Five Reasons to Love California Wine Country
With summer just around the corner, there’s no better time to get outside—and no better place to do it than California wine country. The summer season in the Golden State’s diverse wine regions is a special time with its beautiful weather and fun activities. Winery patios await, al fresco activities abound and scenic views of vines and grape clusters are all part of the experience. Wineries have started to reopen and are looking forward to welcoming guests. To assure you have a spot, plan your visit ahead of time with a reservation.
Wine Institute offers five reasons to love California wine country this summer:
1. Wine Country Is Always Nearby
Wherever you are in California, wine country is just a short trip away. With more than 4,200 wineries statewide, from San Diego to the Oregon border, there’s always something new to discover when exploring the state’s vast options of wine. To find wineries near where you live or plan to visit, use the Discover California Wines search tool.
2. Outdoor Activities in the Vineyards—from Hiking to Cycling to Yoga
Yoga followed by wine tasting is a perfect pairing at Castoro Cellars in Paso Robles. Castoro Cellars photo.
With good summer weather, it’s the time of year to go outside and get active. California wineries offer an array of outdoor activities to get your blood pumping. At Alexander Valley Vineyards in Sonoma County, join a daily vineyard hike to learn about the vines while sampling the latest vintages. Clif Family Winery offers Napa Valley cycling excursions that include bike rentals and a post-ride tasting at the winery. In Paso Robles, Castoro Cellars’ resident instructor leads yoga classes and retreats among the vines, and the winery also boasts an 18-hole disc golf course. At Wente Vineyards in Livermore Valley, golfers can hit the links on an 18-hole championship course with panoramic vineyard views. At Windy Oaks, visitors can take a self-guided hike through the vineyard to a ridgetop picnic spot overlooking the Monterey Bay. Saddle up at Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards for a horseback trail ride before settling down for a tasting on the winery’s garden patio in the Santa Cruz Mountains overlooking Silicon Valley.
3: Enjoy Winery Gardens
A formal French garden at Domaine Carneros in Napa is one of the gardens to visit in California wine country. Domaine Carneros photo.
Meander through a lush, gorgeous garden in the warm sunshine to lift your spirits—especially in the summer, when winery gardens burst with fragrant flowers and estate-grown produce. In Sonoma County, explore the flower and educational culinary gardens at Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates, or enjoy the sustainability-focused veggie garden at Quivira Vineyards, which includes 100 raised beds. Stroll among the blooms at Deaver Vineyards’ sister operation, the Amador Flower Farm, where one can see over four acres of landscaped demonstration gardens. In Napa, a formal French garden greets visitors to Domaine Carneros, and the Vineyard Experience at B Cellarsbegins with a tour of the winery’s garden of raised beds planted with vegetables, fruits, greens and flowers. The Farms-to-Table tour at Wheeler Farmsfeatures a visit to the winery’s extensive gardens, home to edible plantings and a heritage fruit tree orchard. Explore the 250-tree orchard at Buttonwood Farm Vineyard in Santa Barbara County or take in the beauty of the winery’s cut-flower garden.
4. Educational Vineyard Tours and Tastings
Visitors ride a shuttle for an in-depth look at winegrape growing while tasting wine in the vineyards at Benziger Family Winery in Sonoma Valley. Benziger Family Winery photo.
Summer is an exciting time in the vineyards. Early in the season, tiny flowers bloom on the vines and turn into green berries. By mid-summer, grapes for the red varieties begin their dramatic transformation from bright green to crimson. Visitors can learn about the grapes’ journey during an electric minibus tour of Ponte Winery’s 310-acre ranch in Temecula, as well as during Benziger Family Winery’s private tours via shuttle through its educational vineyards and garden habitats for beneficial insects in Sonoma County. At Six Sigma Ranch & Winery, less than an hour north of Napa Valley in Lake County, take a vineyard tour on an all-terrain Pinzgauer vehicle or hike and bike on the winery’s roads and trails and use their wildflower map.
5. Summer Produce Stars at Winery Restaurants
Several winery restaurants showcase farm-to-table cuisine, including Long Meadow Ranch’s Farmstead Restaurant in Napa Valley. Long Meadow Ranch photo.
Summer brings a bounty of fresh, sustainably grown California produce, from ripe tomatoes and summer squash to artichokes and peaches. Many wineries have culinary gardens that guests can visit, and several operate their own onsite restaurants—often with scenic patio seating—showcasing farm-to-table California cuisine.
Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch in Napa Valley highlights produce from the family farm. Rustic at Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Sonoma sources herbs and produce from the winery gardens. Local ingredients star at the Creekside Grille at Wilson Creek Winery and The Vineyard Rose at South Coast Winery—both in Temecula—as well as The Restaurant at Justin (Justin Vineyards & Winery), Cass Winery Café and Niner Wine Estates in Paso Robles. The café at Lodi’s Michael-David Winery features produce grown locally or onsite.
For more listings of these winery activities and offerings throughout California, use the Discover California Wines search tool or visit the websites for California’s regional winery associations.
Wine Institute is the public policy advocacy group for 1,000 California wineries and affiliated businesses that initiates and advocates state, federal and international public policy to enhance the environment for the responsible production, consumption and enjoyment of wine. The organization works to promote the economic and environmental health of the state through its leadership in sustainable winegrowing and a partnership with the Visit California tourism organization to showcase California’s wine and food offerings and the state as a top travel destination. Wine Institute also has an export program for California Wines which represents 95 percent of U.S. wine exports.