California is a hotbed of vineyards, and if you want to take a vacation in Wine Country, there is no shortage of wine regions to choose from. Making that choice can be difficult, though, especially if you aren't familiar with California to begin with. Here is a brief guide to help you decide where to go.
The Napa Valley
California's Napa Valley has earned the recognition it now attracts worldwide. Napa Valley arguably produces the finest Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in the world. The area is also home to many award-winning restaurants, a lot of which exemplify the farm-to-table movement. The vineyards in Napa Valley are close to one another, making visiting them easy. The California countryside is absolutely stunning, with rolling hills and bucolic landscapes, and there are plenty of charming bed and breakfast lodging options, too. The downside is that Napa Valley can become quite crowded on the weekend, and the region is probably the priciest.
Paso Robles Wine Region
The Paso Robles region has many smaller, new, and exciting up-and-coming wineries to choose from. The climate allows for dozens of varietals to be grown, resulting in an endless amount of wines, from Malbec, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Viognier, Grenache Blanc to even a bold attempt at France's Grand Dame, Bordeaux. Like much of rural California, the area is rich in scenic beauty. The region is also close to San Simeon, home to publisher magnate William Randolph Hearst's magnificent castle, a popular tourist attraction. There are fewer restaurants and lodging options to choose from, but because the region is 3-4 hours from San Francisco and LA in good traffic, there aren't nearly the crowds to deal with as other wine producing regions.
Santa Cruz Mountains
Beautiful mountain scenery and towering redwood trees add to the allure of visiting the wineries in the Santa Cruz area. The climate is ideal for growing both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The wineries tend to be small yet unique and eclectic, much like the picturesque hamlets that dot the region. Restaurants and lodging may not have an abundance of 4-star amenities, and the mountain driving can be difficult if one isn't accustomed to it, but the natural beauty, quaint antique and craft shops, and friendly people make up for it.
Healdsburg – Sonoma County
If you want something closer to San Francisco, the Healdsburg – Sonoma region is within easy driving distance. Wineries range from major to producers to small, family owned vintners. The scenery is mostly vineyards, there are great places to stay and eat, and the region is less busy than Napa. Traffic and crowds can be considerable, though, particularly on weekends due to the proximity to San Francisco.
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