You can’t visit the Golden State without exploring the wine scene. California is the fourth largest wine producing region in the world, here wine aficionados can experience the bougie wineries of Napa, the blockbuster wines from the Big Sur and the dynamic wineries of San Diego. Here’s our round up of the best wine experiences in California.
Sip like a local
Held in November along Big Sur’s rugged coast, the Big Sur Food & Wine Festival showcases the Central Coast’s finest culinary and wine talents while raising funds for over a dozen Big Sur organisations benefiting youth, first responders, and wildlife conservation efforts.
Go behind the scenes
For over 25 years, the Franscioni family has been providing guided tours of wineries along the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County. The Behind the Scenes Wine Tour offer visitors an exclusive opportunity to explore the wineries, vineyards, tasting rooms, and meet the owners and winemakers behind the world-renowned Monterey County wine.
Explore Monterey’s vineyards on bike
Vine Cycle is a premier tour company that offers unique and exciting bike tours of Monterey County's beautiful wine country. The company provides a great way to explore the stunning vineyards.
The Carmel-by-the-Sea Wine Walk is a free, mobile guide that will take you on a walkable wine tasting journey to discover exclusive experiences at wine tasting rooms throughout Carmel-by-the-Sea. One tasting room to be sure to visit is the sleek and contemporary tasting room of Caraccioli Cellars which specialises in sparkling wines. During the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships 2022, Caraccioli Cellars took home three prestigious titles: Best USA Sparkling Wine (2016 Blanc de Blanc) and was awarded two gold awards for Best in Class California Brut Vintage (2016 Brut Cuvée) and Best in Class California Rose Vintage (2016 Brut Rosé).
Take in mountain vistas
Hawk Watch Winery is located in the mountains close to Warner Springs and uses old world winemaking techniques that result in full-bodied, bold reds and crisp, elegant whites. Experience the entire winemaking process starting with crushing the newly picked grapes to bottling the finished product, which all takes place on the premises. After learning all about the process, pour a chilled Viognier, take a seat outside and enjoy sweeping mountain vistas.
Sip San Diego’s finest
La Finquita, which means "the little farm," has been cultivating its eight acres in Ramona since 1988. Charlie and Jess Koehler are the youngest vintners and winery owners in Ramona, their passion and romance for wine is a real labour of love resulting in a collection of well-rounded reds, whites and dessert wines. La Finquita’s unique property has beautiful views of the vineyards, the Ramona Valley and San Diego Country Estates. You can often catch a glimpse of red-tail hawks playing in the breeze above the winery and if you’re lucky you might bump into one of the neighbourhood roadrunners that roam around the property.
Walk where wine sleeps
Walking through a winery’s caves is a memorable experience for wine lovers. Located in Napa Valley, Stag’s Leap Winer Cellars offer lots of tastings but their celestial tour is something special. Learn about their historic legacy in the magical place where wine sleeps and matures.
The cool winery
Cliff Lede is a must visit Napa winery, mostly because it’s cool. Owner, Cliff decided to name each vineyard block after some of his favourite rock songs and albums. From “My Generation” to “Dark Side of the Moon,” he created what is known today as the Cliff Lede Vineyards “Rock Blocks.” Catch their rotating art exhibits while sampling high quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Hollywood memorabilia and poolside cabines
Francis Ford Coppola Winery showcases wine complete with Hollywood magic in the Alexander Valley. The winery is home to film memorabilia including the Don Corleone’s desk from The Godfather, a Tucker car, scripts and Oscars. The estate is not just a winery, it is a resort that includes a restaurant, bar and two pools which are open from May with cabines to reserve for the day (available to reserve from April from $230 per cabine including 4 lounge chairs).
Take a mad scientist approach to winemaking
Founder Jordan Kivelstadt took over this Kivelstadt Cellars & Winegarten in Glen Ellen from his parents and is embracing less traditional winemaking methods such as serving all wines on draft which he believes eliminates waste. Wines tastings include a Traditions Flight which include lesser known historic Californian varietals like Charborno, while for the more adventurous the Off the Beaten Path Flight includes fun wines like cider/wine, orange wine and their KC Labs series (there is also a KC Labs Flight for those ‘feeling like a mad scientist today’!).