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Travel & Outdoors

Guide to Napa on a Budget

September 3, 2011 12:00 AM

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(credit: Michelle Ventress)

(credit: Michelle Ventress)

By Michelle Ventress

Do you feel like you need to take out a second mortgage to afford a trip to Napa? Luckily, with a little smart shopping and some insider’s knowledge and you can experience Napa for a lot less than you might think. Affordable (and free!) wine tastings, live entertainment, and local shopping make for an easy on your wallet day or weekend getaway. In addition to the traditional wine tasting, there are plenty of antique stores, art galleries, boutique shops, a public market and much more lining the streets along the Napa River.
napa valley welcome center Guide to Napa on a Budget

Downtown Wine Tasting Card
Napa Downtown Association
1310 Napa Town Center
Napa, CA 94559
(707) 257-0322
Hours: depend on individual tasting room
Price: $25
napadowntown.com/wine_card.html

The Napa Downtown Wine Tasting Card gets you tastings at 12 different tasting rooms in Downtown Napa all for $25. The official rules say each tasting is an additional $0.10, but we were never charged any more than the original card purchase price. Plus, all of the tasting rooms are within about six blocks of each other and the cards don’t expire till the end of the year. We especially like Bounty Hunter Wine Bar where you should ask about their impressive Cabernet Sauvignon and Wineries of Napa Valley that runs specials every week and feature beer tastings too. Each establishment determines what a “taste” is, so be prepared for a single glass to a full flight. The Napa Downtown Wine Tasting Card can be purchased at any of the participating tasting rooms, the Napa Visitor’s Center, the Napa Chamber of Commerce or online.

Insider’s Tip: There’s plenty of parking available across from the Visitor’s Center located at 600 Main Street.

mason cellar Guide to Napa on a Budget

Mason Cellars
714 First Street
Napa, CA 94559
(717) 255-0658
Hours: Thurs to Mon – 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Price: $10 to $25
www.masoncellars.com

This family owned and operated winery was founded in 1993 and offers one of the very few remaining complimentary wine tastings in the Napa Valley. The tasting room is tucked along First Street near the Oxbow Public Market and visitors may choose between five different wines or try the whole list. In addition to the free tasting, friendly conversation and just plain fun tasting room, the wines are reasonably priced. No bottle will cost you more than $25 and there are even a few that will set you back a mere $10. The value is impressive and you’ll be glad you stopped in.

Insider’s Tip: If you’d like to purchase a bottle of wine, they’ll happily hold it for you so you don’t have to tote it to your next tastings.

oxbow market Guide to Napa on a Budget

(credit: Michelle Ventress)

Oxbow Public Market
610 First Street
Napa, CA 94559
(707) 226-6529
Hours: daily- 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
www.oxbowpublicmarket.com

Oxbow Public Market really has something for everyone and is open to the public nearly every day of the year. Filled with individual shops, you can choose from scrumptious cupcakes and artisan cheese, browse antiques, listen to live music or sample barbecue, all within the same building. Every Tuesday and Thursday from 7:30 a.m. till noon a farmers’ market is held the parking lot and parking is free all day, every day.

Insider’s tip: Grab something for a picnic on the patio and enjoy watching boasts float down the Napa River.

Michelle Ventress lives in Sacramento with her husband and two dogs. When she’s not writing or traveling she enjoys spending time working in her garden and volunteering.
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