How to Plan a Wine Tour

Years ago, vacations were planned around national monuments, natural wonders, Uncle Joe�s farm or Grandma�s house. Now planning a vacation for family or friends can cover all kinds of bases. There are eco-vacations, that explore the rain forests and attempt to combat global warming; there are �volunteer vacations� that may involve working with Habitat for Humanity, there are spa getaways that indulge the body and mind�.and there are wine tours! The opportunity to experience the sights, sounds, scents and of course taste of wine!

The United States has been moving up the list of wine consuming countries. In 2006 we were in third place, behind France and Italy. The U.S. was responsible for consuming 11% of the wine produced in the world. This accounted for some 716 million gallons of wine. The current prediction by the International Wine & Spirit Record is that the US will move into first place by the year 2010, supplanting France. The market value of the wine business is expected to grow to $117 billion dollars!

This interest in wine and wine making has not gone unnoticed by the travel industry. A quick glance at some of the major tour companies shows that you have the opportunity to experience the wine country of California, France, Spain, Italy or South America. These tours can be hours or days long, combine a cruise and bus tour, involve a luxury train trip or stretch limo, a hot air balloon ride or a stay in a chateaus.
Let�s look first at the United States offerings. If you�re interested in the West Coast and have limited time you can start with a day tour with California Wine Tours. They depart every morning from various hotels in the Napa or Sonoma Valleys on a trip to 4 or 5 wineries. There is even an excursion from San Francisco. If none of the prearranged tours suit your group they will make private arrangements for you and your price will depend on the number of people and the number of wineries you wish to visit. They can even arrange to pick your group up at the airport and transfer them to their hotels. Boxed breakfasts and lunches are also available.

If you have a bit more time and want to combine some more sightseeing consider the 4 or 5 day trips on Cruise West. This small cruise line specializes in the small ship experience. They offer short cruises round trip from San Francisco with stops in the Napa Valley, cooking with wine demonstrations at the Culinary Institute of America and a balloon excursion to a local winery.

Want to stay on dry land? How about the romance of the rails? The Grand Luxe Railway, formerly the American Orient Express, offers a 4 days trip from Seattle to San Francisco with a stop in the Napa Valley for wine tasting.

There are also coach tours offered by Collette, Tauck, Brendan & Trafalgar that move up and down the west coast. They range from 5 to 15 days and are all considered first class or deluxe tours.
Is your group more interested in European wines and wineries? Not a problem. Once again, many of the major tour companies are offering guided tours that emphasize local food and wines. There�s a Flavors of Italy tour offered by Globus along with a Bordeaux Wine Country Tour.

There are also smaller more specialized companies that offer groups unique opportunities to experience wine culture. You can take a group of 6 to 16 on a luxury holiday in France or Spain. These trips include stays in family run hotels, the opportunity to taste the local cuisine and to travel on the high speed trains from Paris. Your meals are included as is the service of a wine guide.
There are also Champagne Tours, with visits to Taittinger and Veuve Clicquot and the opportunity to purchase champagne at reduced prices.

Also, not to be missed are the wine regions of Argentina and Chile. Your group can travel to South American and have the opportunity to spend time in Buenos Aries and Santiago while visiting the Mendoza wine regions and travel on the Chile Wine Train.

Work with a Travel Professional to choose the company and tour that will be most suited to your group. They will be able to work with the tour companies to perhaps include special events for your group. They may even be able to put together private excursions, based on your interests and group size.