California wine country vacation

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For wine lovers, there’s no better way to spend a weekend, or a week, than a California wine country vacation. Russian River, Sonoma and Napa Valley offer great farm-to-table food, delicious wine and relaxation in a gorgeous setting.

California is one of the leading winemaking regions in the world. More than 600,000 acres of the Golden State are dedicated to growing over 100 grape varieties.

The result accounts for more than 80 percent of all U.S. wine production making California the 4th largest producer of wine in the world.

In Napa, Sonoma and Russian River, visitors can taste some of the world’s best wines. Varietals like rosé, prosecco, pinot noir, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc and merlot are all on point.

California wine country is an easy drive from cities such as San Francisco or Los Angeles. But if driving isn’t an option, travellers can fly into Charles Schultz Sonoma Airport and rent a car when they land. This is the closest airport to California wine country.

Plan Your California Wine Country Vacation

Welcome to Napa Valley sign

Where to Stay in California Wine Country

Farmhouse Inn

This rustic romantic resort located in the heart of Russian River Valley is comprised of several yellow buildings containing 25 country-chic guestrooms, a spa, a lounge and a fantastic restaurant. Rooms range from the original 1870s farmhouse to the newer and bigger rooms with forest views.

We loved the two-sided fireplace, heated bathroom floors, huge comfy beds and freshly baked treats left at nightly turndown. We also enjoyed the huge outdoor Jacuzzi, complimentary s’mores bar and the resident friendly cat.

The Farmhouse Inn is the perfect place to stay when visiting Sonoma, Russian River and Healdsburg on your California wine country vacation.

7871 River Road, Forestville, CA,

Archer Hotel Napa

The Archer Hotel Napa is impressive for many reasons. One reason is its great location in the middle of downtown Napa within walking distance of restaurants and shops. Furthermore, it has an amazing rooftop with fire pits and gorgeous views.

Plus a beautiful stone and wood lobby and rooms with private balconies and fireplaces. We loved the open-air rooftop Sky & Vine bar serving bar bites and cocktails.

Also the beautiful water deck with panoramic views of Napa, water loungers and cabanas with firepits.

1230 First Street, Napa,

This guide will help you plan the perfect California wine country vacation with tips on where to stay, where to eat and where to taste wine. #Californiawinecountry #sonoma #napavalley

Hotel San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo is a great halfway point if driving to Napa from Los Angeles. The new 78-room resort is modern, bright and airy. Rooms reflect the young beachy vibe of the city.

They are decorated in a boho-chic style with white oak floors, hand-made rugs and original artwork. Our rooms featured a pretty balcony and tall floor-to-ceiling windows letting in lots of natural light.

We loved the huge 50-foot terrace swimming pool, on-site Sol Spa and delicious Ox + Anchor steakhouse.

877 Palm Street, San Luis Obispo,

Wineries to Visit on Your California Wine Country Vacation

Hamel Estates Cave.
Hamel Estates Cave Reserve room. Photo by Shaena Engle

Hamel Family Wines, Sonoma

A good place to start sipping in Sonoma on your California wine country vacation is the elegant modern Hamel Family Wines. This winery has panoramic picturesque views of the beautiful vineyards and mountains from their expansive patio.

They also offer biodynamic wines and an extensive Collector’s Experience tour. The tour includes a private tasting with culinary accompaniment in their Cave Reserve Room.

We sampled four beautiful wines and especially liked the Pamelita Reserve. It’s a great spot to view the sunset with a glass of their Nun’s Canyon 2017. Tastings: $100

15401 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma,

California wine country Jordan
Jordan Estate House. Photo by Shaena Engle

Jordan Winery, Healdsburg

Head to Healdsburg to the pretty Jordan Winery which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Inspired by the great wine estates of France, it houses a chateau, sustainably farmed vineyards and a chef’s garden. Winery members can stay in an on-site Estate House with three suites.

Take a tour and tasting and explore the 1200 acres of vineyards and enjoy a seated wine and food pairing. We opted for the winery tour and had a wine and cheese pairing.

Our favorite was the 2019 Chardonnay. Tastings: $75

1474 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg,

California wine country Charles Krug Tasting Room
Charles Krug tasting room. Photo by Shaena Engle

Charles Krug, St. Helena

Charles Krug in St. Helena is the oldest winery estate in Napa and was California’s very first tasting room. Their winery tour and tasting lets visitors learn about the legendary history of the estate. It was opened in 1861 by Charles Krug and was purchased by the Mondavi family in 1943.

We took the tour and tasting and enjoyed visiting the vineyard and viewing the three homes that the Mondavi family grew up in. The charcuterie, cheese and wine tasting in the beautiful Redwood Cellar were also wonderful.

Our favorites were the Limited Release Merlot and the Family Reserve Vintage Selection. Tastings: $75

2800 Main Street, St. Helena,

Davis Chardonnay & Soup
Davis Estates Chardonnay & Soup. Photo by Shaena Engle

Davis Estates, Calistoga

At the top of Calistoga in the Napa Valley is the picturesque Davis Estates. The family-owned and operated winery is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, but also produces Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs.

The property covers 155 acres and includes a historic barn with vintage artifacts and trailers and an antique windmill. There is also an impressive cave and dining room and a gorgeous tasting lounge with a kitchen.

We especially loved the artwork throughout the caves and winery, the outstanding food pairings that accompanied our wine tasting and the stunning panoramic views.

Our favorite wines were the 2017 Sauvignon Blanc and the Phase V Cabernet Sauvignon. Tastings: $100

4060 Silverado Trail, Calistoga,

Larkmead Vineyards, Calistoga

Located a short drive from Davis Estates is the quaint Larkmead Vineyards. Guest experiences are specifically curated to suit each visitor. Founded in 1895, the 110-acre vineyard houses a pretty, white country-designed tasting room.

We sat on the porch overlooking the vineyard and enjoyed the Estate Tasting including their 2015 Firebelle and 2018 Solari and Cabernet. Tastings: $125

1100 Larkmead Lane, Calistoga,

Chandon. Photo by Shaena Engle

Chandon, Yountville

Head to Yountville for some bubbly at the famous Domaine Chandon Winery. Set in the Chandon Hills, visitors sit amidst lushly landscaped grounds in an idyllic setting. Domaine Chandon consists of 1,000 acres of vineyards in Yountville, Carneros and Mount Veeder.

Our tasting began with questions about our favorite wines, which enabled our guide, Gabriel, to choose specific wines that would fit our palette.

We loved the al fresco relaxed atmosphere and the opportunity to purchase sparkling wines that are only available at the winery.

Our favorites were the Blan de Pinot Noir and the Étoile Téte de Cuvée. Tastings: $50

1 California Drive, Yountville,

California wine country JCB
JCB Tasting Salon. Photo by Shaena Engle

JCB Tasting Salon, Yountville

Make sure to book an appointment to view the luxurious JCB Tasting Salon in Yountville. Named after its curator Jean Charles Boiseet, this unique salon showcases one-of-a-kind jewelry, perfumes, candles, stemware, Lalique glassware, home furnishings and artwork.

We loved the Gala Champagne and Caviar Sparkling Wine. Tasting prices vary.

6505 Washington Street, Yountville,

Far Niente Estate
Far Niente Estate. Photo by Shaena Engle

Far Niente Winery, Oakville

Visit the idyllic Far Niente Winery in Oakville for its peaceful surroundings, excellent wines and beautifully landscaped gardens. Their caves store hundreds of wine barrels and the 13 acres around the winery contain a garden tasting area next to a Carriage House with vintage motorcycles and cars.

We loved the knowledgeable tour guides, delicious wine and gorgeous surroundings. Our Estate Tasting consisted of a cheese tasting with five wines.

Our favorites were the 2020 Chardonnay and the 2019 En Route Pinot Noir. Tastings: $90

1350 Arcadia Drive, Oakville,

Where to Eat in California Wine Country

truffle pasta
Farm truffle pasta. Photo by Shaena Engle

FARM, Carneros Resort and Spa, Napa

Guests can choose to dine al fresco on the patio or inside next to the cozy fireplace at this farm-to-table-inspired restaurant.

Simple and elegant dishes fill the menu, including a beautiful vegetable crudité with hummus, a shaved fennel and beet salad, black truffle pasta, white asparagus Nicoise salad and chicken with chestnut jus.

4048 Sonoma Highway, Napa,

California wine country Hazelhill tuna
Hazel Hill tuna with fennel and farro. Photo by Shaena Engle

Hazel Hill, Montage, Healdsburg

Featuring French-influenced California cuisine, the new Hazel Hill at the Montage Healdsburg is elegant and modern with beautiful views of vineyards and Mount St. Helena.

Local produce is showcased in dishes including smoked sturgeon with celery root and caviar, white asparagus with cured egg and hazelnut and pasta with black truffles.

Other delicious bites include tuna with fennel and farro, Wagyu strip with duck fat potatoes and mandarin creamsicle and milk chocolate cremeux for dessert. We loved the airy indoor and al fresco dining rooms and the huge open kitchen.

100 Montage Way, Healdsburg,

California wine country Sky & Vine at archer
Delicious burgers at Sky & Vine Archer Hotel. Photo by Shaena Engle

Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar, Archer Hotel Napa

Enjoy panoramic views of downtown Napa at the casual Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar. Visit the bar for craft cocktails, private barrel flights and draft beers.

Or relax in lounge seating or a rocker alongside potted olive trees and topiary and enjoy small bites or their Tuesday tacos and tequilas. We loved the lively atmosphere and delicious burgers.

1260 First Street, Napa,

California wine country vacation
Ox and Anchor at SLO. Photo by Shaena Engle

Ox + Anchor, Hotel San Luis Obispo

Located next to Hotel San Luis Obispo, Ox + Anchor elevates traditional salads, steaks, seafood and side dishes with California farm-fresh ingredients.

Chef Ryan Fancher worked at Auberge du Soleil, The French Laundry, Thomas Keller’s New York Per Se and Healdsburg’s Barndiva before heading up the kitchen at Ox + Anchor.

Diners can indulge in goat cheese croquettes, bone marrow tater tots and crab cakes. Plus a variety of signature steaks and sauces. Other dishes include mac and cheese, lobster risotto, grilled lobster, crispy duck and halibut.

877 Palm Street, San Luis Obispo,

Whether you plan to visit a few or many locations in California wine country, it’s the perfect spot to unwind, relax and sample some of the best wine and food in the world. 

Book This Trip

Start planning your relaxing retreat to California’s wine country today. Get prepared with knowledge of the best shops, hotels and VRBO accommodations, local restaurant reviews, insider tips on the best sights and more through TripAdvisor and Travelocity.

Have even more fun during your vacation by booking some expert-led tours in California wine country, wine tastings, skip-the-line tickets to major attractions and more through GetYourGuide. Find more information on activities and book your spots in advance here.

Taste the flavors of California before you go with hand-selected bottles from your personal sommelier. Chat with a specialist about your preferences and regions you want to explore then get your bottles delivered to your door. Check out the top-rated selection and start chatting here.

For exclusive flight discounts, car rental reservations and vacation packages, check out CheapOair.

Author Bio: Shaena Engle is a travel, food, entertainment and lifestyle writer for The Daily Meal, Los Angeles Times, AOL, JustLuxe, Pasadena Magazine, WeHo Times and other outlets. She has authored The Best Places to Kiss in Southern California and The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Las Vegas guidebooks. Shaena writes about travel, food, wellness, lifestyle and entertainment happenings throughout Los Angeles and the world and is co-owner of Vegas Chocolate Tours. She also performs magic in her spare time.

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