Winery Tour and Tourism

Posted by Keith Wallace

Similar to what the video did to the radio star in the ’80s, tourism has had a massive effect on wine tasting in Napa over the last 10+ years. It’s not that you can’t find a great winery tasting and tour in Napa, but it is getting progressively harder to find one that is personalized or for free. As the wines of Napa have grown to greater levels of fame over the last few decades, more and more people have wanted to visit this beautiful region and experience the wines. This is a great thing on social, economic, industrial, and personal levels. 

Tasting Rooms

However, as with any developing industry, the region has had to develop an infrastructure to support its growth. Infrastructure, including tasting rooms, tour guides (although many people fulfill these roles for the sheer joy of it), advertising, insurance premiums, not to mention the wine being poured all cost money. One of the natural by-products of growth is that some of the personal touches are lost. A winemaker can’t conduct tours for hundreds of people every day. Who would make the wine? Even still, it’s not unheard of for a Napa winemaker to make time to meet visitors who show a true interest in what the winery is doing.

Charging for Taste

So, is it really all that unreasonable for a winery to ask for a “nominal” tour/tasting fee to cover tourism expenses? One school of thought is that this should all be part of the cost of advertising. If someone is allowed to taste a wine, the chances increase that they may buy it at some point. Another way of thinking of it is if people are seeking out a winery to visit, then there’s nothing wrong with charging for tourism. If people didn’t find value in it, then they wouldn’t pay for it. Some wineries take the middle ground and waive the tour/tasting fee if you buy wine right at the tasting room.

Increased tourism in Napa arguably has both positive and negative aspects, but keep in mind there is no denying that Napa has been a driving force for the American wine industry. Where would the rest of California, Washington, or even Oregon be if there hadn’t been a Napa? If you can appreciate that, you’ll realize that sometimes you can still have your wine and taste it too – even if it does end up costing you a few dollars for a tour.

Check out our list of the best wineries near Philadelphia.

1 thought on “Winery Tour and Tourism”

  1. As an operator of intimate wine tours here in Napa, I have to agree with your observations. The general public is lured to the commerical producers because of name recognition, hundreds of people daily, see the names they see on store shelves at home and are drawn in. This gives them a very narrow perspective of Napa wine country. Most are shocked to find out that there are over six hundred wine producers in this valley alone.
    A need for tasting room staff to service these people costs money,although I disagree with impersonal attitude of many tasters I can understand their frustration of the busload after busload of non wine drinkers parading before them.
    The private and personalised tours do cost money as well, but a guide can get you into places you could only dream about, but to have that dream, you must have the knowledge of what is out there, up in the hills and down those dusty lanes.


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