Everything is stressful right now: work, watching the news, social media — even conversations with friends are walking the line. Although there are few things in the world that seem relaxing right now, there’s nothing a long weekend of self-indulgence and blissful gluttony can’t take care of. California’s wine country is a haven of escapism that’s filled with friendly local faces, more tasting rooms than you can imagine and endless supplies of critically acclaimed food. It’s enough to make any stress-junkie forget to check Facebook for an entire weekend.
Planning your trip to wine country doesn’t require a lot of gear, but it does require packing precisely the items that will make you feel as relaxed and happy as possible — and leaving plenty of room in your bag for take-home wine. You should be able to fit everything you need in a small suitcase, and you can get it all while earning Cash Back at Rakuten.
Go for Practical
Comfortable and casual attire for men and women is always in season in Napa and Sonoma — unless it’s mid-summer. You’ll probably spend as much time outdoors as indoors in wine country, and you’ll move from the day’s activities into the evening’s without much of a break. That means you’ll want jeans or a comfortable pair of black pants that can transition seamlessly from day to night.
You’ll want practical shoes that you don’t mind getting a little dirty but also look great as you stroll into a restaurant in town. Burgundy is always trendy—find options for men and women at Target—especially when red wine spills are a risk.
Northern California can be chilly in the winter months, which means a jacket is almost a must. If you’re traveling to Monterey or Paso Robles in Southern California, on the other hand, fewer layers are necessary (which means more room in your bag for wine!).
A messenger bag is never a bad idea for anyone willing to schlep it around wine tasting. It’s more chic than a backpack, but you can still fit a reusable water bottle, an extra layer or two and any picnic food you pick up along the way.
All About the Wine
Clothes are not the only important items to consider packing; you’re going to want to bring wine-related items as well. An instructional book that offers wine-tasting tips or a history of the region is a great way to prep for the trip on the plane ride out. “The 24-Hour Wine Expert” will give you a basic understanding of the wine world, and just what you’re getting yourself into. At least you’ll have some intriguing questions to ask at various wineries throughout your trip.
A corkscrew may sound like a no-brainer, but you’ll be grateful you brought it when you pull it out of your bag just before your significant other tries the “shoe trick.” (If you don’t know what this is, don’t worry because you’re prepared with your corkscrew!) Bring one that doesn’t have a blade attachment, so you can stick it in your carry-on and forget it.
After hours of wine tasting, you’re going to want to bring some bottles home with you. That means your carry-on will become a checked bag. Prepare for it beforehand and you’ll avoid the hemming and hawing that eventually leaves you in an over-packed, under-prepared situation on the way home. Bring bubble wrap or a wine sleeve, which will protect your bottles from breaking on the journey back and save anything that’s not already wine-colored.
The most important part of your trip to wine country is your attitude. If you go in ready to relax, learn, indulge and disconnect, it will be one of the best long weekends you’ve ever had. If not, at least there’s wine.
Chelsea is a freelance writer living in San Francisco, specializing in lifestyle and travel. When she can't get on a plane herself to visit somewhere obscure (Montenegro anyone?), she's training her sweet puppy and taking visitors to wine country with her fiancé. She loves being able to share ideas and stories proving that doing good and having fun can go hand in hand.