When it comes to wine-themed travel, one of the most romantic ideas many travelers have is to book a vineyard stay. Sipping wine produced onsite, evening strolls through the vines, enjoying conversations with fellow wine aficionados – what’s not to like?
Recently, during our wine weekend in Walla Walla, we booked a stay at the Girasol Vineyard, located south of Walla Walla where many of the area’s most well-known vineyards are. The gorgeous property is quite literally surrounded by wineries on all sides – you can even walk to a couple of them. All the photos here were taken by me at Girasol.
The property makes a great case study for 5 things I think you need to know about booking a vineyard stay.
1. Vineyards are pretty quiet places 11 months out of the year.
I think a lot of people picture a vineyard stay as an opportunity to mingle with winemakers and pretend like you have your own grape empire for a weekend. You should know that wineries don’t have a lot of action going on with the exception of harvest, which happens in the fall. There is no grape stomping any other time of year, so if you want that experience, plan ahead. Instead, look for other activities: winemaker dinners, guided tours, educational classes, excursions, etc. These properties are typically owned/operated by locals, which means you basically have an at-your-service concierge to help with planning efforts.
2. If you’re staying on a vineyard, you’ll typically require a car to get around.
I know this seems weird to mention, but sometimes – like, say, in rural France, or in hectic South America – you don’t want to do a lot of driving, especially if you want to do a lot of wine sampling. Staying on a vineyard pretty much guarantees that you’ll need a car to get around.
Don’t have a designated driver? Research local options before you arrive and book a driver. (You might ask your host for tips – for example, in Walla Walla, there are drivers who will drive your vehicle and take you anywhere, or have smaller vans and keep it simple, so you can spend your budget on the wine.)
3. You don’t have to be crazy about wine to stay on a vineyard.
I know it might seem counter-intuitive to go to a vineyard for a weekend stay if you don’t like wine. However, every wine region in the world I have been to has these things in common:
- lots of coffee drinkers and cafe culture
- gastronomy, gastronomy, gastronomy
- many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors – walks, hikse, etc.
It’s a little known secret that many winemakers like and drink beer regularly because otherwise they can start to get a bit wined-out. I have also stayed in two different vineyards – Girasol being one of them – that offers guests beer instead of wine. After a day of many sips of wine, a beer is an effervescent palate cleanser.
As for the gastronomic aspects of vineyards, most vineyard hotels offer a hot breakfast. Girasol’s breakfast was superb – one hot dish of the day, fantastic coffee (with a milk frother that I have decided to buy for my home), fresh pastries from the local bakery, and other goodies. Even a non-wine lover can appreciate starting the day with home-cooked treats.
4. Vineyards usually have a very small number of rooms. That’s a good thing and a bad thing.
Girasol, for example, only has three rooms, making it a very private and quiet retreat. Other vineyards I have visited had two rooms, and I’ve never seen one with more than 10. This is small enough that a family or wedding party can easily book out an entire weekend, so you need to plan vineyard trips a little more in advance than your traditional hotel.
Having said this, sometimes you can get lucky – cancellations happen, and many vineyard hotel owners throw these up on Facebook with a great discount, so my tip is to check Facebook and look for any cancellations; if you’re really set on a specific timeframe, email the owners and ask them if they have any ideas or alternatives. They are usually happy to help.
5. Ready to book? Google is your friend.
Have I tempted you to book that vineyard trip? Good. If you’re headed to Walla Walla, I, of course, recommend Girasol, which you can book on BedandBreakfast.com. Headed elsewhere? You can check their site, or you can do some Googling. The reason is because of number four above — these properties have fewer rooms, so it doesn’t make sense for them to be listed on sites like Expedia. Google can usually surface good options. But these hotels – like the Tuscan-inspired dream hotel at Girasol – are worth the extra effort to find.
Editorial Disclosure: Portions of this trip were sponsored by BedandBreakfast.com. The opinions reflected here are the author’s own.