California’s Wine Country is vast and includes a number of regions throughout the northern and central part of California. While the Napa Valley is the best known of these, there are several other regions to explore for wine tasting and tours.
A large number of wineries scattered across several counties means that touring California’s wine country can be a long but enjoyable adventure.
You can plan for a single day or multi-day itinerary.
The core of California wine country includes areas in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties:
- Napa Valley — the best-known of California’s wine regions, the Napa Valley boasts a huge number of prominent and well-known wineries
- Sonoma County — located west of Napa, Sonoma is a more laid back and has a variety of delightful small towns and wineries to explore
- Russian River — meandering through Sonoma County, Russian River wineries are growing in prominence, and specialize in Pinots
Additional areas of wine production in California include:
- Lake County
- Amador County — in the other direction from Napa and to the east of Sacramento, Amador County wine country provides a more casual experience in the Sierra Nevada foothills, with a variety of smaller but still interesting wineries
- San Luis Obispo County — south of the Bay Area and Napa, the Central Coast area around Paso
- Robles — a fast-growing area of wine country
- Santa Ynez Valley — in Santa Barbara County further south also produces excellent wines
- San Francisco — the major city in the San Francisco Bay Area, this cosmopolitan city offers various attractions and excellent food and shopping
- Sacramento — the capital of California, Sacramento lies just an hour or so drive east of Napa and Sonoma, and is also close to Amador County
California’s wine country is accessible by driving. There are several services for tours, buses, and limousines in Napa and Sonoma in particular; other areas may only be served by private car.
The Capitol Corridor train goes between Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area but does not directly stop in wine country.
The most important safety concern when going wine tasting is not to drive while impaired by alcohol. This is especially crucial when you are driving along winding roads you are unfamiliar with.
Some parts of wine country also have weak or nonexistent cell phone coverage, making your the sobriety and alertness of the designated driver even more important. So if you are driving and nevertheless choose to drink a bit, know your limits, take advantage of the food offerings of vineyards, drink plenty of water (especially in the summer, when most of the wine country is hot and dry) and take the time to sober up before getting behind the wheel if you have one too many.
July 23, 2019 9:38 pm
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