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Let’s not kid ourselves, I love wine tasting.  I am extremely lucky here in British Columbia to have the ‘wine country’ (e.g. Oliver, Pentincton, Naramata Bench) and all the other places in interior British Columbia that grow grapes.  Because of the warm climate in interior B.C. (it is desert, after all) it is a great place to grow wine.

Did I mention that I love wine?  I am by no means a wine connoisseur, but I do love wine tasting.  In fact, one of my favourite travel memories involves riding a bicycle in Mendoza, Argentina through the wineries and hopping on and off the bike for a tasting.  It wasn’t the safest, riding on a bicycle slightly intoxicated, I have a distinct memory of riding the bicycle after touring at least six wineries, and giggling with joy and saying “this is the most awesome trip everrrrrr!” while a big truck drove past me.

Most recently I have been to more local wine tasting (e.g. the interior of British Columbia), and have not made it to Napa or Sonoma in California yet.  When I went last year, I think I brought nine bottles of wine back with me.  At around $25 (or more) a bottle of wine, that’s at least $300!  I’m sure it is even easier to spend more than that (e.g. $500+).  Which was more than the long weekend trip cost, by itself.  This year, I toned it down a little and develop some self control strategies that helped control the wine buying-spree.

Here are some tips on how to survive a wine tasting trip with your wallet and budget relatively unscathed:

Have a Designated Driver

If you’re really wanting to spend as little as possible on your wine trip, be the designated driver.  Not only will your group save money (because hiring a car/truck for the wine touring can cost upwards of $100 a day) but they will be grateful because you volunteered.

Don’t ‘Taste’ At Each One

Ahead of time, if you agree on the number of wineries you want to go to and if there are any wineries your friends or partner really want to go to then you should opt out.  Tasting fees vary from $3 to $5 in the Okanagan of B.C. but it usually gets ‘reimbursed’ if you buy the wine.  Of course most people end up buying the wine after they taste, so if you avoid the tasting you will avoid the temptation.  It’s all about self-control here, guys!

Making a list of wineries that you want to visit ahead of time will also help you narrow down where you want to focus your energy (ahem, money).  Similar to making a list when you go grocery shopping to avoid impulse buying, making a list of wineries you want to visit ahead of time can help you avoid impulse wine-buying.

Say ‘No’ to Wine Club

Warm weather, delicious wines, and relaxation can be a recipe for disaster… wine club disaster, that is!  Joining a wine club may seem like a good deal with one of your favourite wineries, but it can be costly in the long run.  Although you would usually get 10% off the bottle of wine, having a case delivered on a monthly basis might not be necessary and is another commitment to pay off.  Better off not buying $20+ bottle of wines regularly…besides, Forbes says even wine journalists can’t tell the difference between cheap and expensive wine!

Go Backpacking in Wine Country

The beauty of going wine tasting in Mendoza was that a) I could only bring two bottles of wine back without having to pay duty in Canada and b) I was backpacking and could only carry so much in my bag.  This really helps you prioritize which bottle you want to bring back and deters you from a wine buying spree.  Also, Mr. Hugo was the name of the self-guided bike rental wine touring place I went with and it only cost $8 to use the bikes for the whole day!

For other ways on saving money at your next wine tour, you can check out tips on how to visit Napa on a budget, check out the Nomadic Matt blog.  Maybe Napa will be my next destination!

Readers, do you like to head to ‘wine country’?  Where’s your favourite place?

Article comments

May says:

My sister & I toured the Okanagan in 2014 from Osoyoos to Lake Country and we must have hit 8-10 wineries. The don’t miss: Grey Monk in Lake Country (awesome whites), Jackson Triggs/Iniskillen in Oliver (Iniskillen Ice wine is to die for!) and Mission Hill in Kelowna ( wonderful tour & grounds).

Young says:

@May- I loved the clean/modern look of Mission Hill!

This is awesome, awesome advice! I’m actually gearing up for my first foray into the BC wine region this coming summer, as part of a bigger trip for a family wedding, and keeping the costs down is a big focus. I think I’ll have to adopt most of these strategies, and look into how much wine – if any – is reasonable to expect to bring back home to Ontario, haha. That alone might limit me to one or two bottles to drink on the trip itself!

Young says:

@Des- I LOVE BC Wine region lol. There’s a marathon called “Half Corked” here where you basically run a half marathon from winery to winery.