Vineyards and wineries dot the the beautiful California landscape. From Temecula in the South, to Paso Robles and Santa Barbara along the coast to Napa and surrounds, there is much to explore in the CA wine scene. Winemaking came to California with the Spanish missions in the 18th century, it really took off with the gold rush, unfortunately the prohibition nearly ruined the wine making industry. It took half a century for the industry to recover, but the real come back happened after the “Judgement of Paris” in 1976. Since then then the industry has grown by leaps and bounds, helped in the recent past by movies like A Walk in the Clouds, Sideways and Bottle Shock.
Although vineyards are spread all over the CA countryside, when I talk of CA Wine Country I mean vineyards and wineries in the Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties. My uncle aka ‘Mafioso’ and I have an yearly ritual of spending a few days in the wine country. We spend the days wine tasting, picking out some choice stuff to imbibe in the evenings and talk about life a la Zen and the Art.
Napa is the more expensive of the three regions, followed by Sonoma with Mendocino giving the most “bang for the buck”. State Route 128 (SR 128) runs through the three counties and many of the vineyards are located around this thoroughfare.
In Napa, the main ‘wine road’ is SR 29 going through the towns of Napa, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena and Calistoga, this runs concurrently with SR 128 from Rutherford onward. Running parallel to this is the the historic ‘Silverado Trail‘, with many upscale wineries and tasting rooms. There are upwards of 500 wineries and vineyards in Napa. some of the well known and not so well known ones we have visited include Clos Pegase Winery, Fairwinds Estate Winery, Domaine Carneros, Beringer, Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Silverado Vineyards and Dutch Henry Winery As I mentioned Napa is is rather expensive, and one can expect to pay anywhere from $10 to $40 per person for a tasting at a winery in the area. There are a variety of dining options, from the upscale “The French Laundry” and “The Restaurant at Meadowood“, to chain outlets and taco trucks, there is a wide spectrum from which to choose. A big shout out to Taylor’s Refreshers and El Roy’s Taco truck.
West and North West of Napa lies Sonoma, with about as many vineyards to explore as in Napa. In our visits to the area we have stayed in to towns of Santa Rosa and Petaluma in the South, and Healdsburg, Geyserville and Cloverdale in the North of the Valley. Highway 101 runs through the valley, with SR 128 running concurrently past Healdsburg. Sonoma is perhaps slightly less expensive than Napa, and one a tasting can cost anywhere between $5 and $20. Some of the wineries we have visited include Mill Creek, West Wines, Dry Creek, Bella Vineyards, Stubbs Vineyard and Valdez Family Winery.
Mendocino which lies to the north of Sonoma is the best value of money, in my experience and a little underrated I would say. Yorkville, Boonville and Philo are some of the towns on the ‘wine road (SR 128)’ in this area where we have stayed. Navarro, Drew Family Cellars, Domaine Andersen, Phillips Hill and Brutocao Cellars are some of the vineyards in the area.
From a fun filled day sampling wines and relaxing in very picturesque settings, to great food options and just hanging out with random strangers and connecting over a few good bottles to visiting the many different festivals which seems to go on throughout the summer, my visits to wine country have been very rewarding. 2020 was unfortunately a washout due to COVID, but I hope to be back visiting the area soon, here’s to a better 2021 for everyone….