Traveling with Wine

Yeah! Wine!

Yeah! Wine!

Nowadays, I always carry on only.  But that’s not very conducive to bringing wine home after vineyard hopping.

I learned a few lessons on this last trip to Napa/Sonoma that I wanted to pass on:

  1. If you think you’re going to wine country and might buy wine – check your bag.  My regular habit of “carry on” only backfired… It was worse because I didn’t even have my roller board – just a backpack.  In the end I ended up checking luggage (#4).  So don’t be a travel snob like me and just check a bag!
  2. UPS/FedEx will not ship your wine home for you.  I thought I was being smart… buy a few bottles here and there, stop by the FedEx store, ship home, still carry on my backpack.  WRONG!  Distribution laws prevent shipping of alcohol by non-licesned distributors (me).  I’ve had brewery friends complain about this law – but this is the first time I’ve been directly effected.  Shipping on your own – not an option.
  3. If you like the wine, buy a case and have THEM ship it home.  Most larger wineries will do this – since they are a licensed distributor.  Some of the smaller wineries won’t have this option – as sometimes they only sell on site.
  4. If you’ve failed to bring a bag big enough to pack wine in (#1) and missed the opportunity to ship from the vineyard (#3)… there’s still hope!  We picked up a wine box and checked it as luggage.  Not exactly the slickest system in the book – but it worked.  We packed up the wine, slapped our name on the outside, taped it up and checked it as our luggage.  The check in clerk did giggle at us as we tried this method – and was nice enough to slap a ‘fragile’ sticker on the outside…  Not to worry – TSA hadn’t had their peek at my wine!  They opened the box, probably passed judgement on my wine taste, and taped everything back up… of course, covering the FRAGILE sticker with TSA tape.  Smooth.  None the less, we did get the wine once back in San Diego, with no cracks.  So I consider it a wine win!
  5. IN THE FUTURE, in addition to #1 of just checking my damn bag – I’m going to invest in a couple of wine skins.  Having panicked in the past when I’ve traveled with 6 bottles in my luggage from Argentina back home… wondering if the bottle would also ruin the fabulous leather goods I bought… it’s worth the piece of mind.