How to Create a Personalized Wine Journal - For Yourself or Your Favorite Wine Enthusiast

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While there are a variety of wine tasting journals available on the market, most don’t allow for much personalization.  We have a couple of favorite wine apps on our iPhone, however taking written notes on wines using a fine journal and a nice pen is relaxing and mindful (or should we say wineful?) Keeping a personalized wine journal is a great hobby for wine enthusiasts. And wine journals (and accessories!) are a great gift for the wine lover who has it all!

Why a Wine Tasting Journal?

A wine tasting journal is simply a place for recording observations and key aspects of the tasting experience to reflect upon later.  They can be used and enjoyed by wine journals can be used and enjoyed by wine novices, serious enthusiasts, and wine professionals alike. 

Students preparing for an exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers or Wine and Spirit Education trust take detailed notes on wines both to practice tasting notes and to commit to memory key points that will help them in theory or tasting exams. Studies show that writing things down is much more impactful than typing into a smartphone or laptop. 

Why not use a Wine Tasting App?

If you’re just getting started in taking wine tasting notes or want to take some quick tasting notes on the go, then yes, the apps available at vivino.com and cellartracker.com are great.  

But there’s just something to be said for pen and paper. If you’re like the rest of us, when you take out the iPhone to take tasting notes, it won’t take much for you to wander from your intent, either reading other users notes or going off the App and checking the weather forecast. Many people who prefer to take notes in a journal are looking for a chance to unplug and to discreetly take notes without the glow of a smartphone.

About Traditional Wine Tasting Journals

Traditional wine tasting journals are made by a variety of publishing houses and wine bloggers.  Many wine lovers find that these “out of the box” wine journals have both positive and negative aspects.  Below are some examples of traditional wine tasting journals.

The Moleskine Passion Journal:

The Write it Down Wine Journal:

Wine Journal Write It Down
Journals Unlimited

Positive points about traditional wine tasting journals:

  • Great templates for enthusiasts to enter in wine names, vintage, price, aromas and flavors, and general topics like where it was consumed, with whom and with what food

  • Wine tasting terms for beginners 

  • Wine references, like vintage ratings, maps and classic producers.  

Downsides to traditional wine tasting journals:

  • Unattractive cover design (e.g. dated, poor photo, corny phrase)

  • Heavy (e.g. leather, can’t take it with you on wine travels)

  • Looks too much like a wine journal (not discreet - you’ll be ‘that person’ in the tasting room)

  • Wine pairing basics or other ‘notes’ that are not of interest, adding bulk/waste to the journal 

  • Ink bleeding through on ‘cheap’ paper

  • Not enough space to affix wine labels

In case traditional wine tasting journals leave you feeling like you are “painting by the numbers,” this blog outlines a DIY wine journal package and methodology you may find useful. 

The Customizable Wine Tasting Journal Package

Let’s look at the components of a personalized wine tasting journal. 

The Leuchtturn Journal

We have been big fans of Leuchtturn 1917 journals since our first trip to Germany over 20 years ago.  

Here’s what we love about this journal:

  • There are bullets instead of lines.  These bullets allow writers to draw, write, or paste in their content without the visual deterrent of lines or the emptiness of a blank page

  • It has an index, and you can customize it!  We’re amazed that many wine journals don’t come with the option to create an index before jumping right into the note-taking.  

  • The journal lays flat - many leather wine journals don’t.  This creates a nice looking spine after year(s) of use. We like how ours looks on a bookshelf!

  • There’s a classy label one can affix to the front of the journal when you’re done using it.

  • There’s a sturdy envelope in the back of the journal to hold winery brochures, menus, wine label remover sheets, and maps until one gets the chance to affix the info into the journal.  

  • The journals are robust.  We’ve used one journal for a year during regional and global travel, on a boat, and bouncing around in a bag.  

  • The jornal is thin and slips in neatly next to one’s laptop or large tablet (8.85 x 12.4 inches).

  • These journals cost less than typical leather journals.

The Staedtler Pen

No one likes writing with a cheap pen, especially when taking tasting notes.  You want a pen with a fine tip that writes smoothly and is a pleasure to hold.  

The Staedtler Pen

These pens are ergonomic with a triangular shape and are very light in the hand.  The ink dries more quickly than gel pens. They don’t smear, bleed or feather.

The only downside we’ve noticed is that sometimes the lighter colors are not as ‘bright’ on paper as some would like.  We’ve noticed over the years that we use the black pen and the darker colors the most.

The Wine Label Lift 

Some wine enthusiasts love to keep wine labels for future reference (as sometimes it can be hard to remember the details of wine(s) the next day!). As you’ll see in our blog on wine label removal, this can can be done by removing the wine label from the bottle or simply taking a good photo of the label.  We do this either through taking photos of the wine labels or actually going through the motions of removing the wine label from the bottle.   

Our preferred method for removing wine labels is utilizing a wine label lift. These are simply adhesive films that one adheres to the bottle then removes - extracting the label from the bottle.  The label can then be inserted into the journal easily. While they don’t work 100% of the time, there are some tips/tricks online for increasing the likelihood of success when removing a label from the wine bottle. 

We really like that these wine label removers slip easily into the envelope in the back of the journal for storage until needed. Once the label is removed from the bottle, the journaler has the option of adhering it to the wine journal as a memento.

Document Edges for Maps, Menus, and Winery Information

In addition to the wine labels themselves, some wine enthusiasts love to collect momentos from the meal, tasting, trip, or bar where the wine was consumed.  For those purposes we love these document edges in classic colors for adhering such momentos to the journal.

Like the wine label removers, these adhesive corner pieces can also slip into the back of the journal for future use.

If You’re Gifting the Wine Journal Package

If you’re gifting the wine journal package, traditional gift wrap will work just fine. However, if you know a wine lover with a milestone birthday, anniversary or promotion, you may want to consider gifting the journal and accessories with a wine book or simply a bottle of wine. To make the gift extra special,  place the journal and accessories in this covetable premium leather wine bag.

Additional Resources for the Personalized Wine Journal

If you or your wine tasting journal recipient is fairly new to making entries in a wine journal, here are a few resources for different approaches to recording tasting notes:

Court of Master Sommeliers: For those who watched the SOMM movies and want to learn the deductive tasting grid demonstrated in the movies, this is the place to go to find the free grid pdf.  

Wine and Spirit Educational Trust: For those who prefer a more analytical approach to wine tasting, the WSET has courses available to wine enthusiasts and wine professionals, where one can learn the WSET systematic approach to tasting.

Also check out our article on the Wine Tasting Grid and how to set up a wine tasting in your home.

You can be as simple or as elaborate as you like in your wine taking notes, including as many or as few details as you wish.  

Additional Accessories for the Personalized Wine Journal

Here are a few more items that wine enthusiasts might enjoy with their personalized journal:

Wine Aroma Wheel

With over 800 aromatic compounds to explore, Dr. Ann Noble, winemaker and professor emeretis of U.C. Davis, came up with this wine aroma wheel that’s been used for decades.   

Bullet Journal 

The popular bullet journal methodology helped us escape from the rigidity of templated journals.

Maximizing the Personalized Wine Tasting Journal Experience

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For wine lovers, journaling about the experience of each bottle is an invaluable resource for study and exam prep. It does not all need to be serious though!  Sometimes one simply wants to keep their unique tasting experiences separate from other journals.  Benefits of enthusiast documentation include watching your tastes and preferences grow and change.  

There are disadvantages to pre-printed wine journals - format, design and flexibility are limited.  The simplicity of a Personalized Wine Tasting Journal means that the journal will never go out of style.  At the core it is about the content and what you want to document for yourself or to share with fellow wine lovers.  

Happy journaling!

Cheers!






















Opus One Winery: The KnowWines Review

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We’re fortunate to have been visiting the Napa and Sonoma Wine Country for about ten years. In those years, we have visited  Opus One multiple times. As fellow wine enthusiasts and seasoned travelers, we understand that anonymous reviews in public travel forums often give little insight into the wine experience (and you often can’t gauge the experience of the person writing the review!). As the price of wine tours and wine tastings increases, we aim to help our fellow experience seekers know what to expect! In this blog, we’ve put together our insights on the renowned Opus One winery.

Things to Consider Before Purchasing an Opus One Tasting

The Opus One tour is ideal for anyone interested in a luxury wine tasting experience. It’s perfect for the following types of travelers: 

  • Wine enthusiasts who want to see and taste the fruits of the historical collaboration between Napa’s Robert Mondavi and Bordeaux’s Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Château Mouton Rothschild

  • Wine collectors who want to taste the current vintage of Opus One, one older vintage of Opus One, and/or the winery’s second label Overture

  • Fans of architect Scott Johnson of Johnson, Fain & Pereira

  • Fans of Bordeaux-style wines 

  • Fans of cult Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine

This experience is not ideal for wine enthusiasts looking for a fast, boisterous, casual tasting.  This experience is not for wine lovers seeking out white wines, sweet wines, or a range of different wines. Finally, this wine tasting experience is not for travelers seeking out small, independently owned wineries specializing in bespoke grape varieties. 

Before purchasing the Opus One wine tasting or tour experience, you will need to consider the following: 

  • How much do you want to spend on the experience? 

  • How long do you want to visit and what do you want to see? 

  • Do you want to taste the current release or three different wines?

What is Opus One?

Opus One started as a partnership between Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild. The aim was to craft a wine combining winemaking approaches from both Napa, California and Bordeaux, France.  They aspired to craft a wine that would become their “Opus.”

While the two met first in 1970, it was not until 1984 that the first vintages (1979 and 1980) were released. Opus One was not crafted in the present facility in Oakville until 1991. Prior to 1991, the wine was made at the nearby Robert Mondavi winery.  

To learn more about this partnership and its significance in American Wine History, check out the House of Mondavi. It’s quite amazing (from both from an enology and from a marketing perspective) that a First Growth Bordeaux - Château Mouton Rothschild - would partner with a newer winery from ‘upstarts’ in Napa Valley.  

Opus One wine (and the second label wine Overture) are Bordeaux-style blends comprised of  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. The grapes in Opus One originate from the estate’s approximately 100 acres of vineyards.

Here are the pros and cons of an Opus One tasting experience at the winery.

Pros

  • A serene and elegant tasting experience

  • No one under 21 allowed

  • Great views of Napa Valley

  • Unhurried tasting experience

  • Arrive early and avoid crowds

Cons

  • Tasting fee not waived with purchase

  • No picnics, no pets

  • Plan several days ahead for reservation during the peak travel season 

Choosing Your Experience

Booking

Opus One makes it very easy to book your visit. The website outlines several types of winery visits depending on your budget, interest, and desired experience. When you purchase your ticket online, you quickly receive an email confirmation.

There are a few tasting and tour options available. However, Guided Tours and Library Tastings are not available until the end of 2019 as the winery is undergoing renovations.  Opus One Tasting Appointment at the Pavilion is the only tasting currently available during the renovation.  

We purchased our tickets three days in advance for a 10:00 am tasting on a Sunday.  The weekends can be very busy, as well as weekdays during summer and harvest. To avoid crowds and get more 1:1 attention, we recommend choosing tasting times earlier in the day.  

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Arriving

The Opus One winery is located near Oakville, California at 7900 St Helena Hwy, Oakville, CA 94562.  It is located 70 miles north of SFO airport in San Francisco and 13 miles north of Napa, California. Drive time from downtown Napa is about 20 minutes in the off season, but can be an hour or more during peak season as the road narrows from four lanes to two lanes north of Napa.

If you are approaching the winery from the south on Highway 29, look for Oakville Grocery on your right. The entrance to Opus One is the next driveway on the right. If you approach the winery from Oakville Cross Road from the east, there is a service entrance that is sometimes open if you want to avoid Highway 29.  If you approach the winery from the north on Highway 29, you will need to take a left turn across northbound traffic (which is not a pleasant experience on the busy weekend or on a rainy day!).

The gates to Opus One are closed outside business hours. However, there is enough room off of Highway 29 to pull off onto the driveway to get out of the flow of traffic.  

As you approach the winery from the main driveway, you will see its distinct architecture, which say is reminiscent of a spaceship.  There is ample parking on the north and south sides of the winery.  

As you walk to the main entrance, you are greeted by creme colored limestone columns, olive trees, grassy lawn and the large wooden doors.  

It is behind these doors where you find the concierge who will direct you to your tasting.   During renovations, a temporary tasting pavilion will be set up near the winery.  

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Our Tasting Experience

On our most recent visit, we chose the Opus One Tasting Appointment as this was the only tasting currently available during the renovation. This tasting consists of one 2 oz. pour of 2013 Opus One, 2015 Opus One, and Overture for $75. Wines by the glass were also available for purchase.

The concierge checked us in and walked with us to the tasting salon called the Partners’ Room. The check-in process was much like a visit to a high-end department store like Saks or Bergdorf’s.  

In the Partners’ Room (or Pavillion, during renovation) you can select wine by the glass or by the tasting flight. 

Seating is available in the Partners’ Room as well as outside the tasting room. Alternatively, you can climb the stairs and take in the views of the Vaca and Mayacamas Mountains as well as a good portion of the Napa Valley.

We planned for 90 minutes to enjoy the wines and walk the grounds.  Water and crackers are available upon request at no additional cost.  Feel free to ask the host questions about the wine and winery - if the room is not crowded, most are happy to visit with you for several minutes to answer any questions.  The staff has always been helpful in recommending additional tasting rooms, dining options, and lodging recommendations in the area.  

When you return your glasses to the tasting salon, you have the option to purchase bottles of the wines you tasted.  Opus One is distributed throughout the United States and the world, so check with the hostess in the Partners’ Room or Pavilion to find out if the wines are available in your state or hometown.

If you do purchase one or more bottles at Opus One, check out our article on getting your wines home safely.

Social Proof

Throughout the years, we’ve been sending friends and colleagues to this winery.  Most enjoy the experience, as do many online reviewers. Like us, the positive reviews highlight a serene tasting environment, knowledgeable staff, a relaxed pace, great views, and attentive but not pushy service.  

Most negative reviews of Opus One are on the topic of price and the winery not accommodating children and pets.  Also, some visitors prefer ‘warm’ country-cozy ambiance or the rustic elegance they experience at some other wineries. This winery’s ambiance is much more ‘cool’ and Neo Classical, true to the intention of combining European traditions with California wine.  There is only one style of wine to taste here, and some are disappointed in that as well.

Alternatives

We’ve visited 100 wineries in Napa Valley in the past 10 years, and as such, we’re able to provide recommendations for other wineries in the area should you find the price too high or you are simply not able to get in for a tasting.   

Wineries that allow children

Wineries that specialize in Bordeaux-style blends:

Other Cult Cabs:

Conclusions on Opus One Winery

If you like serene tastings and savoring one wine for 30 minutes or more, go here - you won’t regret it.  Also go if you just want to see what all the fuss is about. We do recommend going during the off-season or in the morning hours before the crowds descend.  We’ve never felt pressured to purchase wines after the tastings.  

If you are looking for a boisterous experience that never gets too serious about wine, don’t go here.  Don’t go here if you are looking for a glass of "cheap" wine or a bar-like experience.

If you are wanting to partake in a library tasting or a cellar tour, contact the winery and check when these tastings will be available again following construction.  

Cheers!

How to Check Wine When You Fly

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KnowWines has flown with wine bottles, beer bombers, liquor, and wine cases domestically (US) and internationally since 2000. Out of about 1000 bottles, we’ve had only one small beer bottle break! Here we give you the lowdown on 20 years of flying with booze (on any budget!).

Before we dive in, here are some reasons you might fly with wine:

  • Souvenir from business trip

  • Momento from a vacation

  • Traveling to a location with poor wine selection

  • Moving your household domestically and/or internationally

Planning to Travel with Wine

Before booking your airfare, here are a few things to consider:

  • Traveling one way with wine?  Use stackable luggage to reduce luggage fees.

  • Concerned about luggage weight on return flight? When flying domestically on an economy or premium economy ticket, the luggage weight limit is likely 50 lbs (if you go over this, there are additional fees).  If you are flying business or first class, the baggage allowance is typically 70 lbs per bag. Consider upgrading on your return flight for a larger luggage allowance.

  • Traveling with wine when it is over 70 F at your origin, connection, and destination?  Consider shipping as your wine might get “cooked” on the tarmac.

  • Do wines fly free? Some airlines like Southwest Airlines always have two free checked bags allowance. Other airlines, like Alaska Airlines, have Wines Fly Free promotion for Mileage Plan™ members only. In this promotion, one case (12 bottles) flies free in a cardboard box. Check with your airline for freebies and restrictions!

Start with a Hard-Sided Suitcase

You’ll be placing any wine you’re taking home from your wine country experiences in your checked bag (along with any other liquid over 100 mL or 3.4 ounces). The first step in protecting the wine bottle is the construction of your suitcase.

We strongly recommend a hard-sided suitcase. Why? When there is a luggage showdown in the belly of an airplane, a soft--sided bag versus golf clubs, golf clubs will likely win. Not good news for your wine!

If you are planning to travel regularly with six or more bottles of wine, consider investing in one of these VinGard Valise suitcases.  We’ve had ours for three years and love it. We also frequently loan it out to wine-loving friends.

Another option available online and at wineries are wine boxes with wheels and handles. Our experience is that these are much better than transporting a standard box of wine, but they are not as convenient as they could be. In general, they do the trick to get wine home safe and sound, but they have limitations. For a solo traveler they can be tricky to handle. Also, the wheels and strap combination are tricky - it’s a lot like adding an unwilling 50 lb toddler to your luggage! If you have a partner or driver who can help you maneuver luggage and the box (or are using a luggage cart) they are a great option.   

How to Keep Wine Cool When It’s Hot

Once you have arrived in wine country, check the forecast. If temperatures are over 70 F, you will need to find a way to keep your wines cool while you drive between destinations.  

Take a frozen food bag with you in your checked bag, or pick one up at a grocery store at your wine destination. This type of insulated bag with robust handles and foldability is great to take with you in the rental car if you plan to purchase a few wines each day.

Prevent your labels from getting wet by placing ice in a ziploc bag and wrapping that bag with newspaper or a towel from the hotel or AirBnB. Don’t place wine in the trunk of the car unless it is in a cooler. We love these two gallon freezer bags and always keep them with us in our suitcase for wine travel and any other travel needs.

So, you’ve kept your precious selections cool in the car. Don’t let them go to ruin on the airport tarmac! If the weather in your departing or connecting city will be over 70 F, have your wines shipped.  

Will Wine Freeze During Travel?

Flying with wine when it is cold?  A bottle of wine will not freeze until it is about 15 or 20 degrees F, and it will take a little while for wine to freeze, especially if it is insulated by your clothes in a suitcase or in a box containing styrofoam.  

However, if your travels take you to extremely cold climates, you may want to have it shipped professionally.  If you do travel to someplace like Alaska with a few bottles of wine and your luggage is delayed a day and or two, check the cork when it arrives to determine whether or not the wine has been compromised.  If the cork is pushed out a little bit then the wine likely froze during transit.

How Much Does a Bottle of Wine Weigh?

Wine bottles vary in size and weight, and unless your AirBnB or hotel room comes with a scale, estimating the weight can be tricky.  Bottles vary in size and weight due to a variety of factors, including marketing purposes or traditions in the region of origin.

As a rule of thumb, wine bottles weigh between 2  and 4 pounds. However, we know that when it comes to luggage fees, every ounce counts!  

Here are some wine bottle sizes and wine bottle weights you will come across.  I include some craft beer bombers, liquor examples for comparison.

  • A half bottle (or demi) of Riesling at 375 mL weighs 1 lb 9 ounces (708 grams)

  • A bottle of Whiskey at 700 mL weighs 2 lbs 9 ounces (1162 grams)

  • A Bordeaux-style bottle at 750 mL weighs 2 lb 10 ounces (1190 grams)

  • A bottle of Riesling at 750 mL weighs 2 lb 12 ounces (1247 grams)

  • A Belgian Beer bomber at 750 mL can weigh 3 lbs 6 ounces (1531 grams)

  • A bottle of Pinot Noir or Chardonnay in a Burgundy bottle at 750 mL can weigh 3 lbs 9 ounces (1616 grams)

  • A bottle of luxury cult Cabernet Sauvignon at 750 mL can weigh 4 lbs 5 oz (1956 grams)

 
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Invest in Wine Bottle Bags

One of the best wine travel hacks is to travel with wine bottle bags. They don’t take up space when empty, many are reusable, and most weigh under 2 ounces. The best wine bottle bags are reusable, and can accommodate liquor and beer bombers as well.  We’ve also used them to transport non-alcoholic bottles like olive oil and vinegar. Things we look for in a good wine bottle bag are a non-adhesive seal (reusable), a cushion of some sort, absorbent pads, material that is not transparent, and no sharp edges.  

We’ve used wine bottle bags for over ten years and find that you can get about three years of use out of them if you are traveling three to six times per year.  You can get some more life out of them if they separate at the seams by taping the edges with clear packing tape.

Here is our favorite wine travel bag.    

When Traveling, Don’t Buy Wine You Can Buy at Home

Don’t mess with flying with or shipping wine if you can get the same wine at home! In the tasting room, always ask, “Can I get this specific wine at home?”.  Most tasting room staff are happy to look up the availability of a wine in your country, state, or city.

Wines you should buy at the winery and consider taking home with you:

  • Wines you love and can only get at the winery

  • Wine you love that is sold at a discount at the winery

  • Wine that is not distributed to your state, or is only available in very small quantities or in a city far from your home

  • Wine from older vintages that may not be available at your hometown wine bottle shop

Economy Wine Carrier

No extra funds for luxury luggage or wine bottle bags?  No wine shipper near where you are traveling? Didn’t plan on buying a wine and came unprepared?  Never fear.

Simply place a couple of socks around the bottle and insert it into any bag (trash bag, Ziploc bag, hotel laundry bag).  With the remaining space in the bag, fill it with absorbent material like underwear, diapers, or clothing to provide some shock absorption.

Packing the Suitcase

Whether you are using wine bags or socks, we take the same approach to packing wines in our checked bags. Here’s our step-by-step guide:

  • Lay your empty suitcase on the floor, bed or other level surface.

  • Line the perimeter of the suitcase with shoes and other bulky items.

  • Place wines in the center of the suitcase.

  • Place clothing/soft material around the neck of the bottle.

  • Make sure the bottle won’t move around in the suitcase freely.  Loose wine in luggage is how the neck can get snapped.

Checking the Bag

Your bottles are safely secured inside your luggage and you are on your way to the airport.  Here are some tips based our previous experiences traveling with wine.

Rental Car Logistics

Traveling with a friend? Have them drop you off at the check-in station so that you don’t have to juggle heavy luggage on the rental car shuttle.

Traveling alone with a rental car?  I’ve had luck tipping the rental car return agent to drop me off in my rental car.  This option might not be available if the rental car return is very busy.

We don’t know how much it helps, but we always ask for a fragile sticker at the airport to put on the bag.  

Insurance

Check with your credit card and airline for insurance options. Some airlines will cover wine up to a certain value when it is checked in a cardboard box with styrofoam, however most will not.  

Fragile Sticker

I’ve noticed no difference in how my luggage has been handled when someone places a Fragile sticker on my bag.  However, that bright sticker can bring some temporary psychological relief during a hectic time!

Don’t Drink Your Wine As Soon As You Get Home

Once you get the wine home, your wine may suffer from temporary bottle shock (or bottle sickness).  This means that the wine might temporarily taste muted. Let the wine sit on its side for a week or two and it should return back to normal.  

While we don’t necessarily know what causes bottle shock, we do know that there are a lot of complex components in wine that can be negatively impacted by heat and shaking.  

Bottle shock does not occur with all wines. A younger wine might recover quickly, while an older wine or wines heavy in sediment might take longer to recover from bottle shock.

Know the Rules and Pack Cash or Check when Flying Internationally

When flying domestically and into the United States, TSA rules do not limit the amount of wine you can check, with one exception: if your wine has more than 24% alcohol. Since most wines have less than 24% alcohol, this is not a problem with the TSA.  

Some states do have regulations on the amount of wine you can bring in to the state for personal use.  It’s best practice to check your state law online especially if you live in a “control state.”

If you are flying into a “dry” country, or country that limits alcohol import due to religious regions, check with that country’s equivalent to TSA for rules and regulations.  

We always declare wines when we are traveling internationally.  Simply declare the items on your customs form (paper or electronic) or at the Global Entry kiosk.  Enter the amount of goods. If the amount is under the exception, the customs agent will wave you through.  Sometimes the customs agent will not charge you if the amount is near the exception. If it is over the exception, they will calculate the charge and you can pay with US currency or with a personal check.  The charge is typically about 4%, so for $1000 in wine this could be $40.

Shipping Wine

So you’ve found a great wine while traveling.  Ask the winery about their shipment options, as they can vary significantly between wineries.  Costs may vary due to the distance the wine needs to travel, whether the wine is being shipped to a home or business, how many wines are in the shipment, and the rate negotiated with the shipper. Most wineries will ship directly to you when temperatures are cooler, or will use refrigeration during hot months.

If you’ve purchased bottles from several different wineries and want to ship those, use a wine shipper like the ones listed below for temperature controlled shipping options:

Summary

We hope you find that collecting wine and bringing it home from your travels is a fun and rewarding adventure.  It’s provided us great pleasure, especially the part when we share our finds with friends and family.

Cheers!











Harvest Inn in St. Helena, Napa Valley

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Hotels are in high demand in central Napa Valley and there aren’t a whole lot of options. Harvest Inn Saint Helena, a luxury hotel in the central part of wine country, offers a cozy, small-town feeling (and will also help you to avoid resort fees). Read our review and consider putting this inn on your California wine map!  

Things to Consider Before Booking with Harvest Inn

So, you’ve decided you would like to go to Napa Valley. Congratulations! Now it’s time to book a hotel. If your main intentions are wine tasting and fine dining, choosing lodging in the smaller towns north of Napa will put you right in the middle of wine country (and save you the time you’d spend driving back and forth from Napa and Sonoma).

Harvest Inn in St. Helena is ideal for 40+ travelers looking for a luxurious experience that is sophisticated yet unpretentious, without over-the-top amenities. It’s perfect for solo travelers or couples who wants a rustic yet elegant setting setting in the heart of Napa Valley.

Before booking this hotel, think about how often you plan to be in the town of Napa, as the hotel is over 30 minutes away and traffic is often congested on Highway 29.

This hotel has several nice amenities: two outdoor pools, two hot tubs, a small fitness center, and easy access to the sidewalks of St. Helena and roadways for biking. Some spa services are available with advance notice (the spa is located near the fitness center or you can arrange in-room services). Harvest Inn also provides convenient, on-demand, free shuttle service to nearby restaurants and wineries.  

The Harvest Inn St. Helena, an Overview

Location

The Harvest Inn is located at the southwest edge of the quaint town of St. Helena in the heart of Napa Valley. It is nestled next to Whitehall Lane Winery, just off Highway 29.  

St. Helena is a fairly rural area. There are no shuttles or public transportation options from St. Helena or the Inn to nearby cities. If you are flying to California, you’ll need to rent a car, hire a private driver, or use rideshare apps like Uber or Lyft.

In addition to Harvest Inn’s on-site restaurant, the hotel is just a 20-minute walk to several well-regarded St. Helena restaurants, including Goose and Gander, Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch, and Charter Oak. The Inn is also within walking distance of Sunshine Foods Grocery Store, Dean and DeLuca gourmet store, and a few of the best wineries in Napa Valley.  

The Harvest Inn St Helena is:

75 miles north of San Francisco International Airport

70 miles southwest of Sacramento International Airport

68 miles northwest of Oakland International Airport and

28 miles east of Santa Rosa Airport

History and Construction

The hotel opened in 1975 with 25 rooms, and now has a total of 78 guest rooms across 17 brick and stone cottages. The cottages are grouped into four or five “neighborhoods” with walkways, green space, and pools. A line of evergreen trees helps separate the hotel from the two-lane highway, and over 300 magnificent redwood trees dot the eight acre hotel property. (And here’s a fun fact: there are over 2 million bricks on the property!)

The property has had a few different owners over the years, including chef Charlie Palmer. In 2018, the day-to-day operations were taken over by Woodside Hotel Group, an independent and family-owned chain of California hotels.  

Room Details

The rooms are renowned for their spaciousness. Room size starts at 350 square feet, though many are closer to 500 square feet. The Harvest Inn manor room is over 1000 square feet!

Most rooms have a wood fireplace (there are about 20 rooms with gas fireplaces and 14 rooms without fireplaces at all). Adjoining rooms are available.  

Each room appears to have either a patio or balcony.  Several rooms on the west side have full vineyard views (Whitehall Lane Vineyards) as well as a full view of the Mayacamas Mountains. These west-facing rooms also offer great sunset views! A few of these rooms also have private hot tubs.

There are about 22 second-story rooms, so if you have heavy luggage, ask for one of the ground level rooms or assistance with luggage from staff at check-in and check-out.

We stayed in one of the Fountain rooms at the east side of the property with peek-a-boo views of vineyards and the Mayacamas mountain range.When I arrived, there was a free bottle of wine in the room from an adjacent winery.

Each room is designed a little differently, though exposed brick and dark wood are common throughout. In our room, there was ample closet space and a large dresser. The room provided two bathrobes and pairs of slippers, as well as an umbrella. The flat screen TV provided premium TV channels, and the WiFi speed was fast and convenient for multiple devices. The desk was a comfortable space for writing or working. The mini-fridge was stocked with still water, sparkling water, and juice, and the room offered several publications on local events, wineries, restaurants, activities, and tours. The bathroom was spacious, with a natural stone shower separate from the updated tub. The king-sized room had a large vanity space for spreading out toiletries and beauty products. Hand soaps, shampoos, and toiletries were provided by C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries.    

Amenities

The Harvest Inn has free on-site parking, including two electric car charging stations. Free wifi is available in the rooms and in the common areas. The small on-site fitness center is equipped with basic fitness equipment, including treadmills and weights.

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There is an on-site spa with three treatment rooms, and guests can arrange for in-room spa services for an additional cost. Spa services include massage, body treatments (like exfoliation), and facials. Wellness for Cancer massage experts are available. We suggest planning ahead for any of these services rather than waiting until your arrival so that you get the service(s) you desire. During our stay, it rained, though we learned that guests could get receive some spa services outside under the redwood trees during better weather conditions. How relaxing!

The Harvest Inn has a relationship with the nearby Silverado Golf Course, home of the PGA tour.  Again, call ahead and the very helpful concierge can help you set up tee times - with the wonderful mediterranean climate, this course is likely quite popular!

Free wine tastings with nearby winery partners like Salvestrin Winery, HALL Winery, Whitehall Lane Winery, Merryvale Vineyards, and Heitz Wine Cellars are within walking distance of the hotel. Additional wineries within walking distance are Sutter Home, The Prisoner Wine Company, V Sattui, Pahlmeyer Wines, Meiomi Wines, Louis M Martini Winery, and Prager Winery and Port Works,

Finally, if you’re looking to keep up to date on local or national news while sipping a glass of wine, free daily newspapers are available at the Harvest Bar.

Grounds and Event Space

In addition to the nearly half-a-century old redwood trees and neighboring vineyards, the gardens include a Koi pond, evergreen and flowering shrubs, terraces, lawns, two swimming pools and two hot tubs, a botanical garden, and a few garden beds to supply the restaurant.  

Unique artwork from St. Helena’s own Aerena Galleries and Gardens is on display. If you are interested in learning more about the art, someone at Aerena will come to the Inn to explain it further, or you can bike/walk into town (30-minute walk) and check out their beautiful exposed brick showroom.

In the event that business or a wedding (perhaps your own?) takes you to the valley, the Harvest Inn can help you with either. There are several areas in the property that include a mix of indoor and outdoor garden, lawn, and covered patio space. For weddings or other large events, you can rent out the entire Harvest Inn restaurant. (And hey, if you decide you want to elope,  they can help with that, too!)

Dining

Harvest Inn boasts a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Most of the food is locally sourced, including a few items from their own gardens. All meals are served in either a main dining room or on a covered terrace. Room service is also available most days.  

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We enjoyed breakfast there several times. Their delicious Eggs Benedict featured english muffins from St. Helena’s famous Modal Bakery. Coffee is available to go in the morning, or you can sit and enjoy some French press coffee with your breakfast.  

Adjacent to the dining room, the Harvest Bar features wines from the area as well as artisan cocktails. Beers on tap include two craft beers made on site and other beers from the region.

Other Factors to Consider

The Harvest Inn is not for budget travelers or travelers who want to pay for their rooms with chain hotel points. It is also not a good fit for travelers who need to be in close proximity to Napa or city activities. It is not ideal for travelers seeking modern, minimalistic design, a large swimming pool for doing laps, or a large gym. There are a limited number of dog-friendly rooms.  

Social Proof

In addition to my our experience, other reviewers say that they are not disappointed when they pay a little more to get vineyard views. Guests staying near the adult-only pool report that it can be noisy until the pool closes around 11 pm. Other guests comment that the gym is rather small.  Last, some guests are disappointed that the bar and restaurant are closed on Monday if they are tired from a full day of activities and want to stay in for the evening. There are, however, a few places in town that do deliver food and several restaurants within 20 minutes walking distance that are open on Mondays.    

Alternatives

If you find that the Harvest Inn is fully booked, here are three alternatives.

Wine Country Inn in St. Helena is about the same age and has similar ambiance at about the same price point. We enjoyed a stay here a few years ago. More cottages have vineyard views and there are views of the Vaca Mountains. The rooms are a little more dated and I found the breakfast at Harvest Inn to have a much better selection. Here are a few more details about Wine Country Inn:

  • Located just north of St. Helena

  • Nestled in the vineyards

  • Pool and hot tub

  • Breakfast available, no lunch or dinner

  • No resort fee, limited spa services, no gym

Wanting the same ambiance but a little further down the road in Yountville?  We recommend the Hotel Yountville. Their breakfasts are exceptional! Here are a few more details:

  • Boutique hotel with exposed stone walls

  • Breakfast and lunch available, many Michelin rated restaurants within 10 minutes walk, or take in-room dining

  • Pool and hot tub

  • Large spa

  • Patios and balconies, no vineyard views

Last but not least, if rustic elegance is not your style and you want the newest and most luxurious hotel accommodations in St. Helena, try Los Alcobas just south of Beringer winery. Here are a few more details:

  • Marriott hotel for points-accumulating aficionados

  • Large and luxurious spa

  • 10-15 minute walk to downtown St Helena

  • 24 hour fitness facility

  • Restaurant headed by Top Chef alum Chris Cosentino

  • Luxury modern design

Conclusion

The Harvest Inn in St. Helena is perfect for couples or solo travelers who want to get away from it all and enjoy a bit of small town ambiance. It’s a very convenient and centralized homebase for wine tasting and dining and has luxury hotel amenities like spacious rooms and fine dining, without the resort fees. It is a good fit for people wanting a warm, rustic, and luxurious experience.

Learn more about out this rustic yet luxurious inn!

Authentic Wine Travel for Women: Free E-Course by KnowWines

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Recently, KnowWines founder Jolene read an article by Sarah Mikutel with this title: “Women don’t need to be in a crisis to travel.” Two points in the article resonated with Jolene right away. The first was that Americans have become enamored with busyness and the hustle, rather than authenticity and intentionality. The second was that women only find it acceptable to travel and spend time with our minds after we hit a “crisis.”

Mikutel found that if you ask most women who travel (including Jolene), they are actually not miserable or escaping a crisis. Women typically travel independently because we’ve reached a point in our lives where we’ve met their intrinsic human needs (physiological, love/belonging, and safety) and are seeking experiences to build self-esteem and self-respect, a lá Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.   

When seeking self-esteem and self-respect, we naturally seek mastery, independence, freedom, and competence, all of which lead to self-confidence. In addition to pursuing these higher-order accomplishments when traveling, we also love learning more about the pleasurable aspects of those basic needs — food, beverage, clothing, shelter, relationships. Traveling to wine country destinations affords ample opportunity for all these pursuits.

The world of women’s travel — and concurrently the world of wine — is rapidly changing.  Around 1% of business travelers were women 40 years ago. Today it’s 40%! The keyword search independent or solo female travel grew by 52% between 2016 and 2017. The average age of women adventure travelers is 47. Today, women are traveling more with friends or independently than with family. And more and more often, women are traveling to wine country. This makes sense — after all, women purchase 80% of wine for home consumption, and the GenX generation, which includes the most women travelers, purchases more wine per capita than Boomers or Millennials.  

With such a rapid increase in women travelers to wine country, the travel industry is working hard to keep pace. However, Jolene finds that much of the travel literature for wine country is out of step with current trends and still geared toward men (light on detail and heavy on top 10 lists and trophy experiences). When travel articles are geared towards women, it’s to younger women looking for more of a drinking experience than an intentional travel experience that incorporates tasting and other cultural activities. When articles about wine tourism take the art of winemaking seriously, they often go far to the other extreme, aiming at wine industry insiders seeking “super geeky” wine experiences that may not be well suited for one’s inaugural or second trip to wine country.

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Many women travelers prepare for trips meticulously, constructing Vision Boards or just writing out ideas about our ideal experiences. Rarely did Jolene find information out there that gave a holistic framework for wine country travel for the average woman adventure traveler. That’s why she created this free guide!

This course, Authentic Wine Travel for Women Over 40, is not a catalog of wine regions to visit. Nor is it a simple checklist for how to take the best tour of wine country. Instead, it’s a guide to making the most of your experience when you travel to wine regions. The goal of the course is to help you create a journey that is inspiring, deeply personal, and that, like a fine wine, will hold value for years to come.  

If the grape vine could speak, it would tell us that about 2000 years ago it tempted humans to take it and plant it in places it would thrive, which just happened to be some of the most beautiful and bucolic regions of the world. Because many wine-producing regions are naturally beautiful, one does not need to be a wine enthusiast to enjoy travel to wine country. The vines can simply serve as a beautiful backdrop to outdoor pursuits like walking, biking, or hot-air ballooning. But for the wine enthusiast, those vines, and what they produce, can inspire the woman traveller to learn the lore of the region and the personalities of the vignerons, and to experience new tastes, smells, and textures. This course endeavors to give you an holistic take on the myriad possibilities for growth, learning, and fun that wine country can provide the female traveler.