Souvenirs From Wine Country - How To Bring Home The Good Stuff

Everyone loves a good souvenir. Enter the home of anyone that's traveled and you're bound to find an etching from Paris, a lei from Hawaii, or a pair of Mickey ears from Disney World. Personally, I'm usually satisfied with a hotel room key and a pin from the Hard Rock Cafe, however there are some destinations that make it virtually impossible to leave empty handed. We discovered this lesson the hard way in Napa Valley, where one winery after another plied us with their superb products, and then practically dared us not to take some home.

Alright, so that might be a little extreme. While the tasting rooms in Napa are definitely hard core about pitching their wine clubs, for the most part they were pretty laid back about actually taking bottles home. The problem is that after two or three glasses of wine that can't be found anywhere else, the notion of walking away without a souvenir bottle seems almost blasphemous. After a few days of collecting "souvenirs" there's an inevitable problem that you're bound to face...
wine bottles
Before they can collect dust, you need to get them home...

How to get all that wine home.

MJ and I encountered this problem once before on our honeymoon visit to Paris. We bought our favorite bottle of Bollinger Champagne as a keepsake from the trip, which we planned to enjoy years later. In a rare moment of amateurism, we walked up to the security checkpoint at Charles de Gaulle apparently thinking we'd just be able to walk right through with a bottle of champagne. The solution was to wrap the bottle in clothes and check one of our carry on bags, but I wasn't a fan of putting the fate of our champagne in the hands of an Air France baggage handler. Thankfully, there are better solutions for getting souvenir bottles of wine home from France, Napa Valley, and other vino heavy destinations. 

The first and most economical option is to purchase a Styrofoam wine shipping container and check the package with your airline. While you might pay a checked bag fee, chances are the price will be far less than the other options for getting your wine home. The downside is the stress of lugging a big heavy Styrofoam container around the airport in addition to your other luggage. Plus, anyone who has watched from inside the plane as the handlers toss baggage around might have a hard time trusting the airline with their valuable cargo. If you fall into this category - which I do - not to worry, there are other options.
Styrofoam wine shipper
Most wineries can probably hook you up with one of these...

A second choice for getting your wine home is to ship the container with a carrier like UPS or FedEx. This route will likely cost more than the checked baggage fee with the airline, however it will save you the hassle of dragging the wine to the airport. Check with your hotel concierge, because chances are they'll hold the package for the carrier to pick up. Although shipping the wine isn't necessarily safer, I have more faith in FedEx transporting a package across the globe in one piece than I do the airline simply between the plane to baggage claim.

If you're traveling in a wine making region like Napa Valley, France, or Italy, check to see if there are shipping companies dedicated to transporting wine. MJ and I discovered Buffalo Shipping Post in Napa Valley, and although it wasn't cheap - at least compared to the airline or FeEx - their service was certainly the most convenient. We simply left our bottles in the care of the hotel front desk and Buffalo picked them up, packaged them, and about a week or so later the wine arrived at our doorstep. I estimate that it cost us about $20 additional over what FedEx quoted on the package which I thought was money well spent.
wine bottles
They all made it, safe and sound...

If there's any advice I can pass along for buying wine as souvenirs it is to first consider the additional cost of getting it home. Whether you check the package with the airline, ship it with FedEx, or hand it over to a specialty shipping company, you're probably looking at an additional cost of $5-$10 a bottle. That being the case, choose your purchases wisely. Sure, your favorite wine might be a few dollars cheaper in Napa, but why bother shipping a bottle that you can buy at home for the same price? Treat the 12 slots in your Styrofoam case like prized real estate, and relive the stories of where you filled them each and every time you pop a cork.

Enjoy Your Stay

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