Two New Resorts In Northern California Wine Country Raise The Luxury Meter
Despite the ongoing global pandemic, which disrupted the flow of travel to Napa and Sonoma, two notable hotels opened this year that signal hope for a return to normalcy. The Montage Healdsburg and the Four Seasons Napa Valley both highly anticipated ventures in the portfolios of their respected brands opened with decidedly different vibes, both attuned to the clientele theyll surely attract, and focused on precision-luxury offerings.
A light-filled junior suite at the new Montage Healdsburg.
While Montage Healdsburg officially opened in late December, 2020, it was 2021 that saw the property bring new glamour to Healdsburg not in town around the square but a stones throw away in the vineyards, making a splash in several categories, including design, food and beverage, and service.
Guest quarters, tucked into the wooded hillside, might be described as Frank Lloyd Wright meets Jorge Gracia in style, with their back decks on stilts, their generous windows, and their lush-minimalist paradox. Inside, the rooms and suites exude a calm invitation to relax and bathe in the sunlight streaming in. The center of the property, around which the rooms are perched, is all vineyard, whose new grapevines grow under the watchful eye of winemaking consultant Jesse Katz of Aperture Cellars.
An upstairs vineyard-view room at the new Four Seasons Napa Valley.
California Wine Country Travel Tips
Dont fit too much into one day. With so many wineries, it can be tempting to try and visit as many as possible, but its best to limit yourself to no more than four or five. That way youll have time to truly enjoy them, tour the facilities and get to know their wines.
Hire a driver or join a tour. Wine tasting and driving obviously isnt the best idea. By hiring a driver or joining a tour youll avoid endangering yourself and others while enjoying a worry-free wine experience. The Wine Stay can arrange this for you, checking one more to-do off your list.
Understand the weather. While Napa Valley may cover just a 30-mile stretch, the weather can vary due to the effects of San Francisco Bay. On a hotter day you might want to head to the south end as it tends to be cooler.
Book early. Hotel rooms and vacation rental homes can sell out months in advance for stays in the spring, summer or fall. If you plan to go anytime other than winter, book early or youre likely to pay a higher price, or even worse, not be able to secure accommodation at all.
Awesome Wine Country Resorts
Some of the businesses featured in this video may now be closedâeither temporarily or permanently. Check the links below for the latest information.
Ready for some âme timeâ amid decadent surroundings? Reserve your spot at one of these spectacular Wine Country resorts.
Farmhouse Inn, Forestville
You might stumble on this Russian River Valley resort when youâre making dinner reservationsâits Michelin-starred restaurant, Farmhouse, has generated a huge following. The Farmhouse Inn has only 25 rooms, including eight cottages with dry saunas, all gussied up in woodsy-chic style. A full-service spa offers organic treatments using herbs, honey, and fruit harvested on the six-acre property. Swim in the heated pool, take a sommelier-led wine tour, roast late-night sâmores around the fire pit, or just luxuriate in your feather bed.
Auberge du Soleil, St. Helena, Napa
World-class Auberge du Soleil has reigned as the posh resort queen since its opening in 1982. Choose rooms in the main building or stay in one of the hillside cottages with terraces that capitalize on mesmerizing views. A tricked-out spa offers multiple ways to find your blissâincluding a Cabernet grape body masque. Thereâs also a sculpture garden, yoga pavilion, fitness classes, pool, and Michelin-starred restaurant. A stay at this sun-kissed spot high on Rutherford Hill is bound to take your breath away.
Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa, Sonoma
Carneros Resort and Spa, Napa
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Top California Wine Regions To Visit
When you imagine a sun-kissed West Coast vacation, first come the images of gleaming waves crumbling onto golden sand, and second the fruit-filled vineyards of Californias wine regions. A glass of robust, smoky Zinfandel the states heritage variety has become nearly as signature a product as a glass of Champagne.
While wine has been produced in the Golden State since the 18th century, it wasnt until 1976 and the Judgment of Paris that Californian wines truly arrived on the global stage. This blind tasting event was a David and Goliath-style showdown of the wine world California versus France. The Europeans were overwhelmingly the favorites.
However the undeniable quality of a Californian Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena and a Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags Leap both Napa Valley labels paved the way for the greatest upset in wine history.
The winning bottles are now stored in the Smithsonian Museum, but dont fret: California has plenty more. If taken alone from the rest of the USA, the state is the worlds fourth-largest producer of wine in the world . Its abundance of sunshine and minimal risk of frost ensure an extensive fruiting season.
Heres a north-to-south guide to the best California wine regions and what else to see and do between tastings.
Wine Country Adventures With Lauren In Santa Barbara California
Sunset at Mission Rose Garden
Im really excited to interview Lauren Wood of Travel is the Cure about Santa Barbara, California. Laurens tips for the best things to do in Santa Barbara are awesome because she moved here for college and lived here for many years afterward. She loves the laid-back vibe, perfect weather, and beautiful riviera with ocean views.
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Which Wine Region To Visit
You are bewildered with which wine region to visit in California. We can help you determine which wine region to visit by reading the pluses and minuses of the most important wine regions in California. Yes, the Napa Valley and Sonoma are excellent choices, but what about the other incredible wine regions of California? Do not miss out on the different wine regions making fabulous wines.
Napa Valley Towns & Regions
The Napa Valley consists of five distinctive towns Calistoga, St. Helena, Yountville, the city of Napa and American Canyon. Each town has its own unique identity that invites exploration.
The small town of Angwin sits on the summit of Howell Mountain while the regional areas of Rutherford and Oakville on the valley floor boast iconic wineries. Additionally, Lake Berryessa offers outdoor recreational opportunities.
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Places We Talked About On The Podcast
Here is a map of all of the places we talked about on the podcast episode with Lauren Wood about Santa Barbara, California. You can zoom into the map and click on each dot to explore the city.
- Red dots = best places to eat in Santa Barbara, California
- Green dots = best things to do in Santa Barbara, California
- Yellow dots = best places to stay in Santa Barbara, California
Welcome To The Land Of Fine Wining And Dining
Wine country is a large geographic area, so before you hit the road, its worth picking which specific region you might want to explore. Napa Valley is the big-name destination, attracting travelers for its big bold cabs and starred fine dining. Napa, of course, is the name of the valley, county, city, and river running through. There are two main highways, and route 29 is the main thoroughfare, while the Silverado Trail is off the beaten path. Youll hit six towns driving up from the south, starting with the city of Napa, followed by luxurious Yountville, quaint St. Helena, and the beautiful Calistoga. With more than 400 wineries, it does draw big tour buses, but for good reason.
Sonoma Valley is a little more laid-back and preferred by locals, although its all relative in this rich part of the world over-the-top Chardonnay goes hand-in-hand with good tacos. Likewise, its both a valley and a county, and a historic mission, plaza, and town. Just in the valley, highway 12 is the main drag through, rolling up through historic Sonoma Plaza, charming Glen Ellen, and quiet Kenwood. But Sonoma County is huge, extending all the way to the coast, and it boasts 425 wineries altogether. Within West Sonoma County, Russian River Valley is literally cooler, with rolling redwoods and tendrils of fog breezing in off the ocean. Its a little more funky and hippie, if you prefer swimming holes and earthy pinot noir or wild western beer and cider.
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California Wine Country Maps
Compared with other California areas, Napa and Sonoma Counties may be a bit light on typical tourist attractions like amusement parks or museums, but they definitely offer oenological, culinary, artistic and natural delights to stimulate your senses and soothe your soul.
This simple California Wine Country map will introduce and orient you to the area and, its hoped, help you make the most of your Wine Country visit.
Front and center on most visitors to do list are the areas wineries, but we encourage you to also think of the entire countryside the roads in between the various towns and their local wineries as one gigantic attraction.
Consider picking up a picnic or renting a bike and drinking in the surrounding beauty along with drinking some delicious wine. Its true, you know, that the simplest pleasures are sometimes the most rewarding.
That said, though, there are definitely some not-so-simple things to enjoy here, like wineries with incredible, multi-million-dollar architecture and art collections. Keep in mind, too, that even the skys not the limit in Wine Country because you can also take a hot air balloon ride to soak in the beauty from above!
New World Wine Styles
While Californian winemakers do craft wines in more “Old World” or European wine styles, most Californian wines favor simpler, more fruit dominant . The reliably warm weather allows many wineries to use which creates a more rather than earthy or mineralic style of wine. It also creates the opportunity for higher with many Californian wines having over 13.5 percent alcohol content. The style of Californian Chardonnay differs greatly from wines like with Californian winemakers frequently using and aging to make buttery, full bodied wines. Californian Sauvignon blancs are not as herbaceous as wines from the or and are more acidic. Some Sauvignon blanc are given time in oak which can dramatically change the profile of the wine. Robert Mondavi first pioneered this style as a Fume blanc which other Californian winemakers have adopted. However, that style is not strictly defined to mean an oak wine.
Hot Air Balloon Rides
The Napa Valley is one of the top destinations in the world for hot-air balloon rides, providing a spectacular birds-eye view of the endless vineyards and rolling hills along with a mild climate. There may be nothing better to enhance your luxurious private vacation home stay than floating above it.
The Wine Stay can arrange this adventure for you, whether you choose a California wine country vacation rental in Calistoga, Healdsburg or other destinations in Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Transportation to and from the site is optional.
San Luis Obispo County
Famous Varietals: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Rhône-Style Varietals
AVAs to Know:
- Edna Valley
- Arroyo Grande Valley
- San Luis Obispo proper lies between Santa Maria and Paso Robles and is comprised of two of the key wine regions Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande. The nearby Pacific ocean is a key influencer in both AVAs, and actually helps make the Edna Valley the coolest AVA in California.
Spotlight on Paso Robles: Paso Robles encompasses a very large stretch of California, thankfully, as it is a very fast growing part of Californias wine scene. In 1983, Castoro Cellars became only the 13th bonded winery in Paso. Today, more than 200 wineries call this part of the central coast home. So beyond great wines, whats to love about Paso?
1. Its a Festival Fan: Though it is off the beaten track mid-way between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Paso Robles turned itself into an early center for significant wine festivals. In fact, its annual Paso Robles Wine Festival may boast more visitors than any other such event in California. It also hosts Hospice du Rhône: This festival was precocious, one of the first to feature international winemakers. It premiered in 1993. Billed as a rad and Rhoney weekend, it welcomes local and international Rhône producers and the largest collection of Rhône variety wines on the planet.
Fun Tip: The delightful, artsy village of Cambria is about 40 minutes from downtown Paso, through the Templeton Gap down to the sea, a gorgeous drive.
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List Of American Viticultural Areas
An is a designated for in the United States distinguishable by geographic, geologic, and climatic features, with boundaries defined by the of the . As of November 2021, there are 260 recognized AVAs in 34 statesseveral of which are shared by two or more states. Over half of the AVAs are in .
American Viticultural Areas range in size from the at 29,900 square miles across four states, to the in , California, at only 62 acres . The near the town of , was the first recognized AVA, gaining the status on June 20, 1980.
Getting To And Around Wine Country
Many Napa-Sonoma Wine Country visitors either combine their visit to the area with a trip to San Francisco, while others fly into a Bay Area airport for the express purpose of continuing on with ground travel to a final destination in Wine Country. Sacramento International Airport is yet another option for flight cost comparisons, but drive time to Wine Country from either the Sacramento or San Jose airport is roughly double that from San Francisco or Oakland. A much-better airfare might make that worth your while, however.
Alternatively, travelers whose final destination is Wine Country may want to look into flying into the Charles M. Schultz Sonoma County airport in Santa Rosa . At the time of this writing, STS offers nonstop flights on Alaska Airlines to Seattle , Portland , Los Angeles , Orange County , and San Diego and on American Airlines to Phoenix , Dallas and Los Angeles .
Additionally, as of April 2021, a brand-new airline, Avelo, will begin to serve Los Angeles area travelers with a flight to STS from Burbank airport , and Alaska Airlines recently announced a competing BUR-to-STS flight beginning June 1, 2021.
Its not an arduous drive from San Francisco, though. As you can see from the Google map renderings included here, in slightly more than an hour you can be in either the Napa or Sonoma.
Do be advised, though, that weekend traffic can easily double that drive time. Many wineries open early , and you may want to plan on an early start.
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Oprahs English Muffins Thomas Kellers Fried Chicken And Cakebreads Chardonnay In Napa Valley
St. Helenas Main Street is still swaddled in shade, the sun working its way overhead, as I place my order for one of Northern Californias favorite breakfasts. The Model Bakery has been serving California Wine Country for decades, but Oprah Winfrey made it famous nationally in 2016, when she admitted that she has the bakerys English muffins flown to her home. I take mine filled with scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon, and cheddar cheese, and thank Oprah for the recommendation.
Fueled up for the day, I hop in my car and cruise south, past some of the most famous wineries in the world. Theres Robert Mondavi theres Hall, with its unmistakable 35-foot tall stainless-steel bunny statue and theres Caymus Vineyards, which since 1972 has produced some of Californias best cabernet sauvignon, twice winning Wine Spectators wine of the year for its Special Selection bottling.
Half an hour later I find myself in decidedly less pastoral terrain. In an effort to beautify downtown Napas industrial backstreets, the Arts Council Napa Valley has commissioned a series of murals and christened the area the Rail Arts District. This is where I meet Kim McGinness, the owner of tour company Paper Napan Walkabouts.
At this point, Im cooked considerably more well-done than that steak, so its back to Calistoga Ranch for the night. The quiet out here is a bit unnerving for this city boy, but it doesnt take long for the wind in the oak leaves next to my window to lull me to sleep.
Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country
Just a short distance from cities such as San Diego, Los Angeles, and Orange County is Southern California Temecula Valley Wine Country. With nearly 50 wineries, our wine country offers boutique and full-service wine resorts that are friendly, relaxed, and unpretentious.
The quality of our Temecula Valley wines is made possible by a unique microclimate that features morning mist, warm midday sun, cooling ocean breezes, and crisp starry nights. This plus granite-based soil makes Temecula Valley ideal for growing grapes and creating award-winning premium wines, recognized by wine connoisseurs internationally.
With our plentiful list of wineries, you can easily spend days in Temecula Valley exploring and wine tasting among the vineyards. Winery resorts and restaurants offering Southern California-inspired cuisine, and picturesque views are just a few additional unexpected discoveries that will complete your visit to Temecula Valley Wine Country.
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