One travel agency that lives up to its name is Uncorked Encounters.
Debbie LoCurto, president of the local travel agency, routinely sets up clients with all-inclusive trips to Napa Valley and Sonoma, specifically to California's Wine Country, specially designed to uncork new experiences. She says clients can taste the history of 400-plus wineries paired with some of the finest food in the world at Michelin-starred restaurants.
"You can even make your own bottle of wine," says Debbie, who also can arrange for hot air balloon rides, culinary classes or spa sessions.
The best way to approach a Wine Country trip, Debbie says, is not to stay in one region of the Valley.
"Napa Valley has 16 American Viticultural Areas nested in it, with distinguishable geographic features that make the same grape taste slightly different," she says.
Debbie says many folks travel to Napa/Sonoma and feel overwhelmed.
"They stop at the first winery they see and experience a flight tasting at the bar top. Wine is wonderful this way, but there are tons of experiences in Napa that will truly help you learn your palate and what all goes into making a fantastic bottle of wine," she adds.
This experienced wine enthusiast shared a few other hints:
- Experience wine in a variety of ways: drinking a glass of wine made from vines one is literally standing in, to a cheese-and-wine paring experience or a blind taste test.
- Ask questions. Sit with the winemaker, if possible. Wine hosts also give incredible information.
- Don’t leave the Valley without experiencing a chef’s tasting with wine pairing; that's really experiencing Napa Valley.
"Whether you're traveling with your loved one, a group or a bachelor or bachelorette party, we can book the perfect trip for you. There's nothing that brings me more joy than planning the perfect trip for my family, friends and clients," she adds.
Debbie recently set up a group who sipped, swirled and savored their way through a five-day guided tour in Napa Valley.
"Debbie handled every single detail. We were able to truly just show up and enjoy our vacation. We learned and experienced so much about wine and Napa and got to meet a lot of the winemakers. Every tasting felt intimate and special," Daisy Marx says.
Likewise, Susan Reinfeldt says she likes Debbie's attention to detail.
"We took a mother/daughter trip, and from start to finish, the trip was wonderful. Debbie's hospitality and sense of adventure made the trip one of the best experiences we've ever had."
Debbie's next guided Napa Uncorked tour is April 22–26.
DEBBIE'S PERSONAL WINE FAVORITES
At home, Debbie has a two-story wine cellar that holds 3,000 bottles, with 90% of the wine sourced from Napa.
She says she normally purchases two to three cases of a wine each fall from Napa/Sonoma. She then tastes one immediately, followed by opening a bottle every year until she feels like it's at its peak.
"Opening a bottle from 2004 with such a burst of fruit and softened tannins—now that's a good wine experience!"
Cabernet sauvignon comprises 50% of Debbie's collection. She also enjoys cabernet franc, pinot noir, syrah, petite sirah, zinfandel and malbec. She has a little white wine, too.
“Wine is meant to be experienced. It has a history, and every bottle tells a unique story," she says.
Debbie's most cherished bottles came from one of her first experiences in Napa, at a boutique winery called Benessere Vineyard.
"We savored a half bottle there in the vineyard. I still have one of those half bottles in my cellar—what a memory!"