5 Wine Country Day and Weekend Trips From San Francisco
When you think of California wine country, Napa is probably the first thing that comes to mind, followed by Sonoma. That’s for good reason, especially when Napa has over 400 different wineries. You don’t get to have several hundred wineries without making a name for yourself. However, Sonoma and Napa aren’t the only wine country experiences in Northern California. Below you’ll find several of the closest wine country day and weekend trips from San Francisco.
Napa. Napa is the quintessential Northern California wine country experience. You could come here once per year for the rest of your life and you’d still just scratch the surface of the Napa wine tasting experience. Many of the wineries really are an experience, with the larger vineyards having a rich history and a variety of different tasting opportunities. While the wine is top-notch, it’s hard to beat the food scene as well.
Many of California’s best restaurants can be found in Napa, including Thomas Keller’s crown jewel, The French Laundry, which is considered one of the best restaurants in the world.
Sonoma. While Napa and Sonoma are neighbors, the wine country experience can be quite different. While Napa has many large-scale wineries, most of Sonoma’s wineries are much smaller and intimate. In fact you may be tasting wine with one of the winemakers when you walk into the winery. The outdoors of Sonoma offers a little something for everyone, from rolling hills to vineyards to the Russian River to Lake Sonoma to the Pacific coastline. It’s important to note that while Sonoma and Napa neighbor each other, it can be a long, winding drive getting from one to the other.
Mendocino. Located just north of Sonoma is Mendocino County, putting it at a two and a half to three hour drive from San Francisco. While you can easily do a Sonoma wine country trip in a day, Mendocino is better for a weekend trip. Similar to Sonoma, wine tasting is a very personalized, intimate experience in Mendocino County. One of the many perks is that there are numerous beaches within just a few miles of wineries. If you plan on spending a night or two, you’ll likely do so in the town of Mendocino, which is further north in the county, past where most of the wineries are.
Livermore. While it’s not on the same scale as Napa or Sonoma, Livermore’s wine region allows travelers to visit the area while barely leaving the Bay Area. Similar to Napa, it can be accessed in as little as an hour. While it’s not as well known as Napa and Sonoma, the region has been producing wine since the 1800s. The warm climate in the Livermore area allows for the production of unique wines that you just can’t find anywhere, including Petite Sirah and a variety of dessert wines.
Monterey. While you naturally think of Northern California when it comes to California wine country, Central California is establishing itself as a notable producer of wine. The Central Coast wine region is vast, running for 100 miles, with the Monterey AVA being an integral part of the northern part of the region. The majority of the wine production is Chardonnay, although you’ll find many others, including Pinot Noir and Riesling. Since it’s a two-hour drive and there’s so much to this region, including Big Sur, I recommend splitting it up into at least a two-day trip.
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