5 World-Class Wine Tasting Destinations in California
California: the Golden State, my beloved home, and the producer of nearly 90% of American wine. In fact, if California were its own country, it would be the fourth largest wine producer in the world. Spanish missionaries began planting vineyards in the 1700s, and, since then, California’s wine industry has grown to over 1200 wineries across the state with over one hundred grape varieties.
California – and all of the U.S. West Coast, really – has an amazing array of sights, scenery, and attractions to offer to visitors, and wine tourism is one of the state’s highlights. Five travel bloggers and wine aficionados share their picks for the best destinations for wine tasting in California.
The Zinfandel Capital of the World, Lodi produces forty percent of California’s zinfandel and has vines dating back to the early 1900s. While zin is the star, there are over one hundred varieties produced, including cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot and sauvignon blanc. The Lodi Appellation has a Mediterranean climate and delta breezes that produce over 100,000 acres of premium wine grapes.
The Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing began in 2005 and demonstrate the growers’ commitment to their craft. This area is a community of fourth and fifth-generation wine growers who fully intend to pass the trade on to the next generation. Traditionally, Lodi has been a growing region. Today, many growers have opened their own wineries. It is common for the grower or winemaker to be the one pouring for you in the tasting room.
Lodi now has over eighty wineries. Visit on the weekend for music, barrel-tasting, food and wine pairings, wine dinners and educational opportunities. Lodi is a charming area full of people who are passionate about wine. If you love wine, you will love Lodi!
– Sherianne Higgins, Out of Office Blog
When most people think of Malibu, they think of surfers, beach babes, and celebrities. What many don’t know is that there is a tasting room nestled deep in the hills east of the Pacific called Malibu Wines. Malibu Wines sources all of its wines from The Saddlerock Ranch and Vineyard.
Fit with a vintage school bus, large wine sculpture, and an old-fashioned carriage, make sure to bring your camera. Malibu Wines is an Instagrammer’s dream; after a few adult beverages, Malibu Wines has the perfect places to pose. In the summertime, Malibu Wines hosts live music, so you can sip local vino and bust a
move on the dance floor — #winning. Like a true California winery, the red varietals win the tasting trophy.
The fun continues past the tasting room. With Malibu Wines and Saddlerock Ranch, you can take a wine safari in an open-air vehicle. While you taste local wines, you’ll get up close and personal with zebras, camels, alpacas, bison, and a giraffe!
– Collette and Scott Stohler, Roamaroo
Napa Valley is California’s popular wine-producing region and one of the most famous regions for wine in the world. Located about an hour and a half north of San Francisco (which has plenty of its own fun, free, and cheap things to do), Napa Valley is home to over 400 wineries and tasting rooms. The combination of the region’s weather, location, and soil allows for some of the world’s best quality grapes to be produced. Some of the most popular grapes grown in the region are cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, pinot noir, merlot, and zinfandel.
The Napa Valley region sees millions of visitors every year. You can easily spend a few days in the area, making your way around different tasting rooms. If you’re a wine lover, Napa Valley is the perfect vacation, honeymoon destination, or weekend getaway with friends. In addition to the endless selection of fine wines, the region is home to some of California’s best restaurants, charming towns, pampering spas, and stunning scenery.
– Kristen, Travels & Treats
San Luis Obispo & Paso Robles
Considered to have the perfect climate for wine making, San Luis Obispo, aka SLO Valley, is a must stop in California for any wine lover. Not only are the views of rolling hills and vineyards breathtaking, but the surrounding area around San Luis Obispo is also fun. San Luis Obispo is home to the famous themed hotel Madonna Inn and is a short drive from Hearst Castle, Pismo Beach, sand dunes, and a dramatic cliff coastline.
You’re also just a few miles south of Paso Robles, one of California’s most famous wine regions. During your time in the area, you surely won’t run out of wineries to try or beautiful scenery to enjoy.
– Megan, Bobo & ChiChi
If I had to choose just one wine region to visit, it would be Sonoma Valley. Located just an hour north of San Francisco and adjacent to Napa Valley, the two sometimes meld together in people’s minds as one big wine region, but there’s actually a pretty big difference between the two. I like to think of Sonoma as the laid-back, unpretentious cousin of Napa Valley.
Sonoma’s vineyards are often farmed by families who have been doing so for decades. The wine is very good and yet reasonably priced, and the wine tasting experience is relaxed and friendly. There are sixteen AVAs in the Sonoma Valley, which makes for a great diversity in the terroir of the wine produced in Sonoma. There’s always something new and interesting to try.
One of my favorite wineries in Sonoma Valley is Kendall Jackson. The winery is beautiful, and they have a really great wine-paired lunch and fantastic wines that you can only get at the winery. It’s a great example of how awesome Sonoma can be.
– Laura Lynch, Savored Journeys
California is packed with wonderful wine tasting spots, but these five destinations will make for a great start to your next West Coast wine trip. Let’s raise a glass to California and its winsome wine!