Where to go for the finest – the best California wine regions with tasting rooms, wine trails and more.

Capture the sheer scale and diversity of the Californian wine scene this September, as the state celebrates California Wine Month. Home to 138 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) and scattered over 800 miles, the Golden State produces 85 per cent of US wine. Check out ten of the best California wine regions to visit, including recently-opened tasting rooms, wine trails and new tours across lesser-known regions in the state.

Renowned wine regions

Sonoma County

Best known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Located 45 minutes north of San Francisco and home to more than 400 award-winning wineries, Sonoma County offers everything from small family-run wineries to internationally-heralded wine houses. The region is renowned for its 18 distinctive AVA’s, including Dry Creek and Alexander Valley – home to the towns of Cloverdale and Healdsburg – and the Sonoma Valley, which cradles the towns of Kenwood and Sonoma.

california Sonoma

Sonoma vineyard

Napa Valley 

Best known for Carbernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley is one of the top wine growing regions in the world, boasting more than 400 wineries across grand estates with expansive tasting rooms and home to the Napa Valley Wine Train. The Wine Train is a three-hour, 36-mile round-trip journey from Downtown Napa to St. Helena, offering breathtaking views within 10 minutes of departure. You pass countless rolling hills, travel through charming towns of Oak Knoll, Yountville and Rutherford and witness some of the most expensive and famous farm real estate in the country, stopping at celebrated Napa Valley wineries along the way. Prices from £230 pp.

SLO CAL (San Luis Obispo County)

Best known for Carbernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel

Located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, SLO CAL’s Paso Robles (the third largest wine region in California) boasts stunning scenery and a wide range of wines suited for every taste and budget. The region is home to over 200 wineries – most of which are family owned and operated – and visitors are often able to meet the winemaker in person.

Wine trails

Santa Cruz

Best known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Santa Cruz Mountains is one of the oldest wine growing regions in the US – a mountainous AVA that sits between Monterey Bay and San Francisco – and known for its exceptional wines. The region has over 70 boutique, family-owned wineries, offering a truly unique variety of wine due to the area’s varying climate and topography.  For an idyllic countryside wine tasting experience, visitors should head to the Corralitos Wine Trail, home to six independent wineries just 20 minutes south of Santa Cruz.

Santa Barbara

Best known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Santa Barbara wine country offers the wine-curious traveller an authentic experience with its sheer diversity. Amidst a buzzing downtown scene, the city’s famed Urban Wine Trail stretches across two distinct neighbourhoods – with 28 participating wineries – each offering their own unique experience. The trail provides both novices and aficionados the opportunity to learn about, and taste the wines of, many different varieties and styles crafted from the County’s best vineyards. Santa Barbara Wine Country Tours specialise in creating memorable guided tasting experiences suited to different budgets and pairing preferences.

California Santa Barbara Wine Collective_PhotobyRobStark

Santa Barbara Wine Collective. Photo by Rob Stark


Best known for Petit Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon

With more than 55 wineries all within close proximity, it’s easy to explore the Tri-Valley, one of California’s oldest wine regions. While some wine regions in California can cost a pretty penny, the wineries in Tri-Valley are less affected, allowing undiscovered vintners to focus on crafting delicious, high-quality wines. Follow the region’s Livermore Wine Trail to Wente Vineyards – the oldest family-run winery in the US – where you can try your hand at creating your own bottle. For an intimate tasting, visit one of the boutique wineries such as McGrail and Darcie Kent. 

California Tri Valley Vineyard Dinner - 1024 x 683

Tri Valley Vineyard Dinner

Madera County

Best known for dessert wines and ports

On the way to Yosemite National Park from the Bay Area, follow the Madera Wine Trail into one of the country’s oldest grape-growing regions. Guests visiting the can trail enjoy the benefits of the region’s rich history, knowledgeable hosts and tasting rooms where the winemakers are often spotted. Along the trail, visitors can experience both traditional winemaking techniques and state-of-the-art technology in the same day. The region is also home to small, family-owned wineries, including the recently renovated Birdstone Winery which is definitely worth a visit.

Lesser-known wine regions

Temecula Valley

Best known for Sangiovese and Syrah

Temecula Valley Wine Country lies between San Diego and Los Angeles and is home to over 40 wineries. The region is known for a number of its award-winning and artisan wines such as its Syrah, Zinfandel and Pinot Noir. In the region, you can enjoy wineries, lakes, citrus groves and estate homes.

California Newton Vineyard

Newton Vineyard


Best known for Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel

The Sacramento Valley is home to more than 200 wineries set within 13 AVA’s – including the regions of Amador, El Dorado and Yolo. Many of the vineyards here are relatively undiscovered compared to the region’s neighbours, with tastings available for a minimal fee. To experience the wide variety of wines from the region under one roof, the Old Sugar Mill – located 15 minutes from downtown Sacramento – houses 15 unique tasting rooms from local wineries, including Clarksburg Wine Company and Elevation TenFor a more intimate experience, head to Bogle Vineyards in Clarksburg or The Underground Tasting Room in Old Sacramento.

Mendocino County

Best known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Known for its rolling coastal hills and vineyards wrapped with towering coastal redwoods, Mendocino Wine Country is not only beautiful, it’s cutting edge too. The area is home to some of the state’s most progressive winemakers, who perfect organic sustainable techniques in their boutique vineyards. Stop by the Simaine Cellars tasting room on the south end of Ukiah and try its organic Zinfandel. At the tasting room, the owners cook up a BBQ feast with homemade salsa to accompany the delicious wines.

Lazy Creek Vineyard, Anderson Valley, California

Lazy Creek Vineyard, Anderson Valley

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