Perhaps the state’s most famous wine region—although far from its biggest—is Napa Valley, stretching from the hot mineral springs of Calistoga in the north to funky Napa city in the south. The valley’s sun-baked hills produce some of the world’s best Cabernet Sauvignon at wineries such as Stag’s Leap and Robert Mondavi (also try Mondavi’s signature Fumé Blanc, a dry-style Sauvignon Blanc). At the southern end in Carneros, cooling breezes from San Pablo Bay create ideal conditions for elegant Pinot Noir. Napa Valley is where fine wine meets exceptional food; a visit to The French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, for instance, is a must.
Across the Mayacamas Mountains to the west of Napa Valley lies Sonoma County. This wine region has an impressive range of terroir and microclimates—and more soil types than are found in all of France. Its 17 distinct AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) produce everything from elegant Sauvignon Blanc at wineries such as Russian River Vineyards to full-bodied Zinfandel at Ridge Vineyards or Ravenswood Winery. Pair your wine touring with other activities; Sonoma County is also a destination for art and nature aficionados, and gourmet travellers. Cities such as Healdsburg and Santa Rosa boast plenty of galleries and restaurants, and hiking trails wind through North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park and other wilderness areas.
Don’t miss: Don your aristocratic party mask and slip back into the 19th century at the annual Harvest Masquerade Ball in October at Buena Vista Winery, California’s oldest commercial winery.
[This story appears in the September 2017 issue of WestJet Magazine and has since been updated.]