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Calling all oenophiles!

Fall is here, which means the time is ripe for a road trip to one of California’s top wine regions. With more than 100 to choose from and each with their unique styles and characteristics – you may need to come back for multiple trips this season.

But to help you narrow it down and give you some winery travel inspiration, I’ve narrowed the search to the best California wine regions (in my humble opinion).

So what are you waiting for?

Grab the designated driver in your life, and let’s sniff, swirl, and sip your way through California’s wine country!

The Sonoma Valley

Sonoma Valley

Stretching from the Golden Gate Bridge through Napa Valley, Sonoma’s 17-mile wine region beckons oenophiles searching for a laid-back yet luxurious weekend escape.

With over 500 wineries and a quick one-hour drive from San Francisco, you can sip your way through the valley, dining at acclaimed farm-to-table restaurants and winding down at Tuscan-style villas.

Think of it like Napa, but way less commercialized.

The Top 10 Wineries in Sonoma Valley

  1. Gundlach Bundschu Winery: California’s oldest family-owned winery.
  2. Hamel Family Wines Estate: 124-acre estate with panoramic views of Sonoma Valley.
  3. Landmark Vineyards: Come here for ultra-premium Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
  4. Scribe Winery: One of the most beautiful estates in Sonoma Valley.
  5. St. Francis Winery: 50-year-old wine farm producing award-winning vintages.
  6. Chateau St Jean Winery: A romantic getaway perfect for weddings, weekend adventures, or day trips.
  7. Flowers Vineyard & Winery: Pioneered the growing of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the region.
  8. Buena Vista Winery: Named one of the top 10 most beautiful wineries in Sonoma.
  9. Jordan Winery: A certified sustainable winery specializing in Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
  10. Ferrari Carano Vineyards & Winery: Explore the lush gardens in between wine tastings on the villa terrace.

Napa Valley

napa valley

Napa Valley is California’s world-famous wine country. With its lush, picturesque vineyards, dramatic landscapes, decadent restaurants, and opulent hotels, it’s the ultimate destination for foodies looking to splurge.

In between the romantic ambiance, your palette has over 400 wineries to choose from. That’s stiff competition for your itinerary and the vineyards, which is why this region is known for kicking things up a notch.

Instead of your typical run-of-the-mill tastings, you can expect experiences like private dining with Michelin-star chefs and sensory garden escapades.

Fun fact: Napa Valley generated $2.23 billion in 2018 and welcomes 3.85 million visitors a year!

The Top 10 Wineries in Napa Valley

  1. Charles Krug: The oldest winery in Napa Valley.
  2. Faust Haus: Book one of the immersive wine tastings or seasonal showcases.
  3. Darioush: Boasts over 10 unique wine tasting experiences.
  4. V. Sattui: A family-owned winery with picnics, tastings, and wine group trips to Tuscany.
  5. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars: A renowned first-growth Napa Valley winery.
  6. Nickel & Nickel: Produces 100% varietal, single-vineyard wines.
  7. Mayacamas: Founded in 1889, it’s one of California’s legendary wine estates.
  8. Poe Wines: Inspired by the wines of Burgundy and Champagne but with a Californian twist.
  9. Château Montelena: Winners of the white wine section of the historic “Judgment of Paris” wine competition.
  10. Domaine Carneros: A stunning regional landmark with award-winning wines.

Paso Robles

Paso Robles

Located less than an hour from San Luis Obispo in California’s northern wine country, Paso Robles is a firm favorite with locals. Come here for the rolling hills and rugged mountainsides and pair it with unbeatable views of the Pacific Ocean coastline.

And if that’s not enough to get you to jump into your car and go on an impromptu road trip, the gastronomic delights that await your tastebuds will. You can just imagine sitting there looking towards the mountains with a high quality silver drinkware by your side refilled with wine every time it runs out. Perhaps that sort of imagination could make you want to visit Paso Robles.

Paso Robles has an incredible restaurant scene, breweries, and distilleries for those who want a break from all the wine. In short, it’s perfect for travelers who want a cheaper alternative to Napa Valley (without compromising on quality) and far fewer crowds.

The Top 10 Wineries in Paso Robles

  1. Daou Vineyards: The estate is committed to producing collectible, world-class wines.
  2. Calcareous Vineyard: Known for its distinctive, high-quality wines.
  3. Sculpterra Winery: An award-winning winery and a top California museum.
  4. Eberle Winery: Home to the first wine caves in Paso Robles and the estate of Gary Eberle who is a regional pioneer winemaker.
  5. Tobin James: Stop by to see why their wines are called “Paso Robles in a glass”.
  6. Niner Wine Estates: Known for their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and the flagship Fog Catcher.
  7. Tablas Creek Vineyard: The world’s first Regenerative Organic winery.
  8. Paix Sur Terre: French for “Peace on Earth,” the winery produces unique varietals not found anywhere else in the region.
  9. Shale Oak Winery: A sustainably farmed estate and GOLD LEED and SIP certified winery.
  10. LXV Wine: Come see why this estate is one of the top five things to do in Paso Robles.

Temecula, CA

Temecula

When it comes to the best wine regions in California, Temecula tops the list. Conveniently located one hour from San Diego and Orange County, you can sip your way through over 40 wineries and experience over 50 different types of varietals.

…and then there is the food.

At most wineries, you can feast on fine dining menus or grab a picnic basket and soak up the spectacular scenery over a cheese board with your beau.

The Top 10 Wineries in Temecula

  1. Baily Vineyard & Winery: Crafting premium vintage wines for over 30-years.
  2. Doffo Winery: 2018 winery of the year in Temecula.
  3. Palumbo Vineyards: The winery is known for complex wines, red wines, and a boutique tasting experience.
  4. Carter Estate Winery: A luxurious wine estate with lush vineyards, tastings, and opulent suites.
  5. Leoness Cellars: The vineyards produce some of the best, award-winning Temecula wines.
  6. Hart Family Winery: Founded in 1890, it’s one of Temecula’s oldest wineries.
  7. Ponte Winery: A boutique hotel with an on-site restaurant, and a tasting room.
  8. Vindemia Winery: Award-winning Californian wine with a sustainable focus.
  9. Robert Renzoni Vineyards: Wine, picnics, and hot air balloon rides over Temecula.
  10. Akash Winery: Offers wine and craft beer tastings.

Santa Maria Valley

Santa Maria Valley

Want a more personable wine tasting experience? Head to Santa Maria Valley.

With only 34 wineries, the winemakers aren’t faceless names on a label. The tastings are intimate, and the winemakers? You’ll find them ready to pour you a glass and discuss all the ins and outs of crafting their signature vintages.

From tasting rooms with incredible views of rolling hillsides to restaurants serving up delicious dishes made from locally sourced ingredients, you’ll have everything you need for an unforgettable Santa Maria trip. It’s even more exciting to visit these places if you live nearby, such as Pasadena, as you can take your time and taste the wines.
However, you may need to get a sense of the cost of living (read more on https://sgvlistings.com) to determine whether you can afford it.

The Top 5 Wineries in Santa Maria Valley

  1. Presqu’ile Winery: Specializes in crafting exceptional, cool-climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah.
  2. Rancho Sisquoc Winery: The oldest cattle ranch winery in the region.
  3. Riverbench Vineyard & Winery: Produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and sparkling wines from a single vineyard.
  4. Cambria Winery: Sustainable Pinot Noir & Chardonnay wines with certifications from California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) and Sustainability in Practice (SIP).
  5. Byron Winery: Creating exceptional Pinot Noir since 1984.

San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo is a wine destination for beach lovers, with the Pacific Ocean only a short drive away. The region’s cool climate means you can expect crisp Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as well as Rhône varieties like Syrah and Viognier.

Did you know? San Luis Obispo has been producing award-winning vintages since the 1800s,

The Top 10 Wineries in San Luis Obispo

  1. Sinor-Lavallee Wines: Vineyards 1.2 miles from the Pacific Ocean.
  2. Laetitia Vineyard & Winery: Known for Méthode Champenoise sparkling wines and handcrafted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
  3. Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards: Produces award-winning wines, which are out of the ordinary, specialized products like the apple Chardonnay.
  4. Talley Vineyards: Burgundian style Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with California influence.
  5. Saucelito Canyon Vineyard: An historic dry-farmed vineyard.
  6. Sextant Wines: Known for its powerful award-winning Zinfandels and smooth Bordeaux blends.
  7. Edna Valley Vineyard: 30-year old vineyard creating food-friendly wines.
  8. Tolosa Vineyard: Remarkable Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines.
  9. Chamisal Vineyards: Visit the tasting room with stunning scenery that’s only 10 minutes from downtown San Luis Obispo.

What are your top California Wine Regions to visit? Did I leave out any of your go-to wineries?