A Day in California's Wine Country

Warm weekends in the Bay Area call for drives up to wine country. There's nothing better than pulling up a map of the area, picking a couple wineries to visit, and exploring the day away. 

If you are lucky enough to find yourself in California's Napa or Sonoma counties, these are the top wineries and other activities I would recommend during your day. Don't forget your shades and a great sun hat before you head out...

  1. Stop at a grocery store (like Sonoma Market in Sonoma) and pack a picnic. Most vineyards in wine country will let you bring a picnic to have with your wine tasting. If you'd like to have lunch at a restaurant, try Healdsburg’s The Brass Rabbit  or The Pullman Kitchen in Santa Rosa.

  2. My favorite wineries are the following:

    1. DeLoach Vineyards - besides getting married there, this winery is a favorite because it’s organic, you can stroll freely through the vineyards, and has a beautiful tasting room and patio.

    2. Preston Farm and Winery - beautiful and mildly secluded, with an open courtyard for having lunch.

    3. Quivira Vineyards  - at this winery, they let you stroll around the grounds and you can hike down to the river, peek in on the pigs and chickens, and explore their vast garden.

    4. Fog Crest Vineyard - this winery is all about the views, because it is on a hilltop and you can sit out on the porch and take in the rows of vines below and beyond.

    5. Benziger Family Winery - the tour at this winery is top notch, with full explanations, a trolly through the vines, views of grape stomping and bottling areas, and just in general a very thorough explanation of the wine making process.

  3. If you are a beer lover, make sure you check out world renown Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa. Try to arrive at an off-peak time to avoid the crowds. Even if there are crowds, you can normally wait in a shorter line to buy some beer to go. Be sure to try some of the specialty beers that are hard to get, like Pliny the Elder.

  4. If all the alcohol has gotten to your head, check out Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve for some hiking. Armstrong Redwoods is essentially a less-crowded version of Muir Woods. Located in Guerneville, Armstrong has wonderful hiking, serene nature, and of course, massive redwood trees! There's an easy one mile loop that goes around the forest floor, or you can do a more strenuous hike up to the top of the treeline with beautiful views of the surrounding area.

  5. With some more time, head to the coast to take a drive on route 1 to visit Goat Rock State Beach in Sonoma Coast State Park. There you'll find the Pacific Coast with breathtaking cliffs and cool rock formations. Goat Rock has some great rock climbing and bouldering if you're feeling adventurous. There are also some great hiking trails along the shoreline.

A map of the above mentioned places can be found here.

Am I missing any highlights of wine country? What other wineries would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

Photo by: Gina Petersen Photography