sobon estate winery
Beautiful Sobon Vineyards in Sierra Foothills

Which wine region to visit

You are bewildered with which wine region to visit in California. We can help you determine which wine region to visit by reading the pluses and minuses of the most important wine regions in California. Yes, the Napa Valley and Sonoma are excellent choices, but what about the other incredible wine regions of California? Do not miss out on the different wine regions making fabulous wines.

Anderson Valley in Mendocino

decide which wine region to visit
Navarro Vineyards in the Anderson Valley

Pluses

  • Discover amazing Pinot Noir
  • Delicious Alsatian wines
  • Quiet tasting rooms
  • Beautiful scenery
  • Many small and family-owned wineries

Minuses

  • Mendocino can be foggy in the summer (but it’s still a great place)
  • In the Anderson Valley, there are few places to stay and dine.
  • You are better off to drive one hour the romantic town of Mendocino on the coast. It is fantastic!

Explore the Anderson Valley wine country – Guide

Healdsburg in Sonoma County

Russian River Valley
View from the Westside of the Russian River Valley

Pluses

  • Beautiful roads lined with vineyards
  • A variety of unique wineries from family-owned by large conglomerates
  • Great places to stay and eat
  • An easy drive from San Francisco
  • Several wine appellations to explore

Minuses

  • Favorite wineries bring a crowd of visitors
  • Driving through Santa Rosa on 101 is thick with traffic congestion
  • High prices for accommodations

Explore the Healdsburg/Sonoma wine country – Guide

Livermore Wine Country

Livermore Valley wine country
The Livermore Valley wine country

Pluses

  • Home of first Chardonnay – Wente Clone
  • Loaded with California wine history – Wente and Concannon
  • Many Mom and Pop wineries
  • Rhone varieties on the rise

Minuses

  • Can be very hot in the summer months
  • Not enough quaint lodging and restaurants
  • The city of Livermore is busy
  • Some smaller wineries have limited tasting room days
  • Always a worry about traffic conditions on Highway 580

Explore Livermore wine country – Guide

Lodi Wine Country

lodi wineries
Begin your visit to Lodi wineries at the Lodi Wine and Visitor Center

Pluses

  • Much more than Zinfandel in Lodi
  • Unique wine varietals, especially Spanish grapes
  • Many small and family-owned wineries
  • Huge movement for sustainable and organic vineyards
  • Old downtown Lodi is quaint

Minuses

  • Can be very hot in the summer months
  • It is pretty but no match for Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino
  • Not enough charming lodging and restaurants in the wine country
  • Not all wineries are open daily for visiting

Explore Lodi wine country – Guide

Napa Valley

wine country regions in california
Napa Valley – St. Helena AVA

Pluses

  • One of the most famous wine regions in the world
  • Napa Valley has the most excellent Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnays
  • Home to many award-winning restaurants
  • Many attractive Bed & Breakfast and lodging spots
  • Beautiful countryside
  • Wineries within a short driving distance from one another

Minuses

  • Most weekends bring big traffic jams
  • Tasting room fees are very high – regular tasting average is $30 per person.
  • Crowded tasting rooms on weekends, you may have to wait in line to taste
  • Napa Valley is the most expensive wine region
  • Many of Napa Valley’s wineries are corporate or massive family-owned companies.

Explore the Napa Valley with our wine country guide

Paso Robles

where to go in wine country
One of many Paso Robles wine country backroads

Pluses

  • Many new and exciting small wineries
  • On the way to San Simeon Castle
  • Climate and terrain vary giving winemakers versatility in varietals
  • There several beautiful backroads that lead to wineries
  • Downtown Paso Robles has great shopping, dining, and accommodations

Minuses

  • Three hours drive from San Francisco, four hours from L.A.
  • Summers can be very hot
  • Once a sleepy wine country, Paso Robles is very popular and weekends draw big crowds

Explore Paso Robles wine country – Guide

Santa Barbara

which wine region
Zaca Mesa Winery in Santa Barbara

Pluses

  • Beautiful roads and countryside
  • Great Pinot Noir and Syrah wine
  • A mix of both small and large wineries
  • Not so many crowds on summer weekends
  • Santa Barbara featured in the cult wine movie, Sideways

Minuses

  • Main wine trails are about an hour from the city of Santa Barbara
  • Wineries are spread out
  • Lodging and restaurants are not plentiful in the nearby towns

Explore Santa Barbara wine country – Guide

Santa Cruz Mountains

byington vineyards
Byington Vineyards – a hideaway among the Redwood Trees on Bear Creek Road in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Pluses

  • Beautiful mountain roads and Redwood Trees
  • The tasting rooms are quaint
  • Great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
  • Unique, small, and exciting wineries
  • Quiet wine country

Minuses

  • Wineries are spread out
  • Not all wineries are open for tasting during the week.
  • Mountain roads can be a challenge to some drivers, but the roads are good

Explore the Santa Cruz Mountains – Guide

Sierra Foothills

Pluses

  • Beautiful country with historic gold mining towns
  • Loads of family-owned wineries, small
  • Old Vine Zinfandel and other interesting varieties of wine
  • Quaint Bed & Breakfast spots
  • Not crowded unless you hit the “Passport Weekend.”

Minuses

  • A limited number of excellent restaurants
  • A limited number of Bed & Breakfast spots
  • Many wineries are not open all days of the week

Explore the Sierra Foothills, Amador, El Dorado, and Calaveras

Sonoma Valley

buena vista winery
Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma

Pluses

  • Many famous wineries
  • A wide variety of excellent restaurants and places to stay
  • Beautiful vineyard country
  • Relatively easy drive from San Francisco
  • The historic Sonoma Plaza

Minuses

  • Crowded on weekends
  • Tasting fees are high
  • The quality accommodations are very pricey

Explore the Sonoma Valley wine country – Guide

Additional information of importance when planning your wine country trip: