Wine Country California
Northern California’s wine country is much more than vineyards and rambling country roads. Here’s how to experience the region’s most charming town squares and thriving communities, many of which have raised hospitality to an art form.
When to Go: Harvest season spans September and October, so plan to visit during those months to see the vines heavy with grapes and the wineries whirring at production pace — but expect to face crowds, pay high prices, and for your first-choice hotels and restaurants to be booked. For better availability (but iffy weather and scenery that’s less lush), arrive between November and March. By spring, the tourist influx starts to thicken again, thanks in part to the profuse mustard bloom.
Cities and towns associated with the Wine Country include Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, Sonoma, Kenwood, Petaluma, Sebastopol, Guerneville, Windsor, Geyserville, and Cloverdale in Sonoma County; Napa, Yountville, Rutherford, St. Helena and Calistoga in Napa County; and Hopland and Ukiah in Mendocino County.
Wine Country – Northern California Wine Country
Sonoma County: Alexander Valley, Bennett Valley, Chalk Hill, Dry Creek Valley, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, Knight’s Valley, Los Carneros, Northern Sonoma, Rockpile, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma Mountain, and Sonoma Valley.
Wine Country -Calistoga
Calistoga is a town in California with a population of 5,285. Calistoga is in Napa County. Living in Calistoga offers residents a sparse suburban feel and most residents own their homes. Many retirees live in Calistoga and residents tend to lean liberal. The public schools in Calistoga are above average.
Calistoga is a small city in California’s Napa Valley. It’s known for hot springs, mud baths and wineries, including one set in Castello di Amorosa, a medieval-style castle. The Old Faithful Geyser of California erupts at regular intervals. Works by Italian artist Carlo Marchiori are displayed at the Ca’toga Galleria D’Arte, in town. To the southeast, Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park has an 1846 mill.
In addition to its highly reputed wineries, Calistoga is dotted with natural volcanic hot springs that are rumored to have healing powers. Consider visiting Bennett Lane, Chateau Montelena, Dutch Henry, and Castillo de Amorosa before heading to the springs for some relaxation.
Calistoga Wine Country Highlights: Calistoga is an Old Western-style town with a California twist. Most of its sights are on or just off its main street (Lincoln Ave.), including the railroad depot that now functions as a quirky little shopping center. Also on the main drag is Dr. Wilkinson’s — one of Calistoga’s many hot-spring resorts, where you can detoxify in a volcanic-ash mudbath. At a bit of a distance from the town itself is the Old Faithful Geyser, which shoots a plume of hot water 60 feet high every 30 minutes.
Napa Wine Country
Napa is a town in California with a population of 79,516. Napa is in Napa County. Living in Napa offers residents a dense suburban feel and most residents own their homes. In Napa there are a lot of coffee shops and parks. Many families and young professionals live in Napa and residents tend to have moderate political views. The public schools in Napa are above average.
Napa is the seat of Napa County, California, in the heart of the Napa Valley wine region. Its downtown is known for late-1800s and early-1900s architecture, a riverfront promenade with shops and restaurants, and an arts scene anchored by the Napa Valley Opera House. The Oxbow Public Market houses a farmer’s market and cheese shop, and the Napa Valley Wine Train visits area wineries via vintage Pullman cars.
The namesake city of this wine country valley draws crowds to its downtown area where you’ll find hip restaurants and wine tasting opportunities. Consider scheduling a walking tour of the historic downtown area or spend the day shopping the area’s chic shops.
Napa Wine Country Highlights: The riverfront Historic Napa Mill building dates back to the 1880s, when it operated as a grain mill (the old tin silos are still attached). It’s now a gourmet shopping center and the home of the endearing Napa River Inn. Look for the mosaic fountain depicting scenes of Napa’s colorful history. Other food-filled retail complexes include the newer Oxbow Public Market (plenty of artisan bites and wines) and the Napa Town Center, where a pedestrian street connects antique buildings — you’ll know it by its two massive oak trees.
Wine Country – Oakville
Oakville is a suburb of St. Louis with a population of 36,827. Oakville is in St. Louis County and is one of the best places to live in Missouri. Living in Oakville offers residents a sparse suburban feel and most residents own their homes. Many young professionals and retirees live in Oakville and residents tend to lean conservative. The public schools in Oakville are highly rated.
If you’re going to Napa for the wineries, which most people do, you’re going to want to stop in Oakville. It began as a simple water stop for steam trains, but it has grown to be so much more. Oakville is where many of the grapes are grown for the likes of Robert Mondavi, Plumpjack and others. Wine cellar tours, stunning gardens, wine museums and an open-air amphitheater are just a few of the things you can do while in Oakville.
Rutherford Wine Country
Here, you’ll find some of the regions most famed Cabernets. The soil in this area is perfect for nourishing the grapes to create some of the best Cabs in the world. Much like fairy dust, the “Rutherford dust” that is present in wines from this area give them a mysterious, spicy element that you won’t find in wines from other regions.
Wine Country – St Helena
St. Helena is a town in California with a population of 6,079. St. Helena is in Napa County and is one of the best places to live in California. Living in St. Helena offers residents a sparse suburban feel and most residents own their homes. Many retirees live in St. Helena and residents tend to have moderate political views. The public schools in St. Helena are highly rated.
St. Helena is located in the heart of the Napa Valley and some would argue that the region has its own pulse. Winemakers have been calling St. Helena home since the 1800s, and the area’s history is evident throughout. For a mix of the typical wine-tasting experience with a rich dose of history, visit Beringer and Charles Krug. You’ll also find juggernauts like Sutter Home and Louis Martini in St. Helena.
St Helena Wine Country Highlights: The main thing to do in St. Helena (say “Hel-een-uh”) is to browse the boutiques, galleries, and showrooms on Main Street. Up the road is the Culinary Institute of America, a castle-like building that’s sure to remind you of Hogwarts. Its massive store is stocked with any type of culinary tool or book you could ever need, and its fine-dining facility, Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant, lets you watch as chefs prepare your small plates.
Yountville Wine Country
Yountville is a town in California with a population of 2,982. Yountville is in Napa County. Living in Yountville offers residents a sparse suburban feel and most residents own their homes. Many retirees live in Yountville and residents tend to have moderate political views. The public schools in Yountville are above average.
Yountville is one of the most popular places to stay in Napa Valley because it seems to have the best of everything. World-class resorts, top-notch restaurants, shops, bakeries and wine – all within walking distance. What more could you ask for? Here, you’ll find Domaine Chandon (perfect for a morning tasting), Chiarello Family Vineyards, Hill Family Estate and more.
Yountville Wine Country Highlights: Things to see here include the upscale swap meet that is V Marketplace, the art galleries of Beard Plaza, and Thomas Keller’s meticulous garden of ingredients, which you can admire from the sidewalk. But if we’re being honest, this town is all about the restaurants. The big names include Bistro Jeanty, Bottega, Bouchon, Brix, Hurley’s, Lucy, Mustards, Redd — and a little place called French Laundry.
Wine Country – Sonoma
Sonoma is a historic city in northern California at the heart of the renowned Sonoma Valley winemaking region. It’s known for its art galleries and the colonial-era Sonoma Plaza. Surrounding this plaza are significant 19th-century adobe buildings including Mission San Francisco Solano and the Sonoma Barracks, once used by the Mexican military. Seasonally, the square hosts a popular weekly farmer’s market.
Sonoma Wine Country Highlights: The town of Sonoma is what the whole county is named after. The plaza’s crowning jewel is Mission San Francisco Solano (also called Sonoma Mission), Mexico’s last and northernmost outpost in California. Take the time to appreciate the town’s deep historical roots, but also enjoy the plaza’s duck-and-geese-filled ponds, whimsical shops, and excellent restaurants.
Healdsburg Wine Country
Healdsburg is a city located in Sonoma County, in California’s Wine Country. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city had a population of 11,254. Healdsburg is a small tourist-oriented town in northern Sonoma County.
Healdsburg Wine Country Highlights: Healdsburg comes up as many travelers’ favorite wine country town because it has everything a getaway destination should: fancy hotels, world-class restaurants, unique shops, and a collection of tasting rooms representing the best local wineries. Even with all those big-money attractions, Healdsburg manages to stick to its friendly — and sometimes quirky — small-town personality. Don’t miss the twice-weekly organic farmers’ market or the interesting (really, it is) Hand Fan Museum.
Mendocino Wine Country
The Mendocino County wine is an appellation that designates wine made from grapes grown mostly in Mendocino County, California. The region is part of the larger North Coast AVA and one of California’s largest and most climatically diverse wine growing regions.
Mendocino Wine Country Highlights: Maybe because Mendocino Village is two hours north of Napa and Sonoma, it’s often overlooked or underrated. But it’s well worth the scenic drive. Enjoy wind-swept coastal views, plus historic architecture, antiques shops and specialty boutiques, and a smattering of tiny museums. There are redwood forests all around, and the best way to get into their ancient groves is via the almost unreasonably fun Skunk Train, an old-fashioned steam-powered train that traverses a circa-1885 railroad.
Wine Country – Guerneville
Guerneville is an unincorporated community and census-designated place in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, California, United States. The town is historically known for the logging community, formed in the late 1800s.
Guerneville Wine Country Highlights: This town (say “Gurn-ville”), on the banks of the Russian River,looks like it could be any small American borough — except that almost every business here happily displays the rainbow gay-pride flag. In addition to its progressive orientation and celebration of all things LGBT, Guerneville’s highlights include its fun Main Street shops, its access to the river swimming or tubing, and the fact that it’s surrounded by one of California’s prettiest redwood forests.
Wine Country – Glen Ellen
Glen Ellen is a census-designated place in Sonoma Valley, Sonoma County, California, United States. The population was 784 at the 2010 census, down from 992 at the 2000 census. Glen Ellen is the location of Jack London State Historic Park, Sonoma Valley Regional Park, and a former home of Hunter S. Thompson.
Glen Ellen Wine Country Highlights: Small and sweet, Glen Ellen is a bit different than other wine country cities in that it doesn’t have a truly defined downtown — it’s comprised mostly of woodsy scenery and lovely byways. Also, the people (there aren’t too many) of this unincorporated village are still slightly obsessed with a prolific former resident: Jack London. There’s much that bears his name here, from the Jack London Lodge to Jack London State Historic Park, where you can visit his gravesite.
Angwin Wine Country
Angwin is a town in California with a population of 3,424. Angwin is in Napa County. Living in Angwin offers residents a suburban rural mix feel and most residents own their homes. Many young professionals live in Angwin and residents tend to lean liberal. The public schools in Angwin are above average.
Angwin is a census-designated place in Napa County, United States. California, best known as the site of Pacific Union College. It is part of the northern San Francisco Bay Area.
At the base of the Howell Mountain, you’ll find one of the most storied wine-growing appellations in the world. The fog, mountain air and rocky soil force grapevines to root deeply, and this produces some intense wines. Cade, Ladera and Outpost call Angwin home, but there are plenty of other things to do if you want to skip the tours in this neighborhood. Angwin is a perfect place to enjoy the outdoors. In fact, the area hosts a 22-mile mountain bike race each year.
Deer Park Wine Country
Deer Park is a suburb of Houston with a population of 33,935. Deer Park is in Harris County and is one of the best places to live in Texas. Living in Deer Park offers residents a sparse suburban feel and most residents own their homes. In Deer Park there are a lot of parks. Many families and young professionals live in Deer Park and residents tend to have moderate political views. The public schools in Deer Park are highly rated.
This quiet Napa neighborhood is more residential than touristy. Most people steer clear of Deer Park during their visit, especially if it’s their first visit to wine country. If you do venture into this neighborhood, visit Burgess Cellars and Viader Vineyards. The benefit is that they are likely to be less crowded than the wineries Calistoga, Napa, Rutherford or St. Helena.