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When my BFF asked me to plan her bachelorette party, I knew we needed two things: stunning outdoor vistas (because #views) and a valid reason to start drinking before noon. So California Wine Country was obviously the only option.
While you really can’t go wrong with any winery visit (does it have wine? Check. Is it overlooking a sunny valley or on a flourishing vineyard? Check.), the sheer volume of options in this world-class wine-production region is what makes it such a popular destination.
But actually planning it is up there with one of the more overwhelming experiences of my life. There are just so MANY spots and everyone has a vineyard rec from their mom’s best friend. So during my planning process, I reached out to several wineries and asked if they’d be willing to treat my group and me to a few tastings and insider tips in exchange for this piece.
Before I dive into *my* must-visit tasting recs, lemme share some tips about maximizing your experience:
1. Group your stops by valley.
Wine country is made up of a few valleys, each with its own distinct vibe. Napa, for example, is more formal, where you’ll try Wine with a capital W in all its posh sophistication. Meanwhile, Sonoma is more laid-back—think breezy floral sundresses and casual seating. The good news is that you don’t have to pick one vibe, but choosing two or three wineries within 20ish minutes of each other means less time spent in a car and more with a glass in your hand.
2. Book in advance.
Seriously, do it right after you finish reading this piece. Napa is a popular spot for a reason, and you’ll have way less of a headache later and actually get to enjoy your time there.
3. Hire a driver.
Besides the fact that you and your crew will feel like celebs, cell service is spotty as hell in the mountains. Uber and Lyft are both super unreliable when bopping between tastings, and unless you have a DD in your party, you def shouldn’t be driving. My group booked Keith from Napa Luxury Coach, who smoothly shepherded our buzzed butts in a luxe SUV for eight hours and even picked up sandwiches for us. I could cry.
Psst, the cost was way cheaper than using an app for every time we made moves.
This seems obvious, but I gotta say it. Yeah, wineries do offer food pairings, but they are mostly smol bites. If your tasting doesn’t come with a full meal, def go out of your way and make two stops daily for sustenance and H2O. Your future self will thank you.
5. Stock up on the essentials.
Yes, you do need all of these. Especially those wipes. 👀
Now that all that’s settled, please allow me to share my itinerary highlights, because in just one three-day bachelorette weekend, we were able to balance sommelier-level learnings with low-key tipsy hangs.
And before you ask: Yes, I curated some outfit inspo for each winery. Just call me your Fairy Winemother.
Vibe: Your rich friend’s parents’ house
Here’s the sitch: Joseph Phelps was one of the first wineries in Napa back in the 1970s when the area became, well, the famous ~Napa Valley~. Even though it’s one of the most historical and well-known wineries around the block, it’s still family owned and operated, which is v clear in both their quality and knowledge of wines. So if you’re looking for dramatic views and a som-level wine lesson to kick off your tour of Wine Country, look no further. (Sorry for the cliché, but I just really love this place!)
Our group was treated to a culinary-paired experience in their wine library. You read that right: wine library. It included seven wines, a single-vineyard chardonnay and pinot noir, three red blends that the winery calls Insignia wine, and a dish from their yakitori grill. Remember my eating tip? But I also want to give a major shout-out to Meredith, the wine educator who led our tasting, for being a true pro at reading the wine-novice-filled room. TYSM, Meredith, for letting us ask whatever dumb, basic questions we had without judgment, which is really all I could ask for.
$90 to $375/person depending on the experience
Vibe: California cool girl
If your YouTube habits revolve mainly around celebrity Architectural Digest tours, Flowers Winery will fill your soul with joy. For starters, we were greeted immediately with a glass of rosé before being ushered through the massive front doors into a foyer with seemingly endless ceilings.
We were then escorted up a massive wooden staircase and onto the sun-soaked patio with relaxed outdoor furniture, arranging ourselves around the teak tasting table as white linen curtains billowed in the breeze. Yes, I did make a mental note to add this to my Pinterest board for my dream home.
We were gifted a tasting in the (extremely photogenic) gardens that included a tasting of four wines with a small plate of seasonal bites for each bottle, including the signature (and notably melon-y) Moon Select Chardonnay. I now see why Meredith Blake wanted to marry Nick Parker for his vineyard and ship the brats off to Switzerland.
But we didn’t leave right after the tasting! After a few glasses of their delicious wine, we strolled through the picturesque grounds and took full advantage of their very generous “top me off” policy. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like.
$55 to $75/person depending on the experience
Vibe: Instagram rustic
Not to brag, but I’m lucky enough to have been to Wine Country a couple of times now and I will always hit up Scribe. It’s super convenient when driving from San Francisco and reasonably priced for a packed experience. But it’s really the scenery that gets me every time.
To paint a picture: We entered on a long dirt driveway under towering palm trees that eventually gave way to a clear view of the sunny vineyard and building. Our group was then seated at a wooden table in the shade (bless), where we ate a lunch of fresh veggies, olives, and cheeses from the surrounding farm and gardens. We tasted three of Scribe’s newest releases—the standout being the Scribe Estate Rosé, which was bright, fruity, and clean, much like the winery itself.
FYI: I am this close to uprooting my current life and starting a brand-new one as an organic wine vintner at Scribe. The days would be filled with sampling delicious natural vino and I’d be wearing a linen maxi dress and sun hat in the shade of the winery’s hacienda-style tasting house. Yes, this is what I want.
Vibe: Low-key farm authentic
This off-the-beaten-path spot is located a biiit out of the way from my other recs, but I promise this (alcoholic grape) juice is extremely worth the squeeze (heh).
After many formal sit-down wine tastings, the chill atmosphere at family-run Porter Bass was a breath of fresh air. My group huddled under a twisty olive tree in mismatched chairs as the mother-father-son trio of owners all took turns leading the experience. But here’s the most legit part: The matriarch would give her spiel about each wine, going into stunning detail, then just project silent confidence while we sipped. If I could read minds, she was definitely trying to say, “These wines are amazing, and I don’t care if you don’t like them.” Bowing down.
And while the atmosphere is def on the more informal side, don’t think that it doesn’t beat out the more classique Wine Country spots on this list. The Porter Bass Pinot Noir is their most sought-after wine (for good reason), but they also produce wines at a lower price point under the name Poco-a-Poco. Psst, it’s nearly the same quality but you can ball on a budget.
Remember what I said about booking way in advance? Porter Bass allows only one reservation at a time, so keep that in mind. After hopping around from vineyard to vineyard, the privacy of the quiet farm landscape was a welcome treat. All you gotta do is just focus on some wine and breathe deeply.
$15 per person
Vibe: Casual group hang
I know the whole allure of throwing a bachelorette party in Wine Country is because you get to dress up and be a hell of a lot fahncier than you are in your normal lives. However, after a few days of formal wine tastings, the group really needed a chance to cut loose with a full glass and spend time with just each other. Yes, yes, how sweet.
Major shout-out to Abbot’s Passage and Mercantile for treating us to a much-needed respite with their casual outdoor setup in an olive grove, and most importantly: shuffleboard. Along with affordable wines available to purchase by the bottle, AP offers a comically large picnic basket full of local tasty treats like cheese and crackers, hummus, and cookies.
The basket paired with a couple of shared bottles of their rosé was the best decision we made the entire trip. Then, dear reader, we attempted to school each other on the shuffle court while recounting our tipsy weekend—while still tipsy. Cue the end credits!
Shuffleboard rental: $250/group for two hours
Olive grove tasting: $40/person
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