You and your family, a recreational vehicle, and the wide open California road.
Because there are so many choices, California’s Wine Institute has developed five road trip ideas to inspire wine lovers, giving them options to pick their favorites, and set their pace. And speaking of pace, don’t forget to pace yourself when wine tasting (spitting is more than polite in wine country) and have a designated driver.
From California’s iconic coast to dramatic deserts and the magnificent High Sierras, the great California road trip is on just about everyone’s bucket list. With a little planning, you can include amazing wine regions in your adventures, from hidden gem off-the-beaten path regions like the Sierra Foothills and Temecula to the well-traveled, such as Sonoma, Napa, and Paso Robles.
Here are five of California’s great wine country road trips, starting from either San Francisco or Los Angeles. Don’t forget to check out other amenities offered at many wineries, from picnics, bocce ball, and concerts to hiking, biking, horseback riding, and garden tours.
There’s nothing like a drive on California’s scenic North Coast to show you not only the Pacific Ocean’s dramatic beauty but also how profoundly it affects the region’s climate. That coastal influence gives us San Francisco’s famous fog, towering redwood trees, and a perfect home for cool-climate grapes like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and others—so let’s explore. This scenic round trip from San Francisco takes you wine tasting, shopping, dining, kayaking and more: visit Sausalito; Muir Woods National Park; quaint, coastal Mendocino; and Sonoma County’s diverse wine regions.
San Francisco Bay Area
This five-day round-trip itinerary is a foodie’s paradise, with stops from San Francisco’s Chinatown and Little Italy to Berkeley, the legendary birthplace of California cuisine. It also takes you from mountains to the sea: you’ll take in the thrilling scenery and wines of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Livermore Valley, and Half Moon Bay.
Napa Valley to the High Sierras
This adventurous round-trip itinerary starts in Napa Valley, any wine lover’s dream destination, where exquisite Cabernet Sauvignons await alongside pampering hot springs and bike tours. Then it heads for the hills, exploring Gold Country and the Sierra Foothills for gondola rides, panoramic views, and off-the-beaten-path wineries before winding back down to earth in Lodi, home to some of California’s oldest Zinfandel vines.
Central Coast-Highway 1
What says California more than traveling up Highway 1? With the ocean in view and wine on your mind, this trip takes you from Santa Barbara’s Sideways movie territory to the cool-climate wines of San Luis Obispo and red-wine mecca Paso Robles, then swings back to the ocean and beautiful Monterey before ending in San Francisco. Besides wining and dining, there’s a zip line, hiking, Hearst Castle, Big Sur, Cannery Row, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium to interest you.
Southern California Adventure: Hollywood and Grapevine
Oh yeah, you’re going to Hollywood. And for a wine lover, there’s more to Southern California than blue skies, surf, and sunshine—it’s full of surprising wine regions, where winemaking has taken place since the late 1700s. On this round trip, you’ll hit hot spots like Malibu and Palm Springs while also exploring wineries in Temecula, Cucamonga, and even San Diego and Malibu.
Wine Institute of California
Wine Institute is the association of more than 1,000 California wineries and wine-related businesses dedicated to enhancing the environment for the responsible production, consumption, and enjoyment of wine.
California is the fourth largest wine producer in the world, making 90 percent of all U.S. wine and two out of every three bottles enjoyed in the U.S.
Each year, nearly 20 million tourists visit wine regions throughout the state to explore and enjoy the wines, the cuisine, and cultural offerings associated with California’s signature industry. September, during California Wine Month, is a great time to visit to experience the annual wine grape harvest first hand.
For more ideas on these and other great California wine country road trips, including California wines, wine regions, and winery activities—from tastings to tours, picnics, concerts, bocce ball, and more check the Wine Institute lifestyle and travel website.
Address: 425 Market Street, Suite 1000, San Francisco, CA 94105
Phone: (415) 512-0151
As Ben Franklin said:
In wine there is wisdom,
In beer there is freedom,
In water there is bacteria.