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Hundreds of wineries and vineyards operate in Napa and Sonoma Counties and most welcome visitors


 

Top Destinations  ·  Northern California  ·  Napa - Sonoma Wine Country

Napa - Sonoma Wine Country - Yountville - Calistoga - Healdsburg

Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley are the crown jewels of California wine county Ė chocked full of scenic vistas, charming towns and welcoming vintners, innkeepers and shopkeepers. Something is always happening in Napa Valley and nearby Sonoma, an antique car rally, a wine festival, a harvest party, or a food tasting. 


© Suresh B Muppala

Fall is a beautiful time to visit Napa and Sonoma when the trees and vines have turned.

California has many wine regions but Napa and Sonoma are extremely popular because of their proximity to San Francisco as well as the variety of top restaurants, resorts, inns, spas and other indulgences.
 
Some of the highlights of this destination  include:
 
Attractions: Over 200 wineries, Napa Valley, Sonoma Town Center, Sonoma Valley, Old Faithful Geyser, Copia, Charles Schultz Museum, Infineon Raceway, Safari West, Petrified Forest

Towns: Napa, Sonoma, Yountville, St. Helena, Santa Rosa, Calistoga, Geyserville, Healdsburg, Guerneville, Kenwood

Lakes and Rivers: Napa River, Russian River, Lake Sonoma

State Parks: Jack London State Historic Park, Annadel State Park, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and others

Napa - Sonoma Wine Country Scenic Drives

Scenic Drive
Destination Index Print/Zoom

You donít need to be a wine lover to enjoy these two counties (yes, they are also towns) but if you are, you may never want to leave. The best way to experience the region is slowly Ė stop and take in the views, talk to the shopkeepers and vintners, relax on a restaurant patio, watch the hawks soar over the fields, have a picnic, get a massage...just donít rush it.
 
Traffic can be heavy on the main roads during the summer or holiday weekends so try a side trip or pick a smaller town to explore. If you are sampling wines, designate a driver.
 
Visitors can take balloon rides, cycle the back roads, sample artisan cheeses and breads, visit specialty farms, stroll numerous art galleries, tour elaborate gardens, play golf or just relax at one of the many inns, resorts or spas. Winemaking is a big theme here but not the only one.
 
All seasons are appealing but for different reasons. In summer, there are many events (arts, music, food, wine) hosted by wineries, associations and towns. The vines are fully leafed out, the hills are golden and sun is hot. Fall is harvest time with cooler days and, in November, the grape leaves turn gorgeous colors, especially interesting against the fog-shrouded hills. Winter means the crowds are thinned and you can get reservations without a wait! It never gets really cold and the hills begin to turn green again after some rain. Spring brings the mustard crop (intense yellow blossoms between the vines) and the Mustard Festivals, along with blue skies and bright green hillsides.
 
SCENIC DRIVES: This Wine Country has famous towns, valleys and appellations (distinct areas in terms of soils, topography, temperatures, etc. that affect grapevines and the wines they become). Valleys are a good way to think of the region while planning your trip. The main ones all have roads, wineries and restaurants so you canít miss. They are: Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley and Dry Creek Valley. Our routes are loaded with wineries but you will also find many, many more on the back roads all over these two counties.

Highway 101 runs down the center and is convenient to larger towns and services but you wonít have the same views or experience as the highlighted roads offer. If you do land in Santa Rosa, check out the Charles Schultz Museum ("Peanuts" fame).

NAPA VALLEY

From 101 or I-80, head towards Napa to get on Highway 29. Traveling north, stop in Yountville, St. Helena or Calistoga. Each is filled with lovely shops, restaurants for every taste, and a range of accommodations and spas. In between, youíll pass one famous winery after another (Niebaum-Coppola, Domaine Chandon, Groth, Robert Mondavi, Beringer, to name a few). Oakville Grocery is also in this stretch Ė worth a stop even if you arenít hungry yet Ė a deli youíll never forget.

If you can move after the massage and mud bath in Calistoga, follow 29 (Lincoln Ave.) or Tubbs Lane to 29 and take a right to work your way slowly down the Silverado Trail, a road parallel to the valley floor at a higher elevation with more views. There are places to stay, dine and sip wine so donít turn back now.

Stop in Napa for a visit to the new Copia museum of food and all things delicious. Signs to the location are everywhere.

SIDETRIP: At 128 and 29, stop at Old Faithful Geyser for something a bit more primeval and continue on to the Robert Louis Stevenson State Park for a hike or a picnic.

SIDETRIP: Take Petrified Forest Road to the south to see, well... a petrified forest. This road will connect to another famous valley, Sonoma.

SONOMA VALLEY

From Napa, take 12/121 and turn north on 12 to visit the town of Sonoma with its plaza, historic Franciscan mission (Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma), shops and restaurants. If your touring juices are still flowing, head out of town on 12 towards tiny Glen Ellen Ė a quaint little spot for a brief stop.  

SIDETRIP: Take a turnoff to Jack London State Park for a nice hike to the authorís former ranch (and the spooky ruins of his burned dream house).

Along 12, along the way to Kenwood, you can spot well-known wineries like Chateau St. Jean, Kenwood and Kunde Estate. Stay on 12 to connect with 101 in Santa Rosa.

ALEXANDER VALLEY/DRY CREEK VALLEY


From Napa Valley, continue on 128 to Alexander Valley. The wineries are smaller, lesser-known and much less crowed so it is a great place to explore. At Geyserville, take Canyon Road to Dry Creek Rd to explore that small valley. Again, less traffic, smaller operations, always a nice welcome.

The town of Healdsburg has a walkable town plaza attractive to visitors, surrounded by many famous wineries on Eastside and Westside Roads south of town (Rabbit Ridge, Rodney Strong, Chalk Hill and many others).  

RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY

Follow the River Road on the Russian River to Guerneville. Along the way, as you will see, river rafting is popular, as are the many small semi-rustic river resorts with cabins and grills. This was once primarily a summer retreat for the gay community but all are welcome and a festive atmosphere prevails.  

SIDETRIP: Follow the Russian River all the way to the coast to Jenner and Highway 1 if you have the time.

If you wish to take a scenic drive back to 101 instead of the coast, take 116, past Sebastopol, several wineries and many other diversions.

   


 
Wernher Krutein/photovault.com
Small variations in slope, soil, humidity and temperature make a big difference on the vine, giving unique characteristics to each wine produced

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