Heralded as one of the world’s premier wine producing regions, the beautiful Napa Valley, which is just a couple of hours from San Francisco, makes a perfect addition to a Northern California itinerary. Wake to breathtaking valley views, spend your days visiting winery tasting rooms or enjoy the flourishing arts scene. In the evenings dine on award-winning culinary treats at any of the region’s 120 restaurants, many of which have a Michelin star or two. The three hour round trip on the Napa Valley Wine Train is highly recommended.
To the north of San Francisco Bay, the town of Sonoma is steeped in history and boasts a beautiful town plaza lined by historic buildings, such as the Mission San Francisco Solano, the Presido of Sonoma, and the early 20th-Century Sonoma City Hall. Sonoma offers a more rustic alternative to its more famous neighbour. If you’re looking to experience an authentic, great-value insight into viticulture then Sonoma is for you. The vineyards are spread out over a much greater area so if you do your homework you can really get off the beaten track.
The region has come a long way since the first vines were planted by Russian colonists in the early 19th Century and the height of ‘home-wine’ production during the 1920s Prohibition. Today California is the fourth biggest wine producer in the world behind Italy, France and Spain. The most popular Californian red is Caberbet Sauvignon, while white wine enthusiasts should try the oak-aged Chardonnays that are produced in the region.
California welcomes ‘enotourists’ from around the world with open arms. When it comes to sampling the produce, you’ll find some fantastic wineries around the region offering tastings. In Napa Valley you can visit big-name winderies such as Beringer, Inglenook and Stag’s Leap. For an all-encompassing valley experience we recommend taking a round trip from Napa itself, travelling north along Route 29 and back south along the Silverado Trail. In Sonoma you can visit the state’s first premium winery Buena Vista, founded in 1857.