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 from the best winery in California? Vineyards here are the places to head to. When it comes to US vineyards, both Northern and Southern vineyards are some of the best in the world. The list of places in this region is filled with exceptional spots, and those amazing examples in the Golden State are growing steadily in reputation. But before we get into the best wine regions in California,  how about a history lesson about the them, and how wineries in SoCal  started, and how did the best come to be? Keep reading to discover the fruitful past of California growing regions .

Discover the best 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. Serra went on to found a further eight missions earning himself the nickname “Father of California Wine.” Without him, none of this would have come to pass.

one of the best wineries in California for CA vacations

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 experts selected three of the Chardonnays in the top four, shocking the wine community and effectively opening up the U.S market to the world. Countries the world over now import from this amazing region, California wine country cities, and some of the state’s best vineyards.

Get your map ready for a tour of the best wineries in California

Nowadays, South California wine country is among the largest growing region in the world (the fourth largest producer in the world), with thousands of vineyards shipping up to 250 million cases of good California wine throughout the globe annually from one of the many So Cal wineries. The winding country roads attract visitors from all over the world—providing a getaway full of good food, quaint towns, and of course, fine drinks! So, grab your California wine map and start planning a tasting tour of the Golden State, and indulge in a glass or two of some top stuff around.

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 ofthe best wine tasting Southern California can boast, and cities, 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 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 today.

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? 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 of the best 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. From here you can see all on offer and even a view of those wine Vineyards in California, get a different view during your tasting experience this way!

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 – California might make your head spin! So 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.

The friendly, small-town atmosphere in the area means that visitors can often expect to find themselves chatting with the founder while enjoying a tasting for as little as $5! One such family-owned winery is Foursight 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  that boasts a reputable Pinot Noir. This really is one of the best places to go for wine country getaways!

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 grapes to thrive here. Commercial 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 offering 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, Chateau Montelena, V.Sattui , Luna Vineyards, and Andretti Winery offer an eclectic mix of celebrity-run offerings, 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 of the California wine region, 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 industry in the 1850s, visitors to this fabulous spot can experience a 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 spot in California founded in 1857. Other top stops in the area include Ravenswood with its superb Zinfandel; Benziger with its stunning setting in an impressive volcanic bowl; and the picturesque, 16,000-square-foot Ledson 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


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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