Even though October is grape harvest time in California, there are still deals to be had, especially when compared with peak summer rates.
Travel experts from local tourism offices helped me zero in on some bargains. Hotel rates exclude taxes and fees.
Temecula Valley Visitor Center and several area hotels have a Sip, Sip, Stay deal for midweek stays. Book two nights and receive one Sip Passport ($48 value); purchase three nights and get two Sip Passports ($96 value), which entitles you to a wine tasting flight at five participating wineries.
Several hotels are participating; check the visitor center for more information: Good for stays reserved through Nov. 15.
Tested: Several hotels offer AAA discounts, but we were attracted to the Wine Enthusiast Special at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, which gives guests 20% off the room rate, a bottle of wine at check-in and wine tasting tickets. Rooms start at $269 a night (excluding taxes and resort fees) and are widely available in October.
Downside: The Sip, Sip deal requires visitors to go to the Temecula Valley Visitor Center (28690 Mercedes St., Suite A) with their room key to pick up the Sip Passport.
The Vintners Wine Tasting Package (promo code: UY7) at the 150-room Santa Ynez Valley Marriott starts at $184 per night. The package includes breakfast for two, three buy-one-get-one-free wine-tasting passes and a bottle of local wine. Good through Sept. 9, 2020.
Tested: A stay Oct. 27-30 runs $187 a night. During the inaugural Taste of the Santa Ynez Valley festival, you’ll pay $321 a night. (See below for festival details.)
Upside: The hotel is pet-friendly, and has free parking and Wi-Fi, a 24-hour fitness center and a heated pool.
Downside: Reservations must be canceled at least 72 hours before arrival to avoid a penalty.
Info: Vintners Wine Tasting Package, bit.ly/santayneztasting
Tested: A two-night stay in a king room for Oct. 14-16 costs $79 a night or $158 total, excluding taxes and fees.
Upside: “Sideways,” the 2004 film that made wine tasting fun, was shot here. The inn welcomes pets and offers complimentary breakfast, parking, Wi-Fi, a swimming pool and a hot tub. Reservations may be canceled without penalty up to 3 p.m. the day before arrival. Available through October.
Downside: Deal isn’t available on weekends.
Info: Sideways Inn Special, (805) 688-8448, bit.ly/sidewaysinnspecial
Santa Ynez Valley festival
Taste of the Santa Ynez Valley, an experiential food and wine festival, is celebrated in Los Alamos, Santa Ynez, Los Olivos, Solvang, Ballard and Buellton. In honor of the 15th anniversary of “Sideways,” the movie directed by Alexander Payne and starring Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church, Taste SYV includes the Sideways Fest, which will feature an outdoor screening of the movie, a film sites tour and a wine festival. Beyond festivals, nearby attractions include Mendenhall’s Museum of Gasoline Pumps & Petroliana and Hitching Post II restaurant (which appeared in “Sideways” and is known for steaks grilled over red oak) and OstrichLand USA in Solvang.
Eleven small inns and bed and breakfasts offer the Go Sonoma Wine Country Romance Package for Sunday-to-Thursday-night stays of at least two nights. The package includes a complimentary bottle of Sonoma County wine or sparkling cider, daily breakfast and a free Wine Tasting Passport at select Sonoma County premium wineries.
Tested: I tested three inns for an Oct. 13-15 stay and found good availability. A two-night stay in the Narcissus Room at the nine-room Sonoma Orchid Inn was $308 total, not including taxes and fees.
Upside: Free breakfast and parking
Downside: Restrictive cancellation policy (some inns require at least 30 days’ notice for a penalty-free cancellation) and you must mention Go Sonoma Wine Country Romance Package when booking.
Info: Go Sonoma Wine Country Romance Package; (707) 266-6353, bit.ly/sonomadeals
Exploring Sonoma County: Beyond the more than 425 wineries, Sonoma has beautiful beaches, enchanting wild animals at Safari West in Santa Rosa and captivating carnivorous plants at California Carnivores in Sebastopol.