Best Wine Country Trip Planning Resource

Rebecca Germolus on Apr 11, 2023

When planning a Wine Country trip — be it a day, weekend or week long — you’ll most likely be searching for online resources to help you figure out where to wine taste, what to do, where to eat and where to stay. The big daunting question is where do you start to look for this information?

When my husband and I visit other wine regions, I am often frustrated by the lack of online information, maps or just general information in one website. I’ve come to expect so much more because in Sonoma County’s Wine Country, we have phenomenal resources at our finger tips, like WineRoad.com.

Trip Planning Simplified

I’ve been in the wine industry for many years, so my friends and family know to check in with me when planning a visit to Sonoma County’s Wine Country. Over time, these same folks have shared my contact information with their in-laws and friends, so I find myself frequently fielding questions from soon-to-be visitors.

Even though I know the Wine Road well, I still use WineRoad.com as my main resource when helping others plan their Wine Country experience. It is also the first resource I share with someone planning their own visit. Yes, wine tasting and wine events are the main focus of the Wine Road’s website, but there is so much more information at WineRoad.com. Let’s dive in and I’ll show you the wealth of information at your fingertips.

Best Map Ever

The Wine Road map has been a staple for visitors for almost 50 years. As you read this are you thinking, “who would want to use a printed map?” Not only do many folks find the visual of a printed map helpful to understand the lay of the land, but the backroads of Sonoma County have limited cell service. When you’re driving to your next tasting appointment or dinner reservation and suddenly your phone’s navigation app stops working, a map is a trip saver. A map can also be the ideal tool to help you plan your Wine Country adventure.

It’s so easy to order a free map from the Wine Road’s website. Head to the Contact Us page, fill out the information and submit. Doesn’t get much easier than that. The Wine Road staff fulfills map requests weekly, so if you’re planning ahead, you’ll have the map in plenty of time.

However, if you aren’t someone who wants a printed map, or your planning timetable is short, WineRoad.com has downloadable maps as well. Click on Maps on the navigation bar, and you’ll find a page filled with map options, including downloadable PDF maps by region and a link to download the Wine Road app, which has oodles of information as well.

Orange box with white words "ORDER a free Wine Road Map, Do It."

Where Should We Stay in Wine Country?

When traveling to a popular region, I often book my lodging before I start determining where I’m going to wine taste, dine or what else I might decide to do during my stay. The Wine Road covers a lot of miles, so it’s good to have an idea of what location you’d like to be near, and what type of lodging you’ll enjoy staying at.

WineRoad.com has many lodging options listed, from luxury hotels to glamping and everything in between. The lodging page allows you to search four different ways — by lodging name, by region, by lodging type, and by amenities. Or, you can page through a list of the lodgings, where you can get quick information on the property, or link directly to their online site.

Lodging Search page from WineRoad.com showing search fields, and four lodging options.

If you know you want to stay in Healdsburg, select Healdsburg from the Region dropdown list and you’ll get the list of lodgings just in Healdsburg. It’s a big time saver to eliminate the step of searching each lodgings location.

Once you’ve selected where you’re going to stay, it’s time to look at what wineries you’d like to visit.

What Wineries Should We Visit?

With a wealth of information, this is where WineRoad.com shines! When you hover over Wineries, you get the following page options:

  • Winery List
  • Walk-Ins Welcome
  • Wine Awards
  • Varietal of the Month
  • Wine Road Seminar Series
  • Sparkling
  • Esprit Du Rhone
  • Italians
  • Corporate Gifting/VIP Experiences

Winery List

The Winery List page is much more than a list of all the Wine Road member wineries. Like the lodging page, you can search for wineries a variety of ways. The first option is by Winery Name, which is great if you know the winery you’re looking for, but if you don’t, there are so many other ways to explore this list of wineries.

The next search tool allows you to look by Region. The regions list includes Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Guerneville Area, Healdsburg and Russian River Valley. This tool can be very helpful if you’re trying to visit wineries near where you’re staying, or if you staying in Healdsburg and want to walk to a few wineries.

Pick a Favorite Varietal

If you’re planning a wine tasting adventure and only want to try specific varietals, the search by wine type is perfect. A very long and comprehensive drop-down list of wine varietals appears, and you can select the varietal you are eager to taste.

If you choose Pinot Gris, you’ll find that 10 wineries make a Pinot Gris and when you click on the winery’s name, you’ll get additional details about the winery. You can also search the alternative name, Pinot Grigio, and find four wineries produce and label a Pinot Grigio. Same varietal, just some wineries opt to use the Italian spelling of the grape’s name.

If you want to focus on tasting Cabernet Sauvignon, the list option will include 76 wineries.

Winery Search page from WineRoad.com showing search fields, and the search results for Pinot Gris.

Winery Search page from WineRoad.com showing search fields, and the search results for Pinot Grigio.

Check Out the Amenities

The last search option allows you to search by amenities, and this can be invaluable. Why? If you’re planning to bring a picnic, this tool will help you find wineries to visit that have picnic grounds. If you’re traveling with your dog, you’ll want to visit wineries that are listed when you search “Pets Allowed.” There are more than two dozen amenity options listed to help you narrow down your winery choices.

Walk-Ins Welcome

This page is a more recent addition to the website, and one that is getting a lot of eyes on it. Post COVID-19 regulations, many of the wineries have returned to the pre-pandemic ways of welcoming walk-in guests. Currently there are over 50 wineries listed, giving you plenty of options to pick from.

Text is Walk-ins Welcome at over 50 wineries - no reservations needed. Background image of young people tasting wine in a garden setting as server is pouring the wine.

A side note: groups of eight or more people are always required to make reservations in advance of their visit. Many winery tasting rooms are small and can’t easily accommodate a large group, or they may need to have additional staff to accommodate that many visitors. On the home page of WineRoad.com is a link to a very informative PDF that lists all the wineries that can accommodate larger groups, how large the group can be, the cost and the winery contact’s email.

mage at sunset with a group of people playing cornhole on the grounds of a Sonoma County winery. The words "Where to Taste With A Group of 8+" is written over the image.

A Few Choice Categories

The Wine Road was getting enough requests for special wine categories, that they compiled a list of them. If you love bubbly, check out the Sparkling page for a list of all the wineries that produce one or more sparkling wines.

There is also a page for Rhône style wines and another for Italian varietals. Having a page dedicated to these wine types is a quick and easy way to home in on the wineries you’d like to visit.

Image of sparkling wines, a red wine being poured into a glass, and an image of bread, salami sticks, cheeses, fresh figs and a glass of white and a glass of red wine. Words over images are sparkling, Rhones, Italians.

Event Options

When planning a visit along the Wine Road, it’s always a good idea to see what events might be happening. This year the Wine Road is hosting a series of wine seminars. They all look so interesting it will be tough to just pick one. The topics are Winemaking 101 — From the Vineyard to the Bottle, Sparkling Discoveries, Esprit du Rhone, Russian River Pinot Neighborhoods and Comparative Cabernet Tasting.

Wineries also host events, and you can find a list of them Winery Events page. This list changes frequently, so be sure to check it often.

Maybe you’d like to visit the Wine Road during one of the three major annual events, but want to confirm the dates well in advance. Winter Wineland, Barrel Tasting and Wine & Food Affair each have their own dedicated page you can visit, or if you click on Events, you’ll get a summary of all three events.

Tip of the Iceberg

There is so much more to explore as this website is packed with information, so here are some additional highlights.

Check out the Explore pages as they go in-depth by regions, also known as American Viticultural Areas (AVA) or appellations. Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley are the three appellations within the Wine Road. Within each appellation page you find a list of the wineries, a map (of course!), recommended day trips, lodgings and additional information about that region.

Under Explore, you can also learn about the benefits of becoming a Wine Road Insider. Insider perks include discounts on the wine seminar series described earlier and on the Wine Road annual events, plus more.

Wine 101

If you want to increase your wine knowledge, be sure to visit Wine 101. Within this section, you’ll find pages dedicated to tasting tips, a list of grape varietals with a brief explanation of each one, a glossary of commonly used wine terms, and how to decipher a wine label.

The FAQ page can prove invaluable with general information on wine tasting, food and wine pairings, wine clubs, shipping wine, travel and transportation, and so much more.

Always Evolving

WineRoad.com is always evolving to keep up with the changes in and around the Wine Road. Be sure to visit it often, and add it to your resource toolbox when planning your Wine Country adventures.

One More Wine Country Travel Resource

 

Another great tool for getting the inside scoop on what’s happening in and around the Sonoma County is the Wine Road Podcast: The Wine When & Where of Sonoma County, CA. Listen and laugh as Beth Costa, the Wine Road’s executive director, and Marcy Gordon, a freelance wine and travel writer, talk to a variety of guests, share local tourism information, recipes and itineraries, all while having a great time.

The Wine Road podcast has twice won the Taste Award for Best Food or Drink podcast! Listening to Beth and Marcy will give you so many travel tips, you’ll want to binge listen to all seven and a half years of this fun and informative podcast.

The Next Step

Time to look at the calendar, pick your dates and start planning your next adventure along the Wine Road.

Happy Sipping!

Posted by Rebecca Germolus

Rebecca Germolus, co-owner of Maximum Value Marketing, loves Sonoma County and playing along the Wine Road. Rebecca daily immerses herself in wine country by providing cost-effective marketing and writing solutions to wineries and restaurants.

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