While you can find wine throughout the state, the traditional California Wine Country of Napa and Sonoma is one of the top wine regions in the world. It is a must add destination if you’re planning a California trip and a perfect getaway for a long weekend. Whether you pop in during harvest season for the beautiful fall colors or sneak away to a little warmer destination in the winter, it’s an ideal destination all year long.
California wine country is, of course, home to beautiful wineries to explore and taste at but that only brushes the surface of all the area has to offer. You’ll find some of the best restaurants around from Michelin Star to hole in the wall diners. The area has a variety of outdoor activities to enjoy the breathtaking scenery. And you can’t forget the luxury resorts and spas to relax at.
Find some of my favorite places to stay, things to do, places to eat and where to taste wine in California wine country. Tips are broken down by county, and you can easily explore just a small corner like Healdsburg or Calistoga, or spend a week trying to fit in the whole region.
Note: Some tours and passes were provided at no cost to the author. As always, all opinions remain my own. You’ll find affiliate links in this post on California wine country which allow me to continue to improve Traveling Nine to Fiver. I hope this article is useful for you.
Where to Stay in California Wine Country
1600 Atlas Peak Rd, Napa, CA 94558
Known for its golf courses, this resort is perfect for families, golfers, and longer term stays. You find all the luxury amenities along with apartment style suites. Have two bedrooms with one to throw the kids in. Or make it a friends getaway. You’ll find pools scattered all along the property so you are never too far from one. The U.S. Open has been played here in the past, so if you’re a golfer make sure to get in a few rounds. And make sure you fit in a treatment at their award winning spa.
4066 Howard Ln, Napa, CA 94558
At SENZA, you find a perfect balance between boutique and luxury. Tucked right in the vineyards you’ll feel in the center of wine country. Each morning starts with a top notch continental breakfast that includes pastries from Bouchon. Then in the evenings, they offer complimentary wine tastings. During the summer you’ll also enjoy lounging out by their beautiful pool. On top of all this, they are pet-friendly, allowing your furry friend to join in on your wine country getaway.
198 Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448
If you’re looking for a little luxury but a cheap price the Dry Creek Inn is one of the best finds in California wine country. This Best Western property feels more like a resort with jacuzzi tubs and fireplaces in most rooms. Not far from the Healdsburg Square it’s a great place to save a few bucks but still, enjoy the region. Read more about my stay here. Or book a night here.
29 E MacArthur St, Sonoma, CA 95476
If you’re looking for a beautiful luxury resort in the heart of wine country this is the spot for you. Their suites give you everything you need to relax in luxury or have a romantic getaway. Enjoy a soak in your jacuzzi tub or eat breakfast from room service on your private balcony. On top of the luxury, MacArthur Place offers you an ideal location right in the heart of Sonoma. You are just a few blocks away from the square and can spend a weekend exploring the wineries, restaurants, and shops, all without needing a car. Or it’s a central location to explore more of wine country.
2777 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95405
If you’re looking to explore the beer produced in the area, as well as the wine, Santa Rosa is the places to be. The Russian River Brewing Company is just a few miles from the resort and a perfect place to spend the evening. Hop in the pool, relax in a suite or play a few rounds of tennis at the Flaming Conference Resort & Spa. You’ll also want to stick around for Sunday morning where they host a Champagne Brunch. Read more about my stay here. Or book a night here.
Best Places to Eat in California Wine Country
933 Main St, St Helena, CA 94574 (Also at Oxbow Market)
Gott’s might be a simple meal but it is one of the best you’ll find in Napa. Drive up to St. Helena to find the original roadside stand to get one of the best burgers in town. Accompanied by delicious fries, shakes, onion rings, and more. A Napa must have meals that won’t break your bank.
7856 St Helena Hwy, Oakville, CA 94562
Some of the best meals in Napa are not in the five-star restaurants but instead in the grocery deli’s and Oakville is one of the best. Pop in and gather everything you need for a picnic lunch at your next winery. Grab some delicious cheese and meats, some of the side salads, and even one of their sandwiches. (TIP – check to see which wineries allow you to bring in food, some do, others don’t).
6528 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599
Another classic spot not to miss is the Bouchon Bakery. This Thomas Keller’s famous bakery that has some of the best bread and pastries you’ll ever find! There is always a line out the door but it is so worth it. Grab everything you need for a picnic lunch at one of the gourmet grocers in the area (like Oakville) and then pop in for the bread to go with your cheese and spread. A local trick is to skip the bakery line and head to the small bistro right around the corner, you have a smaller selection but can get almost anything you really need and the line is normally just a few people.
975 1st St, Napa, CA 94559
For some delicious pub food, look no further than Bounty Hunter. Get started with their selection of fine wines and spirits. Then dive into their menu filled with BBQ specialties.
25 North St, Healdsburg, CA 95448
You’ll find a unique dining experience at the SHED. As you walk in you’ll find a produce store where local farmers drop off the selection each day. Wander a little further back and you’ll find the restaurant. Here you can order truly farm fresh meals from brunch to lunch to dinner. You’ll also want to try their Shrub, a unique drink mixing fermented local fruit and tonic. It’s refreshing, delicious, and much healthier than a soda.
245 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg, CA 95448
This spot falls on many lists for one of the best burgers in the country. And I will say it’s pretty darn delicious! They have a great back patio that makes an ideal spot to stop and relax when exploring the area.
2698 Fremont Dr, Sonoma, CA 95476
A wine country staple that’s on the way between Napa and Sonoma. You’ll likely have a few chicken running around your feet as you sit at the picnic tables outside. While it might look like a classic dinner, the food is elevated to bring local products into the mix with tasty sandwiches, salads, and more. Make sure to get the potato salad on the side, it’s one of my favorites.
464 1st St E, Sonoma, CA 95476
If you’re looking for a melt in your mouth burger and don’t want to wander too far from the Sonoma Square, Murphy’s Irish Pub is the perfect place to find it. Order their 50/50 burger and grab a tasty beer or some local wine for a lazy afternoon surrounded by Sonoma locals.
420 Center St, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Whether you’re stopping in for happy hour or enjoying Paella for dinner, this Spanish tapas restaurant is a must hit if you’re on the north side of the county. Either enjoy the coziness of the old home that’s been turned into a chic restaurant or pop outside to the patio for a fun bar feel.
109A Plaza St, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Scopa has the best meal I’ve enjoyed in wine country to date. You’ll want to get a reservation ahead of time since it’s a small spot that’s popular with both visitors and locals. This elevated Italian restaurant is worth splurging a bit while you’re exploring Healdsburg. Split a few things so you can try a little bit of everything. You’ll want to order just about every course so make sure to come hungry!
35 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg, CA 95448
You won’t always find a Portuguese restaurant in every town but luckily Healdsburg has Cafe Lucia for you to try. Order a few of their appetizers to split to give you an idea of a cuisine you might not otherwise have a chance to try. Don’t skip the scallops as they are cooked to perfection!
381 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg, CA 95448
If you’ve got a sweet tooth you’ll want to come pop into Moustache Baked Goods. They’re known for their flavors of cupcakes and also have a variety of other pastries you’ll want to bite into.
Favorite Places to Wine Taste in California Wine Country
1680 Silverado Trail, St Helena, CA 94574
If you’re looking for a winery where you can lay back with a beautiful environment, fun tasting room staff and tasty wines my top pick for the Napa area is Rutherford Ranch Winery. Here you can try there subtle white wines and flavorful reds. Their Pinot Noirs are some of my favorites. They also offer a chocolate pairing tasting. If you’re heading over for on a busy weekend you will want to make a reservation so you can sit down at one of the tables and not just hang out at the tasting bar.
8445 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558
You shouldn’t plan a trip to wine country without popping by one of Napa Valley’s sparkling wine houses. My personal favorite is Mumm. You have a beautiful view across the valley where you can sit on their outdoor patio and enjoy a tasting of the wide variety of bubbly wine they offer. You might see their basic wines in the store but the winery has so much more to offer. They offer a few different flights so make sure your group doesn’t order just one, you’ll be able to share and try even more of their wines.
1345 Henry Rd, Napa, CA 94559
Artest wins hands down for the best view in all of California wine country. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. The view alone is worth a visit but you won’t want to skip their wines. They are one of the few wineries in the area making Spanish varietals and they do it well. Make sure to try their Albarino and Tempranillo. If you’re looking to impress the folks you’re traveling with this is the place to pick to blow them away.
5055 Solano Ave, Napa, CA 94558
A unique copper building stands tall at the Laird Family Estate. Here you can enjoy their quality wines with a beautiful view across their vines. Grab a glass of wine and cheese plate at their tasting bar and take it outside where you can pick up a game of cornhole
18000 Old Winery Rd, Sonoma, CA 95476
The oldest winery in California is worth a visit if you’re interested in not only trying wine but learning about its history. The winery has a beautiful property to explore that is filled with vintage winemaking tools. On top of that, you’ll also find appetizing wines that show many of the best traits of California wine. Plus, it’s only a nice walk or short drive from the Sonoma Square.
383 1st St W, Sonoma, CA 95476
Just off the Sonoma Square is Hawkes Wine, it’s a bright tasting room with a perfect patio for a lazy afternoon drinking wine. Their rose has always stood out to me as a favorite for the area.
1 Vintage Ln, Glen Ellen, CA 95442
For something a little different, make an appointment at Lasseter Family Vineyard. Here you’ll not only get exceptional wine but a fun Disney twist thrown in since the winery is owned by John Lasseter the head of Disney/Pixar Animation and his wife. It’s an appointment only place but when I visited the three of us were the only people on the property with our tour guide. Plus, you get to try just about every wine they make and end with a cheese and chocolate pairing. An exceptional experience for a reasonable price.
300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville, CA 95441
Another unique property where you can drink outstanding wine and explore movie paraphernalia is at Francis Ford Coppola. Walk by the Godfather’s desk or spend the afternoon with a wine smoothie in hand at their pool. Yes, Coppola is the only winery with its own pool in California wine country. Making it a fun spot to spend a whole afternoon at in the area. You’ll also want to make sure to have a meal at their restaurant whether it’s enjoying their burger for lunch or the chef’s tasting menu for dinner.
5610 Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448
You’ll find a variety of Zinfandels, Pinot Noirs, and one of my favorite Sauvignon Blancs at Truett Hurst. On top of outstanding wine, the winery has a cute tasting room with live music basically every weekend, a patio to relax on with a glass of wine, garden to wander through, and a river to relax by. Or at the right time of year, watch the salmon work their way back upstream. If you’re up in the Healdsburg area (which you should) it’s a can’t miss spot.
107 North St, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Right off the Healdsburg Square, is Portalupi Wine. They make Italian style wines ranging from subtle whites to big bold reds. Their tasting room is perfect to visit if you don’t want to hop in your car. Soak up the sun near their big front windows or play board games in their backroom. Their table wines are particularly unique. They are kept on tap and sold in milk jug style bottles. They are delicious and a fun treat to bring home.
Top Things to Do In California Wine Country, Other Than Taste Wine
While it’s easy to spend an entire weekend or even week explore the wine in Napa and Sonoma counties you might want to mix up your time in California wine country. It’s a great area to shop, indulge in some luxury pampering or get outdoors. Check out a few of these ideas on your next trip to California wine country.
One of my favorite places to find for both food and shopping are local public markets. Napa has a great one in the Oxbow Public Market. You’ll want to go hungry since you’ll have a chance to sample everything from chocolate to oysters. You can also taste wine, beer, and even distilled spirits. You’ll also find local craft products that make great gifts for anyone left behind on your trip.
The California wine country makes for a land full of trails. The entire area is filled with bike trails, many of which connect the wineries. The area is continuing to build them as well. The valley makes for some beautiful views that are hard to experience without getting a little off the beaten track with a nice hike.
Hit One of the Spas
A wine country getaway is all about getting pampered and enjoying the luxuries of life, and you should definitely add a spa treatment to that list. You can spend a day getting treated at one of the many resorts or spas. You can also spend a little less and get a day pass to one of the hot spring pools in Calistoga.
While you’d expect the wine to be particularly good in California wine country, you may be surprised that the food is just as much of the experience. One of my favorite ways to learn more about a culinary culture is taking a food tour. One of my favorites yet was on Savor Healdsburg! You’ll have a chance to try some of the best eats in town, learn about the farms producing the other side of this farm to fork destination and try some delicious drinks as well. Read more about my experience on the tour here.
It might be called California wine country but this area is just as well renowned the world of beer. A lot of that has to do with Russian River Brewing in the city of Santa Rosa. Here you’ll find the much sought-after Pliny the Elder and the even more elusive Pliny the Younger. If you’re a fan of IPAs you won’t want to miss a trip here. There are also a variety of other breweries in the area worth a visit if you’re looking to change up your palette.