9 Must-See California Wine Attractions
Stop for a sip of California’s most delicious wines with our tour of can’t-miss California wine attractions that include Napa Valley wineries and beautiful countryside. These are the things you absolutely have to do in wine country.
California wine attractions #1: The Hess Collection
Reached via a winding road up the flanks of Mount Veeder and through a redwood forest, this mountain estate is known for its contemporary art collection. Displayed in a two-story gallery, the international collection includes works by European artists as well as renowned masters, and is considered one of the finest in California. The Hess Collection’s winery makes use of sustainable techniques for the production of wine and offers opportunities for wine tasting during tours. The estate’s landscaped garden, studded with sculptures, has a wild and natural aesthetic. This California wine attraction is not to be missed by art lovers.
(Photo courtesy of The Hess Collection)
California wine attractions #2: Napa Valley Wine Train
More than merely a restaurant on wheels, the Napa Valley Wine Train is a unique California wine attraction, recalling the heyday of steam when Victorian-era travellers arrived to partake of the region’s spas and early wineries. Diners eat aboard restored early 20th century rail cars pulled by an antique locomotive that runs on 25 miles (40 km) of track parallel to Highway 29, through the heart of the valley. The relaxing 3-hour journey between the towns of Napa and St. Helena includes lunch or dinner, plus options for winery tours and special wine events.
(Photo courtesy of Napa Valley Wine Train, Inc.)
California wine attractions #3: Calistoga
Located at the northern end of Napa Valley, this resort town was laid out as a spa destination in the 1860s by millionaire businessman Sam Brannan as a West Coast Equivalent to Saratoga Springs in New York. While drunk, Brannan proclaimed that it would be the “Calistoga of Sarafornia!” The slow-paced town sits atop thermal springs that supply its many spas, making it one of the more tranquil California wine attractions. The main street and leafy backstreets are lined with historic stone, brick, and timber buildings housing eclectic stores, inns, and restaurants. Wineries and several natural attractions within walking distance add to Calistoga’s charm.
(Photo courtesy of iStock/Andrew Zarivny)
California wine attractions #4: Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Appealing mainly to families and curiosity-seekers, this popular venue is the Disneyland of California Wine attractions and wineries. It is also one of the most diverse, interesting and unpretentious. Hollywood producer Francis Ford Coppola bought the French-style Chateau Souverain property in late 2005, and turned it into a family-focused resort winery offering fine dining, entertainment, and day-long relaxation in a festive atmosphere. A reflection of Coppola’s typically Italian passion for wine, food, fun and family, a visit here is richly rewarded, not least for a chance to see his Oscars plus iconic props from his movies.
(Photo courtesy of Francis Ford Coppola Winery/Chad Keig)
California wine attractions #5: The Silverado Trail
Running along the eastern side of Napa Valley beneath the oak-studded peaks of the Vaca Mountains, this historic highway – named for the Silverado Silver Mine – connects the towns of Napa and Calistoga. It is more serene than Highway 29, which runs through the center of the valley and can be thronged with traffic on weekends. Rolling, gently winding in sections, and elevated over the valley, the Silverado Trail is a popular California wine country destination for cycling. Many small mom-and-pop wineries line the route, alongside some big-name wineries such as Darioush and Stag’s Leap.
(Photo courtesy of wallyg/Flickr)
California Wine Country destinations #6: Russian River
The sprawling Russian River region straddles the namesake river that carves through the coastal mountain range. This area of rolling hills and majestic redwood forests is unsurpassed as a great California wine country location for outdoor activities, from kayaking and canoeing to fishing and hiking. Riverside towns such as Guerneville retain their early frontier spirit, while the Victorian town of Healdsburg has emerged as a trendy center of wine-tasting rooms, fine restaurants and boutique hotels, and is the perfect base for exploring the region. Wines made here rival those of neighbouring AVAs, and the region is also a center for hop production.
(Photo courtesy of iStock/Daniel Cardiff)
California wine locations #7: Santa Rosa
By far the largest city in California wine country destinations, Santa Rosa is the gateway to the Russian River. While many visitors travel through without stopping, the city is replete with attractions, including superb museums ranging from the bastions of high culture, such as the Sonoma County Museum, to the Charles M. Schultz Museum, honouring the cartoonist and his creation, Snoopy. The city’s downtown core, anchored by Railroad Square, has been revitalized as a lively center for arts, fine dining, and entertainment. Santa Rosa is also a great base for outdoor activities in the surrounding hills.
(Photo courtesy of Dougtone/Flickr)
More wine country attractions #8: Alexander Valley
A tiny ramshackle fishing village only 30 years ago, Las Terrenas has developed into one of the Domincan Republic’s most sought-after tourist centers. An influx of expatriates from North America and Europe has brought a wide array of guesthouses and restaurants, tailored to those who like to travel the world. But development has not ruined this welcoming seaside community’s relaxed atmosphere. Lying on the North Coast of the Samana Peninsula, a lush strip of land pushing out into the Atlantic, the town is blessed by the proximity of some of the country’s most beautiful beaches and by spectacular countryside around. Extensive groves of coconut trees fringe expanses of white sand which slope gently and invitingly into clear warm water.
(Photo courtesy of Aimin Tang)
California wine country destinations #9: Sonoma State Historic Park
Centered on Sonoma’s old central plaza, Sonoma State Historic Park enshrines about one dozen mostly Spanish and Mexican buildings dating back to 1823. The square – the largest of its kind in California – and its surrounding grid of streets were laid out by Mexican General Mariano Vallejo in 1836, around the site of California’s northernmost Franciscan mission. Vallejo’s own home, Lachryma Montis, is a 10-minute walk from the plaza, but houses the visitor center and is a centerpiece of the 36-acre park, site of the 1846 Bear Flag Revolt that led to California officially becoming a U.S. state. Don’t miss this lovely California wine country attraction.
(Photo courtesy of 350.org/Flickr)