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Plan a Wine Country Visit

Healdsburg vineyard, California.

You’ve doubtless heard of the world-famous Napa Valley in California, well known as an American hotspot for wine making, and you may have even heard of the somewhat lesser known, but just as prolific, neighboring Sonoma valley, but as you may or may not have been aware, the area just north of San Francisco containing these two esteemed vineyard-carpeted valleys also contains several other major wine regions. Altogether, these regions are collectively known as California’s “wine country,” and comprise some 400+ wineries between them.

Vine Vera has previously discussed the fun and pleasure that can be had on a wine tasting vacation, also known as “Wine Tourism,” but we have to admit that a particular limitation that can arise with wine tourism is that it can often end up being constrained to a single wine region, because wine regions are not necessarily terribly densely-packed in many cases. Granted, visiting a single wine region is enough to provide a short trip’s worth of adventure and intrigue, and a great variety of delightful wines to try straight from the source, but if you’re looking for a huge amount of wine-tourism material crammed into one area for a long, extended wine-driven vacation, California’s Wine Country is a great place to make plans for.

Numerous Wine Regions
Just to give you an idea of the impressive scope of Wine Country, let’s take a look at all the wine regions (referred to in the U.S. as AVAs, or “American Viticulture Areas”) in the area, spread across the counties of Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake. In Napa County, we have Atlas Peak, Los Carneros, Mount Veeder, the world-famous Napa Valley, Oakville, Rutherford, Saint Helena, Calistoga, Stags Leap District, and Yountville.

In Sonoma County, there’s Alexander Valley, Bennett Valley, Chalk Hill, Dry Creek Valley, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, Knight’s Valley, Los Carneros, Northern Sonoma, Rockpile, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma Mountain, and Sonoma Valley.

In Mendocino County, we’ve got Anderson Valley, Covelo, Mendocino, and Potter Valley.

And finally, Lake County plays host to Clear Lake, Guenoc Valley, High Valley, and Red Hills Lake County.

What to Expect
So what can you expect when you hit up Wine Country—besides, of course, lots of wine? Well, for one thing, this whole area is just north of San Francisco, so you should really take the opportunity to check out the beautiful big city, and visit attractions like Pier 39 and the Exploratorium. Of course, your main reason for making a trip like this it to sample all the fine wines! One fun way to do this is to pick one or two varietals that are common across all of Wine Country, like say, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and pick several wineries each from a different region/AVA and try a sample of the same varietal of wine, comparing the subtle differences.

Of course, there are many reasons to visit Wine Country besides the wine. You’ll find many opportunities for fun activities, such as hiking, bicycling, and our favorite, hot air ballooning.

Napa and Sonoma Valleys, in particular, are also known for their fine cuisine, so be sure to check out as many local restaurants as you can manage!