California is a favorite tourism destination for wine lovers across the globe. There are hundreds of vineyards scattered across the state, so planning a wine tasting tour can be daunting, but it isn’t impossible.
We’ve put together everything you need to plan a California wine tasting trip, including the best time to visit, the best wineries to sample, and much more.
Let’s begin our journey.
Best Time for California Wine Tasting
California enjoys gorgeous weather throughout the year, so visit anytime for wine tasting tours in Napa Valley and other winery towns.
Each season has something unique:
- During summer, several festivals and similar events occur, keeping the wine towns bustling until fall.
- Fall is when California’s wine regions are busiest and most beautiful. People troop to sample white vintages and glimpse the gorgeous landscape bursting with color.
- Winter is the best time to sample the Cabernet. It’s also quite festive during this period, especially around Christmas, with lots of food, spectacular red wine, and twinkling towns.
- In spring, California’s wine towns are less crowded, and the weather is less predictable. The lack of milling tourists makes this the best period for an intimate California wine tour date, though.
These tours are awesome for young couples and for special dates. Read more about finding the perfect escort for a special wine tasting date.
Getting Around Wine Country
Napa Valley is central to California’s wine industry, making it the ideal destination for wine tours and memorable weekends. Getting there is straightforward, whether you are from out of town or a California resident.
Take a flight to Sonoma County Airport, San Francisco International Airport, San Jose International Airport, or Sacramento International Airport. From there, take a car rental for a scenic drive to Napa.
In Napa, you can begin your tour via Highway 29 or the Silverado Trail. Both roads offer great views and will take you to some of the region’s most celebrated wineries. Most guests choose the best of both worlds by arriving via Highway 29 and leaving via the Silverado Trail.
If you’d rather not drive, explore the area via the Napa Valley Wine Train. The steam train offers a luxurious tour of several Napa wineries, including a private tour of Castello di Amorosa.
Best Wine Tour & Tasting Destinations in California
In California wine country, several lovely towns offer wine tasting and tour experiences.
Within Napa Valley is the town of Napa, famous for its Michelin star restaurants and assorted wine-tasting bars. The town is also home to hot springs, mud baths, and lavish resorts.
Of 400+ vineyards, the most popular are:
Etude has been around since 1982. The vineyard is famous for its fantastic grapes, which create exceptional variations of Pinot Noir, Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Bordeaux wines.
Tourists often participate in the Collectors Tasting, which involves sampling five signature red wines. You can also partake in a Special Library Selection tasting.
The first winery on the Silverado Trail, this vineyard specializes in Old World wine styles and Italian vintages. Walk-ins are welcome, but you can only participate in a wine-tasting tour with a reservation.
Considered one of the most beautiful wineries in the US, Domaine Carneros has become a Napa Valley landmark. The winery isn’t only famous for its looks, however.
People also visit for its sublime tasting flight, which you can experience by glass or bottle. Wine ambassadors guide guests through sparkling wine, Pinot Noir, and other fine flight options.
Located south of Napa Valley, American Canyon is known for wine tours and outdoor adventures.
Jamieson Ranch Vineyards
The most popular winery is Jamieson Ranch Vineyards. It covers 300 acres of scenic hillsides where they make the famous Double Lariat Cabernet.
Jamieson Ranch also provides award-winning wine-tasting experiences, including Signature and Reserve tasting experiences.
Tours of the wine making process are also available.
Even though it’s a small place, Calistoga’s wineries are up there with the best in the country. The city is also famous for art galleries, boutiques, and natural wonders, such as the Old Faithful Geyser of California.
Top wine tour destinations in the area include:
Castello di Amorosa
One of Napa Valley’s gems, Castello di Amorosa, is a Tuscan-style castle that offers various wine tours. It includes food and wine pairing tours, cheese and wine tours, and more.
You can sample many of the vineyard’s award-winning wines, including II Barone Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, and Late Harvest Gewurztraminer.
Frank Family Vineyards
Frank Family Vineyards sets itself apart by offering hand-crafted sparkling and reserve wines. It’s also one of the few places you can taste the meticulously sourced wine flavors of Todd Graff, a world-renowned winemaker.
Chateau Montelena Winery
One of the more picturesque wineries in the region, Chateau Montelena, is an intimidating stone castle over a fascinating Chinese garden and acres of vineyards. The winery’s white wine is a “Judgment of Paris” winner.
Visitors can sample it and other prestigious vintages in the Library or the Cellar Master Tasting Room.
Another famous city for elegant hotels, Michelin star restaurants, and excellent wineries is St. Helena. The town has been making wine since the 1800s, and its most notable wineries are:
Louis M. Martini Winery
Boasting eight decades of winemaking, the Louis M. Martini Winery should be a priority on your California wine tasting list. The specialty is a premium Cabernet Sauvignon.
You are welcome to daily tastings of at least ten different wines, including the Legendary Lot 1 Cabernet Sauvignon, Small-lot Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Rosé, available for purchase only at the winery.
V. Sattui Winery
For over a century, the family-owned winery has been producing over sixty wine types. Tourists can sample all these wines by choosing a tasting package that suits the palate.
A tasting tour of this winery’s Private Reserve Chardonnay, Nightingale, and Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is one of its biggest attractions. The vineyard is over 140 years old with a rich wine history.
Other St. Helena wineries are Markham Vineyards and Raymond Vineyard.
Extend your trip to include Oakville and Rutherford on Highway 29. Wineries in the area are famous for tantalizing Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.
Oakville and Rutherford vineyards to see are Peju Province Winery, Beaulieu Vineyard, Miner Family Winery, and Robert Mondavi Winery.
Champagne lovers must also add Yountville to the California wine tasting itinerary. It is home to Domaine Chandon Vineyard, built by international champagne producer–Moët et Chandon—in 1973.
Why not share your favorite spot to raise a glass on the California wine trails in the comments below?