In 2020, we grabbed our Wine Passports from Soaring Wings and collected stamps from the participating wineries and tasting rooms. This small blue book allowed us to track our visitation while discovering all that Nebraska has to offer. And boy, did we find some fun along the way, which is the whole point. The passport program gets people excited about wine or breaks the barrier to tasting, which is a strong benefit in our eyes.
If you’ve never gone to a wine tasting before, you’re in for a tasty treat! By doing a little research beforehand, you’re able to make the most of the trip and save some time and money. Luckily for you, you don’t need to make “pour” decisions. I’ve laid out what we’ve learned so far about the Nebraska Wine Passport Program in this blog below:
#1 Pick the Wine Areas you want to visit.
There’s wine to taste in all necks of all the woods in Nebraska. So, the first step is to choose which areas you want to see and how long you want to stay. Keep in mind that Nebraska is full of uncovered gems, like Car Hedge and High Plains Homestead. If you’re going to plan a trip across the Cornhusker state to visit wineries, make sure you research the areas around them for other things to do.
Pro-tip: Check before you map out your plan for fun, safe events. There might be a reason to travel a far distance if they offer more than a tasting, especially live music!
#2 Only visit 1-3 wineries a day.
Here’s the truth! We did this passport in 5 weeks. That’s how long it took my husband and I to complete the NWGGA Passport Program. And that’s probably the biggest regret we made in 2020; soaking up the passport in such a small amount of time. In one of our busiest days, we made it to 5-6 wineries. Don’t do that. That’s a whole lot of driving, cramming in “must-sees,” and spitting out wine to be safe on our journey home. Please, please, please only visit 1-3 wineries a day. Set aside enough time to stretch the experience all year round. If you want to see more on the weekend, plan accordingly. It’s more important to enjoy each winery, each experience, and savor each sip while relaxing than shuffling through the passport for literally no reason.
The Nebraska wine passport is not a race. The Nebraska wine passport is not a race. And if you treat it like a race, you’re going to end up missing out on the whole experience.
#3 Consider the time of year.
With our Nebraskan weather constantly changing on a dime, the time of year is an essential factor to keep in mind while planning a wine tour. Early spring to early fall seem to be the busiest months for most locations, but a warmer winter day can be the best time to curl up in a winery with a loved one.
#4 Book ahead
Avoid disappointment! Always make sure the winery is open before you make the journey, even if it’s “close by.” Listen, that hour drive back isn’t fun when the winery is closed for the kid’s soccer game. Additionally, wineries have limited space and availability, so it’s better to book in advance (at least a week or so if you’re planning to visit during busy hours).
#5 Consider Outfits Before Hand
Many wineries in Nebraska are casual dress. Think classy casual, jeans and a nice shirt are acceptable. Think about what you’d wear to meet your partner’s parents for the third time (not the first time fancy, but a bit more relaxed). Always remember to be comfortable.
#6 Sample Safely with a Designated Driver
If you plan on sipping and not-spitting wine, I’d highly recommend hiring a designated driver. Whether it’s a member in your group taking “one for the team,” or you’re calling up Uber, be safe!
#7 What to bring to the winery? Pack accordingly to plans.
Many of the Nebraska Wine Passport locations are off the beaten path. Planning additional time for every destination, but packing the essentials is critical. I don’t have the attention span to list out what you should bring and honestly, I’m getting a bit anxious thinking about all the things we didn’t bring, also FOMO of things we did not do…so here’s a few things that I highly recommend.
- Polaroid camera: Snap a vintage photo and staple it into your passport during your visit. It’s a fun keepsake to make your wine tour more memorable.
- Extra pair of clothes: What if you spill on yourself, Samantha? You’re going to need to pack an extra pair of clothes to avoid the embarrassment. Better news! Maybe use an alias if you don’t want to pack an extra pair of clothing so the owners can’t say your name when they tell you about your spill story for years to come.
- Cash for Tipping: It’s nice if you have cash to give to your sommelier during your tasting session. We recommend tipping $1 per drink. Additionally, many wineries have a tasting fee of $5-6 per person. And some of them only accept cash.
#8 Visit Earlier in the Day for Better Conversation
The best conversation we had on our wine tour was with the owners and winemakers. We learned Insider secrets, history right off the vine and engaged in casual conversation because we missed the crowds.
#9 Support Local & Buy Something if You Can
We support locals. You should too. Small business owners count on people like you, especially you, to survive. Every transaction is precious. So, when deciding where to spend your cash, consider buying while you’re visiting. Think about upcoming wedding gifts, birthdays or anniversaries. If you love wine, don’t you think your buddies back home will too?
What Shopping Local Means:
- You are investing in the community and environment
- Benefit from local experts
- Find something different
- Small retailers create twice as many jobs
- Lessen tax burdens and boosts tax revenue
- Even a $25 bottle of wine can make all the difference
- Make or break: They won’t be around when you need them if they have to shut up shop.
We encourage you to visit the Nebraska wineries and tasting rooms when you can. Make sure to be prepared for each visit by packing the essentials, leaving earlier in the day and shopping local when you can. It’s a program that has taught us there are certainly more things to do in Nebraska than the “Big City.” Thank you for visiting my blog. Be sure to check back by for more Wine! I have extremely too much content to keep to myself from this adventure.