Last updated: 05:03 PM ET, Fri April 16 2021
Entrance to a winery in Napa California (photo via miteemaus5 / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Wine Country

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Vista of Sonoma Valley wine country in autumn. Looking down on patches of yellow and green vines. Sun rays shine over mountains and valleys, tree in foreground. (photo via KarenWibbs / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Vista of Sonoma Valley wine country in autumn. Looking down on patches of yellow and green vines. Sun rays shine over mountains and valleys, tree in foreground. (photo via KarenWibbs / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

The pastorally chic area of Northern California known as Wine Country is the ultimate ‘chosen land’ for high quality wine production in the United States. Though it wasn’t until the 1970s that the region was taken seriously as a major contender in the wine industry, today both Napa and Sonoma Valleys flourish with hundreds of internationally celebrated wineries.

Whether taking a day trip from San Francisco or spending a week relaxing at a quaint bed and breakfast overlooking a vineyard, a trip to Wine Country will be a rejuvenating plunge into great food, wine and California culture. The largest wine growing region is Napa Valley. Cities within the Valley, like Calistoga, Oakville, St. Helena and Napa itself boast small and large wineries such as: Sterling, Robert Mondavi, Beringer and the Hess Collection.

Napa Valley vineyards on a foggy morning in the summer (photo via latypova / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Napa Valley vineyards on a foggy morning in the summer (photo via latypova / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Sonoma County is another hugely popular region of Wine Country. Comprised of over 200,000 acres of varied terrain resting between the Mayacamas Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Sonoma has a dynamic wealth of vineyards and postcard-perfect scenery. Wine tasting is just one of the many activities featured here. Enjoy the Great Outdoors by playing a round of gold on an award-winning course, take a sunset hot air balloon ride over the rolling grape hills, spend the day at a farmer’s market or take a bike tour through the plush vineyards. For guests wanting to be pampered like only this area can; dozens of state-of-the-art spas await. There is also a strong arts scene, where local theaters, galleries and museums are popular attractions. In addition to Napa and Sonoma; Mendocino, Russian River Valley and Lake County are other plush viticultural regions that produce large quantities of wine.

With the natural synergy between locally grown wine, produce and artisanal foods; the cuisine of California’s Wine Country is unmatched. Top chefs from around the world flock here to create menus filled with sustainable and gourmet ingredients. From exclusive tasting menus at French Laundry or The Farmhouse Inn, to beautifully paired wine-inspired dishes at The Fig Café or Cuvee; there is a uniquely delicious meal waiting to be devoured.

Neighborhood in Mendocino, California (photo via johnrandallalves / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Neighborhood in Mendocino, California (photo via johnrandallalves / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

The closest major airports are located in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and Sacramento. From there, travelers will have the option of renting a car or taking a shuttle or bus into the regions of Wine Country. Driving, walking and biking are the best ways to get around while in a town. Napa County has a public transportation authority (NCTPA) that runs several bus lines throughout the Napa Valley and neighboring towns.

Due to the diversity in terrain and proximity to the ocean, Wine Country encounters several microclimates, though the majority of the region is within the Mediterranean climate zone. The ideal times to visit are spring through autumn, though prices on hotels are slashed during the winter months.