Why does it cost so much to go wine tasting? There are many reasons why tasting wine in Napa and Sonoma can be very costly. Here, I’ll explain why wineries charge such high tasting fees. I’ll also cover the other big cost for a day of tasting, transportation.
Average Tasting Fee Prices
Napa: Wine tasting fees in Napa now average $90 for lower tier tastings and $140 for higher tier.
Sonoma: Wine tasting fees in Sonoma now average $50 for lower tier tastings and $90 for higher tier.
Those tasting prices are for wine only. They do not include many types of interesting experiences or vineyard views and certainly not food pairings.
According to the 2023 Direct to Consumer Wine Report, which reviewed winery information for 2022 (Prices have gone up since then), the lowest tier wine tasting in Napa was an average of $81 per person. For the higher tier tastings the average was $128. For Sonoma County, the average tasting fee was $38 on the low end and $72 on the high end, but that also depends where in Sonoma County you are tasting as some areas of the county average higher than others.
Why Aren’t Tastings Free
Many years ago, wine tasting in Sonoma and Napa was free. People would come to the area to taste the wines and decide what to purchase. Why isn’t it still free? The success of California’s fine wine regions, eventually brought more and more people to visit Napa and Sonoma to come and taste the wines. But as the number of people coming to taste wines grew, the necessity to charge for those tastings grew.
Today, a large percentage of people come to wine country to do tasting tours for a couple of days at a time, but the number of bottles purchased per person per winery is only 1 bottle. Many wineries receive guests who taste the wine but don’t purchase anything. The overhead for a winery to conduct tastings is huge. Wineries have to employ staff to pour wine and more staff to manage the wine tasting operations of the winery. Then, they have to pour wine for guests who might not purchase anything, which means the winery now has fewer bottles to sell. For wine producers who do not have a tasting option where they make their wine also have to pay rent for a tasting room lounge. Whether a tasting lounge or a space at their winery, they also have all the other overhead of utilities, supplies, insurance, etc. to maintain a tasting space. Not to mention the cost of wine glasses, which break often!
But that alone doesn’t justify some of the very high tasting prices? True, but some wineries charge more because having low tasting prices encouraged more tasters but fewer people that buy wine. Their thinking is that if you can’t afford the tasting price, you won’t be able to afford to take wine home.
All of this is why the price of tasting wine for the day can get very expensive.
Wine tasting is fun, partly because it makes you intoxicated! And driving under the influence is very bad!
Many people think they can just Uber or Lyft around Wine Country, but it is much harder to get those rides than you realize. You are very likely to miss your tasting appointment times!
There are 3 responsible ways to get around for a day of tasting:
You have your own designated driver with you. We have people book our tour packages all the time with this option (we set up the package of tasting experiences and give them directions between the wineries since cell service can be spotty in Wine Country!
We can set you up with a designated driver who will drive your car or rental (this can be cost-effective if you have a car large enough to fit your whole group.) With this option you will be responsible the price of gas as well.
We can set you up with a driver and a vehicle large enough to fit your group.
What’s the price? For a designated driver our price is $360 for the day. For a car and driver our price is determined by the number of people (thus the size of the vehicle): For a car to take up to 3 people our price for the day is $810. For between 4 and 6 people, $928 and between 7 and 12 people, $1310.
Why is the price as high as it is? For a designated driver, it is the going rate because it is not easy to find designated driver employees. If you choose that option, you also have to pay for the gas yourself. If you choose the driver and vehicle option, you not only have the employee expense, but gas in California is the highest of any state! Plus, the cost of the vehicles, maintenance, insurance, etc.
Transporation and Tasting Fees are the most expensive items you’ll face when doing a day of wine tasting, but the price is well worth it!