Northern California Coast
The Northern California Coast Region offers spectacular views along rugged shoreline and pounding surf, and through ancient redwood forests and native oak groves. The great Russian River flashes down through the coastal mountains of Mendocino into northern Sonoma County, makes a turn west near the town of Healdsburg and heads for the Pacific Ocean. As if these natural wonders weren’t enough, the rolling hills, terraced mountainsides and straw-colored valleys carpeted with verdant grapevines entice the visitor at every turn.
While the vineyards and wines of the North Coast are recognized worldwide for their quality and diversity, the region is also renowned for the rich bounty produced by local farms and ranches, as well as the natural gifts of the ocean. Within each of the individual districts in this fertile region visitors may sample abundant local produce, hand-made cheeses, olive oils, meats and fresh fish.
This majestic region is home to the North Coast American Viticultural Area (AVA), approximately 100 miles long and 50 miles wide, comprising Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties, and portions of Marin and Solano counties. Just a leisurely and scenic day’s drive from San Francisco, this winemaking mecca since the mid-19th century is home to about 800 wineries, roughly one-third of the total wineries in the state.
Central California Coast
The Central California Coast Region begins at San Francisco Bay, encompasses Livermore Valley and Contra Costa and Alameda counties to the east, and runs down the California coast via Monterey to Santa Barbara. The six-hour meandering drive down El Camino Real or the “royal road,” as early Franciscan monks called California Highway 101, is one of the best ways to experience many of California’s most appealing features: rolling golden hills and valleys patchwork-quilted with dark green coastal scrub, native oak groves and stands of madrone, and glimpses of blue water, surging waves and towering cliffs.
The Central Coast American Viticultural Area (AVA) hugs roughly 250 miles of coastline, totaling some 6.8 million acres, of which nearly 100,000 are planted to vines that produce approximately 12 percent of the state’s total wine grapes. More than 600 bonded wineries lie tucked away in the numerous and diverse sub-appellations with the region: Livermore Valley, the Santa Cruz Mountains, Monterey County, Santa Clara Valley, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County, San Benito County and Santa Barbara County.
In addition to the world-class wineries and vineyards, this region is also home to the Salinas Valley, recognized as one of the most fertile farming areas in the U.S. Attractions include Pebble Beach Golf Course on the Monterey Peninsula, the rugged coastline of Big Sur and Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Click on our event planner for a memorable visit to this storied region!
Sacramento/San Joaquin Valleys
California's great interior valley is actually two, the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, nestled between the coastal mountain range and the Sierra Nevada. When joined, they stretch nearly 400 miles, from Shasta County in the north to Kern County in the south, merging at the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta.
The Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys are California's market basket, where agriculture and politics share equally important roles. Sacramento is home to the California State Capital and the California State Fair, and the valley supports a variety of economy-driven crops such as rice, olives, walnuts and almonds. The San Joaquin Valley also grows a host of agricultural products such as cotton, grains, vegetables, fruits and nuts.
The Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys comprise the state's center of agriculture and yield the majority of its winegrapes. While these two regions are not designated American Vineyard Areas (AVAs), they produce more than 71 percent of the state's wine grapes and include 16 AVAs - Alta Mesa, Borden Ranch, Capay Valley, Clarksburg, Clement Hills, Consumnes River, Diablo Grande, Dunnigan Hills, Jahant, Lodi, Madera, Merritt Island, Mokelulmne River, River Junction, Salado Creek and Sloughhouse.
The Sierra Nevada region is known for its rough-and-ready pioneering spirit and winemaking tradition that dates back to the mid-1800s Gold Rush days. Nearly 180 wineries nestle in the nooks and crannies of these foothills, with vineyards that lie between 1,500 to 3,000 feet.
The Sierra Foothills American Viticultural Area was established in 1987. It stretches from Yuba County in the north to Mariposa County in the south, along the western portion of the Sierra Nevada, with Amador, El Dorado and Calaveras in the center. It encompasses five other AVAs: California Shenandoah Valley, El Dorado, Fair Play, Fiddletown and North Yuba. Major wine varieties include: Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, Merlot and Barbera. The area has decomposed granite soils, formed over centuries by mountain erosion which forces the vines to put down deep roots for nutrients and water. The resulting wines have dense, ripe fruit and plentiful structure.
The Southern California Region extends from Ventura County, north of Los Angeles, to the southern border of California below San Diego. While the region may be better known for its beaches, theme parks and the entertainment industry, it’s also the birthplace of California winemaking. In 1769, Father Junipero Serra planted wine grapes at Mission San Diego de Alcala. Today, visitors can explore the landmarks of Hollywood, the magic of Disneyland, and the adventure of the San Diego Zoo -- all while enjoying the fruits of the region’s vineyards.
Commercial winemaking boomed in Southern California in the early 1900s, until Prohibition and development forced the closure of many wineries and the removal of vines. Yet winemaking still thrives in small pockets of Southern California, in the counties of Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego.
Generally, breezes from the Pacific Ocean moderate the warmth of sunny Southern California, creating a climate conducive to growing a wide range of grapes, including the classic Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon varieties, and "new-wave" Rhône, Italian and Spanish varieties.
The Southern California region is home to more than 150 wineries, spread throughout the Temecula Valley, Cucamonga Valley, Ramona Valley, San Pasqual Valley, Saddle Rock-Malibu, Malibu-Newton Canyon and Ventura County.
In the northern reaches of California are three American Viticultural Areas (AVAs)—the Willow Creek AVA in Humboldt County, the Seiad Valley AVA in Siskiyou County and the Trinity Lakes AVA in Trinity County. Wineries in the towering mountains of these AVAs plant many early maturing grape varieties that are ideally suited to the high elevation and cool microclimate of the area. Visitors can find Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer and more