolidated about five different tasting rooms together if you just want to do a lot of tasting and not a lot of driving. $7 for a tasting was pretty cheap.
Simi Winery – This location will fool you as it is right in the city, but it is not just a tasting room but the whole winery right in town. You can get a tour here, but only at 11 and 2 each day. Tastings were good and they uniquely have a Late Harvest Chardonnay which I have never seen anywhere else. Beautiful location.
I’ll finish the other reviews tomorrow, so stay tuned.