A Guide to Wine Tasting in California

California is the undisputed king of wine production in the United States, accounting for over 80 percent of the country’s wine production.

Wine tourism is a huge economy across California’s coast, and wine tasting in California is complemented by some of the most beautiful weather and views in the world!

Wine Tasting in California – Top Regions

  1. Napa Valley
  2. Sonoma County
  3. Monterey
  4. Santa Cruz
  5. Paso Robles

1. Napa Valley

napa valley

Napa is the most famous wine-producing region in the state of California and is home to some of the top producer’s of  Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay in the United States.

While its impact on the global wine market is significant and far-reaching, Napa Valley is actually a relatively small wine-growing region, accounting for under four percent of all wine production in the US. 

Stags’ Leap winery offers cellar tastings and the ability to take a walk through their vineyards, all with the backdrop of a stunning stone-built castle-esque manor. This winery is steeped in tradition and prestige, having been in operation for over 100 years. 

Opus One’s Bordeaux style blend primarily features Cabernet Sauvignon and is one of the most recognizable names in California wine production.

This “California Cult Cab” has a loyal and enthusiastic following, and this demand leaves many vintages of Opus One’s single variety bottles costing well over one thousand dollars. 

Domaine Carneros boasts a beautiful chateau building that is modeled after a famous wine-producing chateau in Champagne, France. Their top-tier Pinot Noir and sparkling cuvees can be enjoyed among an extensively manicured garden area that offers stunning views and ambiance. 

  • Stag’s Leap
  • Opus One
  • Domaine Carneros 

2. Sonoma County

sonoma county

Sonoma is the largest producer of wine in California’s “wine country,” and is home to well over 300 wineries.

There are also 13 officially designated “American Viticultural Areas” in this region, and some of the most famous include the Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley AVAs.

Over 8 million people visit Sonoma each year to enjoy the fantastic wine tasting and beautiful acres of sprawling wine-producing vineyards. 

Kendall Jackson is one of the most recognizable and famous labels of wine in the United States, and is readily available at wine retailers and in restaurants nationwide.

They pull no punches when boasting about their top-tier amenities, claiming to offer “the ultimate wine, food and farm-to-table destination in Sonoma County.” 

The aesthetic and ambiance at Iron Horse is rustic and extremely charming, reminiscent of a quaint, barnyard-style operation while producing high-quality sparkling wine in the prestigious Russian River Valley.

Iron horse is a family-run operation, and is extremely cute and charming. 

Buena Vista Winery is one of the most historic wineries in the entire state of California, and was founded in 1857! It is located just outside the actual town of Sonoma and offers daily tastings, as well as guided tours of their extensive wine caves. 

  • Kendall Jackson
  • Iron Horse
  • Buena Vista

3. Monterey monterey

Monterey is located along a stunning section of California coastline and has steadily grown into one of the state’s top-producing wine regions.

It is now home to over 40 thousand acres of wine grapes, and every grape grown in this region is done so for the purpose of winemaking.

Nearly half of all grapes planted here are Chardonnay, which accounts for the majority of the region’s wine sales. 

Folktale Winery is a smaller vineyard that is most famous for its Pinot Noir and has a large focus on sustainable farming.

Their food menu is one of the best in the entire state, and the entire atmosphere is relaxing and quaint. The grounds are also available for private parties, and weddings are also held on-site year round. 

Hahn Estate produces a large variety of different wine styles and offers two different tasting locations in the Monterey area.

They offer many different wine tasting packages, including one with a guided ATV ride around the grounds! They also offer virtual wine tastings for those that would like to experience a taste of Monterey from anywhere in the world! 

De Tierra Vineyards offers delicious, sustainably harvested wines in a quaint red-brick tasting room, and they know how to have a good time!

They have live music multiple times per month, and they also host a trivia night that is very popular amongst locals.

They are also dog friendly, which is a huge plus for those who don’t like to leave their four-legged companions behind! 

  • Folktale
  • Hahn
  • De Tierra

4. Santa Cruz

santa cruz

The Santa Cruz Mountains that overlook tech hub Silicon Valley are home to over one thousand acres of vineyards that are surrounded by massive redwood trees and home to mineral dense soils.

While other regions in California are home to massive wine-producing operations, the Santa Cruz area is home to over 250 smaller growers, each with a unique spin on traditional French wine grapes. 

The Bargetto Winery has been around since 1933, and their historic winery in the Santa Cruz mountains is a fantastic place to drink wine and soak in the picturesque views.

They host an extremely popular concert series multiple times per year and serve multiple wine flight options, each at an incredible value.

The highest-priced flight on the menu comes in at only 25 dollars per person and features five of their top-level “reserve” wines. 

MJA Vineyards is a fairly new winemaker that has made a huge splash on the Santa Cruz wine scene since bursting onto the scene in 2011.

This unique wine producer draws its Hawaiian inspiration from the founder’s background as a Kona Coffee farmer before transitioning to wine in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The area features a patio, indoor bar, and barrel tasting room, and the entire premises are also dog friendly. 

The Monte Bello Estate by Ridge Vineyards offers an intimate seated wine tasting package that is extremely informative and lasts over 70 minutes.

To keep the experiences smaller and more personal, no more than six guests are included in each tasting, and they also offer a more premium tasting package that offers access to the label’s most prized vintages. 

  • Bargetto
  • MJA Vineyards
  • Ridge Vineyards

5. Paso Robles

paso robles

The Paso Robles Wine Country is the southernmost California wine tasting region included on this list, and many wine enthusiasts will find that it is well worth the drive!

Wine tasting in the Paso Robles area is extremely peaceful and serene, as the entire area is extremely rural and feels worlds away from California’s big cities. There are over 200 wineries in the area, each with its own rural charm and unique experiences offered.

Everything from horseback riding to archery can be enjoyed in the Paso Robles area, all while enjoying a delectable glass of wine!

While Tobin James may be best known for its fantastic wine club program that ships thousands of bottles to wine enthusiasts across the country, its tasting room is a favorite amongst locals and tourists alike.

Their extensive wine list ensures that all drinkers can enjoy a glass in their preferred style, and they offer volume discounts when purchasing a case of wine!

The wine tasting experiences offered at DAOU Vineyards are extremely popular and with good reason.

These mountaintop wine tastings offer access to some of the most premium selections offered by the brand, and these experiences are often booked out one to two months in advance.

Some of DAOU’s high-end selections are among the most expensive bottles produced in the entire region. 

Eberle Winery is built atop a massive cave system that is available for wine tasting and tours.

There are over 16,000 square feet of caves and tunnels to be explored, and the wines they produce have won multiple awards.

They offer a wide selection of both red and white wines, and they are well known for producing premium quality wine at a reasonable price point.   

  • Tobin James
  • DAOU Vineyards 
  • Eberle

Wine Tasting in California – Conclusion

While California is home to thousands of different wineries spread all across the massive state, there are certain regions that are considered to be the best when it comes to wine tasting.

The Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Monterey, Santa Cruz, and Paso Robles regions offer a huge variety of different wines and experiences and are the five best regions to visit for a California wine tasting trip.

Feel free to comment below and shout out your favorite places to go wine tasting in the state of California! 

  • Napa Valley
    • Stag’s Leap
    • Opus One
    • Domaine Carneros 
  • Sonoma County
    • Kendall Jackson
    • Iron Horse
    • Buena Vista
  • Monterey
    • Folktale
    • Hahn
    • De Tierra
  • Santa Cruz
    • Bargetto
    • MJA Vineyards
    • Ridge Vineyards
  • Paso Robles
    • Tobin James
    • DAOU Vineyards 
    • Eberle