Whether you are a local or visiting the San Francisco Bay Area for business or pleasure, a trip to the Wine Country is always a great time. Whether you are into intense red wines, sweet white wines, hand made olive oil or gourmet food, the Wine Country has a little something for everyone.
Located north of San Francisco, Wine Country primarily consists of two main regions, Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. The unique climate and locations wedged between mountains make these areas perfect for growing a variety of grapes, resulting in some of the best wines in the world. With over 800 wineries producing Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Pinot Noir and more, it is the perfect place for wine lovers to visit some awesome wineries, try a variety of wines and enjoy the scenic beauty of the area. Aside from the wineries, you can also eat at some amazing restaurants, visit some museums and do some shopping at boutique shops in each town. If it is your first time visiting Wine Country or if you are looking for something a little different, check out the Winery Tours available from all parts of the Bay Area. Winery Tours typically have a set itinerary, which will allow you to visit a few great wineries that will give you a good overview of the region. You can also feel free to set up a custom, private winery tour, which will allow you to set up wine tastings at a few wineries perfectly suited for your group.
With more than 400 wineries to choose from, Napa Valley is a world class destination for wine lovers. visit historic wineries, stroll through sprawling vineyards, learn from the winemakers and sip wines in a variety of unique tasting rooms.
Napa Valley is a specific region in Napa County, which is located in Northern California just north or San Francisco and Oakland. The “valley” is a strip of land which falls between two mountain ranges (The Mayacamas Mountains and the Vaca Mountains), which frame the eastern and western borders. Approximately 1/3 of Napa County, the area is roughly 30 miles long and runs parallel to the California coastline.
Napa Valley has a long history in regards to winemaking. Wineries like Charles Krug and Beringer date back to the 1860’s and have stood the test of time. While it was known to be a rich agricultural area dating back to the 1830s, gaining much recognition during the Gold Rush in 1849, Napa Valley was the second region to be nationally recognized as an American Viticultural Area in 1981. While it went through ups and downs, especially during prohibition until it ended in 1933. Pioneers like Robert Mondavi and Joe Heitz helped to revitalize the area post-prohibition and helped to make it one of the best wine making regions in the world.
Napa Valley’s unique microclimates allow for a large variety of different grapes to thrive in each region. In fact, the Napa Valley AVA is divided into 16 distinct regions, each with their own specific characteristics. The regions include: Oakville, Yountville, Chiles Valley District, Wild Horse Valley, Coombsville, Rutherford, Mount Veeder, Oak Knoll of Napa Valley, St. Helena, Stags Leap District, Spring Mountain District, Calistoga, Los Carneros, Atlas Peak, Diamond Mountain District and Howell Mountain.
While the region is most known for excellent Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, there is a great variety of grapes grown in Napa Valley. Other popular varietals include Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Syrah and more.
Napa Valley is a wine lover’s dream and the perfect place to go wine tasting, but there is a lot more than just wineries. Each little town in the valley offers a great selection of restaurants, museums, shops and more. It is also a great place for people who love the outdoors with amazing parks, lots of hiking trails and plenty of picturesque scenic views. There are so many things to do that visiting the area can be a little overwhelming, so if you want to take a trip to Napa without having to spend a lot of time researching the area, you can take advantage of the awesome winery tours offered from San Francisco, Oakland and other cities in the Bay Area.
Just a short drive from San Francisco, Sonoma offers more than 425 wineries with a wide variety of wines. Nearly twice the size of Napa Valley, Sonoma caters to a more laid back wine tasting experience. There is a large number of amazing winery tours available to Sonoma all year long.
Sonoma County is located just west of Napa County and similar to Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley takes up only a portion of the county. The valleys are separated by the Mayacamas Mountains and the Sonoma Mountains make up the western border of Sonoma Valley. The similar topography of the two regions create a lot of similarities as far as the quality of the grapes grown, however each valley has its own unique characteristics that come across in the taste of the wines produced.
Historically know as the “Valley of the Moon” Sonoma’s origins date back to the early 1800s and was the home to Mission Solano, one California’s famous missions and the first one established under the rule of a newly independent Mexico. It was home to some of California’s first wineries including Buena Vista Winery, which opened in 1857 and Gundlach Bundschu, which opened in 1858. Sonoma Valley expanded rapidly in the 1900s with many new wineries opening. It was also a popular place to go to for health retreats due to the numerous natural hot springs in the area.
Sonoma Valley is known as the birthplace of wine in California and together with Napa Valley, the region attracts a staggering 15 million visitors each year for wine tasting tours, film festivals, fine dining and weekend spa getaways. If you want to taste some incredible wines, eat some amazing food and take in some picturesque Northern California views, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Sonoma Valley.