The cost of tasting an estate California bottle of wine has escalated since the pandemic altered our lives (just one more inflation hit.) There are a few ways to mitigate these escalating prices with a tool known as the Wine Passport.
Wineries use tasting fees to thin out the drinking crowd, generate a little revenue, establish themselves as a premier estate while incentivizing you to join their wine club. How many times have you heard, “If one of you joins our wine club today, we’ll wave your hundred dollars worth of tasting fees?” Or of course, you may purchase two bottles of wine at $40. They’ll wave a tasting for $100+ worth of wine.
So just join the club. See our thoughts on wine clubs here.
Tasting fees are a marketing tool plain and simple. It’s become common throughout California appellations and AVA’s from Temecula to Monterey to Napa. While there are still a few wineries offering complementary tastings, the majority of tastings run $10 to $150 and average $20.
One way to avoid this cost is via Wine Passports. The Atascadero Chamber of Commerce leads the pack with them.
Atascadero is a $75 one-year pass for 53 wineries (plus some breweries & restaurants) throughout Paso Robles but mostly Atascadero & Templeton. All three cities are within 10 miles of each other. The pass is good for one visit per winery. If you visit each and every winery tasting -$150 passport fee for two you save $1,970! We hear that was a good year for wine.
PriorityWinePass.com is a vendor offering California wine tasting passports by region. As an example you can purchase a passport good for Napa, Temecula, Lodi, Sierra Gold Country, Ventura in the Central Valley.
As an example six Lodi wineries offer complementary membership for the day with free tasting and purchase discount. On the opposite end is Napa where the pass is good for 2-for-1 tastings at 120 wineries from Calistoga down to Rockingham. Though sometimes it’s just a discount on tasting & wine.
The Cost of a Passport?
Atascadero’s Central Wine Passport is $75 for 53 wineries during 2023 (one time complimentary tasting at each winery.)
Priority Wine Pass has a three-day pass setting you back $40, a 30 day pass $50 and one-year pass set you back $60 and good for a year throughout California at 400 wineries (mostly 2-1 tasting fees.)
Temecula offers a passport at $50 for five regular flight tastings at 31 participating wineries on weekdays.
Sonoma offers their passport for one calendar year, mostly 2-1 tastings and good for two people at 51 wineries. The cost and benefits will shortly be announced.
Placer Wine & Ale Trail Pass is a $40 pass to 30 wineries & brew houses good from May 15 to August 31, 2023. Benefits run from ‘member for a day’ free tasting to receiving a ‘commemorative sticker’.
The Folsom Wine Pass is available on iPhones. Since we’re not iPhone users we cannot vouch for it.
We could go on for a while but you get the picture. Search the Internet for your destination name with ’wine tasting passport.’ As an example in Woodinville, WA, this search results in a passport at Woodenvillewinecountry.com at $99. The pass is good for one calendar year at 423 wineries.
You’ll find your best opportunity for stretching your dollars tasting estate California Bottles of Wine with a passport.
Some notes on our wine ranking system.
Bill & Erin Hodge write about California Wine, the estates & winemakers producing them and educational information about Vino. Living in California Wine Country provides a front row seat to the places you want to visit the most here in the Golden State.
– -✰ means -What’s next on your list of wines
-✰ means -Not liking it too much
✰ means -We’ll drink this wine, especially if it’s hosted!
✰+ means -You’ve got our attention and we might buy this wine.
✰+ + means -We’re hooked and we’re going to buy this wine.
When you see -✰/✰+ with a slash, it means we disagree.