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How to Experience the Wine Country on a Budget

It’s no secret that Northern California wine country is a must-visit destination. But expensive tastings, case purchases, and Michelin-starred meals can add up quickly.

Wine country doesn’t have to be a blowout of a trip. From free tastings to epic picnic lunches, we’ve compiled the best of budget-friendly wine country in both Napa Valley and Sonoma County. (Yes, picnic lunches can be epic.)

Wine Tastings


Obviously, part of the point of going to wine country is to get out into the vineyards to take in the gorgeous scenery and see where the wine-making magic happens. But downtown Napa has a wealth of tasting rooms within town, too. The Downtown Wine Tasting Card gets you tastes at twelve of them, for $25. The tasting rooms might ask for a ten-cent tasting fee, but most will likely let that slide. In addition to being a great deal, no designated driver is required.

When you do get out to the vineyards, coupons can be printed for two-for-one or free tastings at some of the Valley’s hot spots, no less. This Napa Tourist Guide has a wealth of coupons available—we recommend checking out Beringer, Rutherford Hill, and Silverado Vineyards for wine, and Domaine Chandon and Mumm for bubbly.


By and large, Sonoma can be considered Napa’s more laid-back, less expensive sibling. With a farm-friendly vibe and plenty of tasty wine options, it’s definitely worth the visit. Of course, there are plenty of high-end options in both downtown Sonoma and Healdsburg up north, but you’ll easily find plenty of wineries worth visiting that haven’t given into the pricier approach.

Cline Cellars is a great first stop—delicious wines can be tasted for free (sometimes they’ll charge $1 for the specialty varietals, but not always), and the stunning property is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. Just down the road, Larson Family Winery will pour a wide selection of wines for $5, a fee that’s waived should you buy a bottle.

Read more: Lauren Sloss, Fodors

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