Uber in the Napa Valley: Good for tourists?

Uber in Napa and Yountville

Dining at Angele

Uber in the Napa Valley

Wine country travelers to the Napa Valley will be happy to learn this news. Uber has invaded the Napa Valley. Taxi cab drivers may not like this, but certainly tourists will find Uber to be an added convenience for hopping around the Napa Valley. If you don’t already know, Uber is a company that sends drivers for hire at your beck and call. All you need is the Uber App on your smartphone to hire a driver.

Currently, there are three different taxicab companies that service the Napa Valley: Yellow Cab, Black Tie Cab, and Napa Valley Cab. Cabs have, in a sense, a monopoly because there are so many hotels and lodging and so few cabs. Rates can change on the fly. We once took a cab from the Marriott hotel in Napa to Don Giovanni restaurant. On the way back we hired a cab from the same company and the fare was much higher.

Uber started their service in Napa on April 3rd, so it is just beginning to test the waters in the Napa Valley. Looking at the Uber blog, the new service for now looks like it is just between Napa and Yountville. I spoke with Michael Palmer, the General Manager at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa. He welcomes Uber. “We have a shortage of cabs currently and sometimes it can be an hour wait for a cab. Right now my Uber App tells me a driver is just ten minutes away.” He also expects that once Uber takes hold in the Napa Valley it will improve taxicab service. “A little competition is good for all.”

The Taxi companies are based in Napa, so their rates are going to be less for travelers staying in the town of Napa. If you are in Yountville or St. Helena, the cost of a cab increases greatly. The concierge at the Hotel Yountville mentioned that a cab right out the door begins at around $20. On my Uber App, I entered a trip from the Hotel Yountville to Mustard’s Grill, just about three miles up the road. The fees would be $7 to $10 for the uberX, $17 to $20 for UberBLACK, and $27 – $32 for the UberSUV. Uber drivers are not allowed to take tips because the tip is figured into the cost of the trip. Black Tie Taxi tells me that they would charge $20 for the same trip, plus tip. If you have a group of six, the SUV Uber would be the way to go with the party members splitting the fare.

Another convenience factor in Uber’s favor is that your trip is automatically charged to your credit card. To sign up for Uber, one downloads the App to their smartphone and enters a credit card number and other pertinent data. As I mentioned above, the tip is included in the total cost of the ride. If Uber is successful, and they should be in the very touristy Napa Valley, I would expect Uber’s competition, Lyft and Sidecar, to also make their way to the Napa Valley.

I do think that hotels and B&B’s should promote safe driving as much as possible. The Napa Valley is all about fine food and wine. Drinking and driving is never a good idea, and hotels should encourage their guests to hire a taxi or an Uber driver. The old adage, “Better safe than sorry,” is never more appropriate than for visitors to the Napa Valley.

The Uber folks are offering up to $15 off for the first two rides. Valid from 4/3 to 4/30/14. Uber coupon

Napa Valley Tidbits – Ovation TV and The Art Of: Wine Country

Ovation TV – The Art Of: Wine Country

Ovation TV is available on most cable companies, i.e. Comcast, Uverse and Direct TV. This Sunday evening Ovation will broadcast “The Art of Wine Country” at 7:30 p.m. ET. I checked out a couple of preview videos and it looks like an exciting show. I watched a clip of Napa Valley’s Gordon Huether and his amazing sculptures at the Artesa Winery in Carneros. In another clip, Chef Cindy Pawlcyn talks about the art of her vegetable gardening and its importance to the success of the food she serves at her restaurants.

Each weekly show, The Art Of: Introduces viewers to “a new artistic medium explored through profiles of boundary-pushing artists. Focusing on the celebrated as well as the undiscovered, this series explores the creative process behind each featured art form and uncovers how and why these artists do what they do.” If you are a lover of wine country and art, tune in to The Art Of: Wine Country.

To find the specific channel for viewing The Art Of: click on this link to the Ovation Website to find Ovation in the area where you live. Here is a preview of the show.

Gordon Hunter and Artesa

Yountville Hill winery stirs controversy

There is a proposal on the docket to build a winery atop the northwest area on Yountville Hill. It sounds like a massive undertaking. The plan calls for a 100,000-gallon production facility and 36,000 square feet of caves. Also proposed is a 12,800-square-foot admin and visitor center. This site is just north of the main town of Yountville and just above where Mustards restaurant is located. Prescott Ashe and Eric Sklar, the former owner of Alpha Omega, have filed the application. Wine Travelers to the Napa Valley wine country should be concerned. Yes, it looks like another wonderful winery to visit, but remember there are four wineries in this immediate area and who needs more congestion on highway 29? 

Luxury Travel Package

For you wine country travelers in search of more indulgence, The Plumpjack Group and the Carneros Inn have teamed together to offer “Plumpjack’s Ultimate Napa Valley Experience.” The itinerary includes:

• One-night stay in the Harvest Cottage at The Carneros Inn

• A tour and tasting for two people at PlumpJack Winery, CADE or Odette

• A six-course tasting menu for two at FARM from highly acclaimed Chef de Cuisine Andrew Budnyj

Starting rates for the “PlumpJack Ultimate Napa Valley Experience” begin at $1,285 plus gratuities. For booking or more information, please visit www.thecarnerosinn.com or call 707.299.4850.

Underground Cellars New Idea

Underground Cellars has beta tested for 6 months a very different concept for online wine sales. It has officially launched this week, and it’s a novel way for wineries to sell wine they might otherwise release to flash online wine sites or the big discount stores. Nothing could be more galling for a customer to purchase a wine at a winery and find it a week later at a deep discount at Costco or the like.

undergroundcellars

This is how this site is different from a flash sale site. For the winery: Underground Cellars negotiates with the winery to sell off inventory along with a small number of their current wines, library wines or even magnums. When the Underground Cellars customer buys say six bottles of this wine, that customer receives upgrades. Example, they may have purchased six bottles of the entry level wine but now they get an upgrade to a higher-priced bottle. That could be a $100 bottle of wine they receive at no extra cost. If you go to this page on Underground Cellars you might get a better visual of the this concept: How it works.

To entice wine shoppers to sign up for an account, the Underground Cellars has a giveaway for one lucky wine shopper. “Grand Sonoma Wine-cation,” where a lucky winner and their 3 guests will be flown out to wine country for an all-inclusive and unforgettable VIP wine country weekend (value of this is $10,000). Note: One should know that the value of the prize will always turn up as income on a 1099. Wow, what a surprise when you find out you will be paying state and fed tax to treat your friends!

For more information in the giveaway, go here:

Hall Wines leaps forward with winery iPad technology

revel ipad

Revel Systems winery iPad technology at Hall Wines The next time you stop in at one of Hall Wines tasting rooms, there will be something new to ponder at the counter: iPad tablets used by customers and staff to simplify the purchase and shipping … [Continue reading]

Eco-Friendly Wine Route

casa

Ten years ago only a handful of wineries in the Napa Valley used any solar power or practiced any sort of eco-friendly farming in their vineyards. Today that has changed dramatically. Many wineries in the Napa Valley can boast that they are … [Continue reading]

Napa Valley Wine Tasting Fee Index

Provenance - $25 for wine tasting

You’re heading to the Napa Valley and wondering how much to figure on tasting room fees for your travel budget. You are not alone. Our readers will often email us asking questions related to tasting room fees. What should I expect in tasting room … [Continue reading]

Do you really need a tasting room appointment?

tasting room sign

Tasting room appointment In short, the answer is no! We visit the Napa Valley numerous times a year and hardly ever make an appointment. In our travels to the Napa Valley we find three different tasting room scenarios. The first are the … [Continue reading]

Navigating the Napa Valley Wine Route

Navigating the Napa Valley Wine Route

First-time visitors to the Napa Valley are often bewildered or overwhelmed. When should we go, where should we stay and dine, and most often which wineries are the best ones to visit? Let’s tackle these dilemmas one at a time. Napa Valley Wine … [Continue reading]

Wine Country Photographs 2013 – Our Favorites

image of napa valley welcome sign

In 2013 we probably spent more days in wine country than any other previous year. We spent a full week in the Napa Valley in addition to some two-day getaways to the Valley. We took trips to Sonoma County, Mendocino and Paso Robles. We spent ten days … [Continue reading]

Sunburst Calistoga: The Poor Man’s Solage

pool at Sunburst Calistoga

The Sunburst Calistoga Hotel A couple of weeks ago we decided to spend an overnight in the Napa Valley. It happened to be the same time as the Napa Film Festival activities, and almost all the lodging in the Valley was booked. Since we travel so … [Continue reading]

Blending wines at Castello di Amorosa

14 years to complete

Castello di Amorosa The last time we had visited Castello di Amorosa was in May of 2007, shortly after it had opened to visitors. The winery was nearly completed except for a few landscaping details. Tours were fun but there were a few kinks to … [Continue reading]