The Best Wine Regions in California: Travel Guide 2021

one of the top wine getaways in California for US vacations

Looking for that perfect glass of wine? Vineyards in California are the places to head to. When it comes to US wine regions, California vineyards are some of the best in the world. The Calfornia wine regions list is filled with exceptional spots, from Northern California to Southern CA, wine regions in the Golden State are growing steadily in reputation. But before we get into the best wine regions in California, and our favorite wineries in California, how about a history lesson about California wines, and how wineries in Southern California wine country started, and how the best California wine came to be? Before we tell you about the best wine tours in California, keep reading to discover the fruitful past of California wine-growing regions and to find some of the best wine tasting tours in California.

Discover the best wine regions of California: wine country awaits

Over 200 years ago, Franciscan missionaries, led by Spanish priest Saint Junípero Serra, started the first Roman Catholic mission to California—Mission San Diego de Alcalá—and the future of The Golden State was altered forever. Along with planting palm trees to provide palm fronds for Palm Sunday, wine was needed for communion, leading to the first sustained vineyard in the first of the wine regions of California. Serra went on to found a further eight California missions earning himself the nickname “Father of California Wine.” Without him, California wine country would not have come to pass, and we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the California wineries, the top California vineyard choices, or the incredible wine in California we have today.

one of the best wineries in California for CA vacations

Grab a bottle of good California wine, and keep reading and find out more about California Wine Country and why you should visit in 2021

Although in California wine production continued to steadily grow in the region, marketing became a problem for Southern California winemakers during the mid-1900s until a blind tasting competition was held in Paris in 1976. The panel of French wine experts selected three of the Californian Chardonnays in the top four, shocking the wine community and effectively opening up the U.S wine market to the world. Thank goodness for the people that brought us Southern CA wineries!

Get your California wines map ready for a tour of the best wineries in California and enjoy some top California wine

Nowadays, south California wine country is among the largest wine-growing region in the world (the fourth largest wine producer in the world), with thousands of vineyards shipping up to 250 million cases of good California wines throughout the globe annually. The winding country roads and elegant wineries attract visitors from all over the world—providing a getaway full of good food, quaint towns, and of course, fine wines! So, grab your California wine map and start planning a wine tasting tour of the Golden State, and indulge in a glass or two of some top California wine. Get ready for the best tours in the best wineries California to the northern state line has to offer.

California graphic for wine tasting in the U.S.

facts about California in the U.S.

Getting there and around the best wine regions in California in 2021

Now you’ve got hold of your California wine country map, whether you’re heading for Big Sur glamping adventures or to check out the vineyards in Napa Valley, Sonoma County, and Mendocino Anderson Valley or making your way south in search of vineyards in Southern California and wine cities in California, such as Paso Robles and Santa Barbara, the amazing wine regions near San Francisco (SFO), Oakland (OAK), and Sacramento (SMF) airports all offer a great central starting point to explore California’s wine regions where you can also find luxury tree houses to continue the adventures long into the night.

Most visitors looking for the perfect California winery rent a car at the airport upon arrival, and with the charming country lanes and great year-round weather, cruising around with the windows down and a favorite tune on the stereo is sure to be a highlight in this idyllic region. Of all the places to visit wineries, California has to be at the top of your list, so start planning a trip to visit some incredible wineries in CA.

view of Golden Gate bridge during California getaways near San Francisco

Explore other things to do in California: wine country additions when you’re not tasting

What about other things to do in California when you’re not wine tasting? California, apart from world-renowned wines, boasts a wine country California is incredibly proud of. Full of rich history, imaginative artistry, and unforgettable aerial exploits, Napa Valley’s centuries-old settlements offer a fascinating afternoon while the plazas in town showcase curious Napa ARTwalk exhibitions. During June, the Country Summer Music Festival boasts some of the countries best musicians, while the Beerfest fundraiser in Santa Rosa provides a mouthwatering respite for the lager lovers in the group. Take the whole family along for the adventures including fido and set off from your favorite pet-friendly rentals in CA before hitting the sites ad embarking on some California wine tours.

For a truly magical experience, rising up through the clouds over the stunningly beautiful meadows and valleys in a hot air balloon will make for the perfect end to the vacation.

hot air balloon tours in California for glamping CA adventures

Check out the best places to eat and drink during your next California vacations in 2021: top restaurant picks

With literally thousands of options for wine tasting in the region, it’s important to keep those stomachs full and content while road tripping through the scenic meadows. The customary cheese board may leave you feeling a bit peckish, so a visit to a high-end Michelin star restaurant or a traditional farm-to-table experience may be on the cards. These are some of the best restaurants in California and places to eat we can recommend today!

Some highlights in the area include Kenzo Napa, a sushi restaurant in Napa that is led by three-Michelin-starred chef Hiroyuki Kanda; Guiso Latin Fusion in Healdsburg with its Caribbean and Salvadorian mix; St. Francis Winery & Vineyards in Santa Rosa with its multi-course small dishes and wine pairings; and Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens in Fulton that offers locally-sourced farm-to-table meals.

graphic with California Wine Country facts and figures

graphic explaining geography of california wine region

1. Anderson Valley in Mendocino, one of the best wine regions in California

With over 90 wineries, an incredible variety of grapes, and sustainable eco-friendly and organic practices, it’s no surprise that this is considered one of the best wine regions in California. The progressive winemakers and tasting rooms of Mendocino County offer a less crowded and more wallet-friendly alternative to the more well-known Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Just a two-hour drive north of San Fransisco on Highway 101 through Sonoma County and forested hillsides will lead you to Anderson Valley, famous for its Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Alsace varieties of Pinot Gris and Riesling.

One of the premier spots to savor refined Pinot Noirs is Goldeneye Winery in Philo, which offers seated wine tastings from just $15, as well as more personalized experiences, such as elevated tasting sessions, bubbles and caviar, and a guided wine tour of the estate. This really is one of the best places to go for wine country getaways!

The friendly, small-town atmosphere in the area means that visitors can often expect to find themselves chatting with the founder of the winery while enjoying a wine tasting for as little as $5! One such family-owned winery is Foursight Wines in Booneville, which the Charles family has owned since 1943. Other stops include Balo Vineyards with its relaxed atmosphere; Drew Family Cellars tasting rooms; and the father-and-son-run Baxter Winery that boasts a reputable Pinot Noir.

friends enjoying rich wine tasting tours in California

2. Visit Napa Valley and enjoy more of the best of California Wine Country in 2021

Generally regarded as one of the premier winemaking regions in the world, and understandably considered one of the best places to go wine tasting in California, Napa Valley’s fertile soil and pleasant year-round weather allow for top-quality wine grapes to thrive here. Commercial wine production in the area dates all the way back to the 1800s, although it wasn’t until the results of the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 that the area’s fine wines received global recognition.

Today, some 5 million people visit the over 400 wineries every year, allowing vacationers to sip some award-winning wines in California while soaking in the stunning CA vineyards’ views and vibrant sunshine. Whether its fruity Merlots, full-bodied Cabernets, or superior Chardonnays you’re looking for, the tasting rooms at Darioush Winery, Chateau Montelena, V.Sattui Winery, Luna Vineyards, and Andretti Winery offer an eclectic mix of celebrity-run wineries, modern estates, and grand châteaus—all while serving some of the best wines found anywhere in the world.

With the valley floor spanning just five miles across and 30 miles at its longest point, Napa Valley is actually one of the smallest winemaking regions, in addition to being one of the most famous, making it the ideal day trip during Napa Valley getaways. When touring the gorgeous estates and vineyards, be sure to try a glass of the renowned king of Napa, the prized Cabernet Sauvignon!

girl playing in Napa Valley wine regions' field during CA family vacations

3. Sonoma Valley should also be on your California itinerary this year during CA getaways in 2021

Less than an hour’s drive from Napa, Sonoma Valley is home to over 80 wineries and picture-perfect vineyards that sprawl over 10,000 acres of land as well as secluded wine country retreats nearby. Heralded as the birthplace of California’s commercial wine industry in the 1850s, visitors to this fabulous spot can experience a wine-tasting afternoon at Gundlach Bundschu, the state’s oldest continuously family-run winery that was founded back in 1858.

The Carneros wine region in the south abounds with top-notch Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, while Syrah and regional white varietals, such as Roussanne and Marsanne, are also becoming popular in the quaint tasting rooms. Traveling on past the Boyes Hot Springs puts you in the mountainous terrain of Glen Ellen, where old-vine Zinfandel has been grown since the 1850s.

A visit to Sonoma Valley wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Buena Vista Winery, the oldest commercial winery in California founded in 1857. Other top stops in the area include Ravenswood Winery with its superb Zinfandel; Benziger Winery with its stunning setting in an impressive volcanic bowl; and the picturesque, 16,000-square-foot Ledson Winery inspired by French Normandy.

Those looking for some small-town charm shouldn’t miss the chance to wander the adorable streets of Healdsburg, with its eclectic shops, buzzing art galleries, and top-notch restaurants and bars. Set between three of the premier wine-growing regions in the area—the Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Alexander Valley—Healdsburg makes for the perfect Sonoma Valley pit stop. Don’t expect Sonoma Valley accommodation here to resemble that of Los Angeles lodging, either!

View of the vineyards from luxury Sonoma Valley lodging

4. Discover more of the best wines and wine tasting tours in the Santa Cruz Mountains, CA

Encompassing approximately 480,000 acres and 1,300 acres of wine grapes, the majestic ridges and coastal mountains of Santa Cruz create the ideal microclimate for world-class wine production and more of the best wine tasting tours in California. An iconic drive from San Fransisco along an epic 50-mile stretch of towering peaks and endless ocean will lead you to this special terrain that is home to over 70 wineries.

Santa Cruz, the best of all California wine cities

For a unique stay in a California wine region, Santa Cruz camping offers visitors a charming coastal town, surrounded by soaring redwoods and full of stylish boutiques and eateries in another top contender for the best wine regions in California. The best of California wine cities even enjoys 300 days of sunshine each year! Winding country roads make their way up from the coast to the mountainous wine region, where Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Pinot Noir tastings can be enjoyed at former mill, Storrs Winery, or Pelican Ranch, which has some of the best Burgundy and Rhone-style varietals in the area.

These quiet hillsides are dotted with small vineyards just waiting to be explored like Ridge Vineyards, generally regarded as one of the best in the area; the MJA Vineyards Tasting Room, with its racy selection of wines, such as “Still Horny,” “French Kiss,” and “Sweet Thang”; and Storrs Winery & Vineyards, which offers Pinot Noir varietals, including Dijon and Pommard, as well as French varietals like Burgundy.

With so many tasting rooms and vineyards to discover in this unique region, it’s advisable to allow a few days to truly soak up the mellow atmosphere of the mountainous wine country, as well as the boho-chic vibe and stunning coastline of the city of Santa Cruz.

view of Californian lighthouse from Santa Cruz Mountains accommodation

5. Head to Paso Robles for unique wine country vacations in California in 2021

For unique wine country vacations in California and the best West Coast getaways in 2021, head to Paso Robles! Wine aficionados are spoiled for choice with the selection of tasting rooms to explore, and the expansive river valley floodplains and boundless slopes offer brilliant driving conditions. One of the top winemakers to visit is Justin Winery, with its 25 vintages, including Isosceles—owner Justin Baldwin’s interpretation of a big Bordeaux,, which was named in the top 10 wines on the planet in 2000 by Wine Spectator.

Other unmissable stops in one of the best wine regions in California include the gorgeous Bianchi Winery, California’s Zinfandel Champion in 2014; the romantic Villa San Juliette, owned by American Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe; Halter Ranch, with its sustainably farmed Rhône and Bordeaux wines; and Eberle Winery and its incredible wine cave!

view from one of the top Paso Robles vineyards in CA

6. Santa Barbara vineyards are some of the most beautiful wineries in the world you have to visit in 2021

The unique geography and mild climate of Santa Barbara’s wine country make the Santa Ynez and Santa Maria Valleys two of the most beautiful wine regions in the world. The perfect location of “America’s Riviera” means that visitors can enjoy the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail, all while having world-class surfing and stunning coastlines at just 30 minutes away.

Keep reading to discover the best wine tasting California offers

The rolling hills of Santa Barbara wine country paint one of the best wine regions in California and can be found nestled between two epic mountain ranges, rising up to 3,400 feet, and the most popular wines made here include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Sauvignon Blanc. Within the Santa Maria Valley, Bien Nacido Vineyard spans over 900 acres and is renowned for its top class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, while the 77,000 acres of the Santa Ynez Valley are known for their Bordeaux blends, Rhône blends, and Zinfandels, as well as a crisp Sauvignon Blanc at Brander Vineyard, which offers tastings seven days a week. When it comes to wine tasting, California has a number of great options, and Santa Barabara is among the best.

Some other highlights in the area include Presqu’ile Winery, located in the north, with its beautiful tasting rooms and sweeping view; Municipal Winemakers, which offers a casual, beach vibe; Brander Vineyard and its ongoing quest for the perfect Sauvignon blanc; and Rusack Vineyards, a boutique vineyard with seemingly endless fields of gorgeous vines amid the natural beauty of Ballard Canyon.

view of Santa Barbara, one of the best places to visit in CA

Debating where to stay in California? Book your own luxury cabin Lake Tahoe has to offer and even camping in Joshua Tree.

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