Whether a romantic getaway or weekend away with friends, take a trip out in search of fine wine, world-class cuisine, and postcard-perfect landscapes. Your adventure unfolds in California’s wine country, where you can luxuriate at the spa, catch seasonal festivals, take to the trails by bike, and appreciate the (fermented) fruits of hundreds of years of winemaking artistry.
To get the most out of your tour through California’s hillside vineyards, we’ve gathered our best tips on where to stay as you travel to wine country, while keeping you close to each area’s main attractions. Pick a new town to explore or plan a road trip to take your time, valley by valley. Whatever you choose, treat yourself to a well-deserved trip away to sit back, relax, and enjoy life one glass at a time.
Peppered along the Russian River Valley, about an hour and a half north of San Francisco, you’ll find the homeland of organic and artisanally-crafted cuisine, a natural landscape that blends forest with valley and vineyard, and of course, a historic legacy of winemaking. Sonoma Wine Country tops the list as a must-stay destination, with over 100 wineries and vineyards to sample the area’s famous Pinot Noir, sightsee California missions, and savor restaurants’ farm-fresh meats and produce. While Sonoma County offers rustic charm and plenty of outdoor activity between tasting rooms, finding a vacation home or guest cottage in the neighboring towns of Sonoma, Windsor, and Bodega Bay are worth the visit and will keep you close to the tasting rooms.
If you’re up for spending a little bit more for indulgence on your romantic getaway to wine country, set your sights on Napa Valley. From renowned winery Beringer Vineyards in St. Helena to downtown Napa’s Michelin-starred restaurants, you’ll find spas, golf courses, and art galleries to enliven your time away, including family-friendly events like the annual Hot Air Balloon Festival. Bask in the rolling green hills and stunning sunsets of the area with homes in Santa Rosa and Guerneville.
Add a coastal flair to your wine tour and try something new. Mendocino Valley, which includes the towns of Fort Bragg and Albion, blends the best of Northern California’s breezy coastline and redwood forests with the rich soil that fuels the local winemaking and microbrewery scene. Between afternoons of wine tasting, enjoy a savory crepe at Raven’s Restaurant, kayak through the sea caves, catch the sunset at Mendocino Headlands State Park, and bring back a bottle to enjoy at a vacation rental with a private balcony overlooking the valleys.
At the southern end of California is Temecula Valley, often noted as the hidden gem of wine country, offering warmer weather year-round and access to the state’s most popular beaches. From towns like Oceanside and Carlsbad, you can sit back and enjoy the ocean from the hot tub, horseback ride (or motorcycle) through the vineyards, stroll through Old Town Temecula, or wine taste by the swimming pool at Bottaia Winery. Savor the slower pace of your vacation away while overlooking the valley’s 3,000 acres of picturesque vineyard beauty.
California has several different wine country valleys. In Sonoma County, the main cities include Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, Sonoma, Guerneville, and Windsor. In Napa County, you'll find Napa, Yountville, Rutherford, St. Helena, and Calistoga. Mendocino Valley is home to Hopland and Ukiah and Temecula Valley’s main city is its namesake, Temecula.
For warm weather and picturesque views of the vineyard, visit wine country during the harvest season of late summer and early fall (from August to September). If you’re looking to skip crowds, plan your trip for when the crowds are less frequent and everything is in flower during spring (March to May) or the shoulder season (from December to February).
The hidden gem of California’s wine country lies at the state’s southern end in Temecula Valley. With nearly 50 unique wineries, Temecula has just as much wine-touring to offer as its northern competitors, plus year-round sunshine and access to popular Southern California beaches.