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Wine Regions of California

Wine country is the cherry on top of any Golden State road trip. Between the majestic Sierra Nevada peaks, unspoiled coastline and the world’s tallest redwoods are wineries, restaurants and tasting rooms that rival anything France or Italy has to offer. Tack on a few extra days to your itinerary to visit all five wine regions or make it a real holiday by spending a night or two in each. From Sonoma in the north to Temecula in the south, California wine country promises an epicurean adventure unlike any other.

North Coast

The wine in the North Coast is just as renowned as its scenery. Drive past rugged seaside cliffs and rolling hills and you’ll quickly uncover more than half of the state’s wineries. If you’re a red wine drinker, make Sonoma County your first stop. Just a short drive from San Francisco, this world-famous winemaking region is home to almost 500 wineries and produces more pinot noir than any other county in California.

Santa Rosa

Take some time to wander through Santa Rosa, the largest city in Sonoma County. Peanuts creator Charles Schulz lived here for almost 30 years, which is why you’ll find statues of Charlie Brown, Woodstock and Lucy around town. Check out the comic strip artist’s sketches and studio at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and then shop for antiques and other treasures at the Railroad Square Historic District.

Napa Valley

Sharing the spotlight with Sonoma is Napa Valley. Located less than two hours from Sonoma, this area boasts an equally acclaimed food and wine scene. Take your taste buds on a culinary journey at nearly two dozen Michelin-starred restaurants and savor some of the most coveted wine grapes at To Kalon Vineyard which still has vines from the 1860s. Winery tours are highly recommended, especially ones on the historic Napa Valley Wine Train. Leafy trails in Bothe-Napa Valley State Park and hot spring resorts are waiting for you when you’re done sipping your way through Napa’s 16 subappellations.

An Array of Wineries

Beyond Sonoma and Napa, the North Coast encompasses Mendocino County, Lake County, Los Carneros and Solano County. All offer outdoor activities and more phenomenal wines. Hike the Van Damme Pygmy Forest Trail before hitting the tasting rooms in Mendocino County and reel in colossal bass from Clear Lake after sampling Lake County’s impressive sauvignon blancs.

Central Coast

A drive down Highway 1 brings you from south of San Francisco all the way to Santa Barbara, prime growing regions for cool-climate wines such as merlot and chardonnay. In Monterey, kick off your Central Coast adventure by visiting Cannery Row, the same place that inspired John Steinbeck’s book.

The Bixby Creek Bridge

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San Luis Obispo

Further down the coast is San Luis Obispo. Hop out of your car and step inside Hearst Castle, the extravagant 20th-century estate built by publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst. The popular wine region is also known for its Rhône blends, pinot noirs, chardonnays and zinfandels—all of which can be sampled in wineries across the lush Edna Valley.

Paso Robles

Paso Robles also deserves a spot on your Central Coast itinerary. Enjoy a vast array of shopping and dining options in the lively downtown core and swirl bold reds at more than 200 wineries. You’ll find a lot more than just bottles of vino here—discover exquisite gardens and sculptures at Sculpterra Winery & Sculpture Garden, watch concerts in the outdoor amphitheater at Vina Robles, and stay the night in a restored stagecoach at Tobin James Cellars.

Santa Barbara

Round out your Central Coast excursion by visiting the 1786 Santa Barbara Mission and trying regional wines in tasting rooms on State Street. The 2004 flick “Sideways” was also shot here so do a self-guided tour of Santa Barbara’s vineyards to see where scenes were filmed.

Sierra Foothills

Not many places give you the chance to explore legendary outdoor spaces and local vineyards all in the same day, but the Sierra Foothills lets you do it all and more. Home to Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe and over 100 wineries, this region combines your love of wine with the great outdoors. It also offers a glimpse into the Wild West thanks to old gold rush towns. One of these historic communities is Placerville, an excellent place to start your Sierra Foothills explorations. Swing by the tasting rooms in town to sip everything from syrah to viognier and then embark on the Placer County Wine Trail.

Inland Valleys

The Inland Valleys have some of the most fertile farmlands on earth with over 8 percent of the country’s agricultural goods coming from this region. Farmers grow everything from almonds to apricots and the wines made here are just as diverse as the produce. Stop in Lodi to view some of the oldest zinfandel vines in the Golden State and pop in the Lodi Wine & Visitor Center for guided tastings.

Southern California

Venture past the palm trees and beaches in SoCal to discover tranquil vineyards hidden behind rolling foothills. Journey to high-elevation wineries in Malibu after playing tourist on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Santa Monica Pier.

Temecula is home to 40 wineries serving award-winning Italian and Rhône varietals

Kelsey Knight


About 80 miles south of Los Angeles is Temecula. This verdant valley was awarded AVA status in 1984 and draws visitors from near and far with its annual Balloon and Wine Festival. Ride a hot air balloon any time of the year for a bird’s-eye view of romantic vineyards and opulent estates. Back on land, drop by more than 40 wineries serving award-winning Italian and Rhône varietals.

San Diego

Make a beeline to San Diego for more great vintages. You’ll want to give yourself at least two days here to visit the historic Gaslamp Quarter, Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo. The San Diego area has also been growing grapes since the 1700s and you can see the oldest ones in the state at Mission San Diego de Alcala. Merlot and chardonnay are king here so drink a glass or two at over 100 wineries before continuing your road trip.

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