Savor the bounty of the harvest in fertile California valleys, where farms and vineyards produce world-famous flavors.
See firsthand why sunny California is known for more than its dramatic coastline, festive theme parks and diverse cities. The state has a well-earned, stellar international reputation for its excellent, and varied, wines and farm-fresh produce. Tour American Viticultural Areas, walk through vineyards and learn how the wine is made by talking to the makers themselves in tasting rooms that are as unique as the wineries. Raise a glass to toast your experiences in California’s wine countries.
Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley
San Joaquin Valley is California's most productive agricultural area, and Fresno is in the center of it all. In early spring, drive the 100-kilometer Blossom Trail to admire fruit and nut trees in bloom and visit tasting rooms at local wineries. Roadside stands on the Fresno County Fruit Trail brim in the summer with freshly picked harvests. In the city, enjoy seven sports arenas, the annual Woodward Shakespeare Festival and the Chaffee Zoo. Explore Forestiere Underground Gardens, hand-dug in 1906 as a summer retreat by Italian settlers, and admire artwork in Mural District galleries.
Exploring the Fresno Blossom Trail with orchards bursting with blooms in the springtime
East of San Francisco Bay, find vineyards, pastures, wineries and sunny days in charming Livermore Valley, one of California's oldest wine-growing areas. Drive or bike country roads to visit more than 40 wineries. At Mitchell Katz Winery, for example, enjoy the barn-like architecture of the tasting room and the idyllic surroundings. The elegant Wente Vineyards features lush gardens, creative cuisine, vineyard tours and three tasting rooms. See science and technology advances at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Discovery Center, shop for Stetsons and cowboy boots at Baughman's Western Outfitters, and sample wine on the terrace at Blacksmith Square.
Lush grapevines in Livermore Valley
Lodi Wine Country, 133 kilometers east of San Francisco, is an American Viticultural Area famous for mellow wines with 10,100 hectares of vineyards and Lodi Rules grapevines certified as sustainable. Start any tasting tour at the Lodi Wine & Visitor Center, which rotates its selection of wines from nearly 80 local wineries. More and more varieties are being produced, but a full-bodied New World wine is a favorite; more than 40 percent of California's Zinfandel originates in Lodi. At the three-day ZinFest in May, sample about 250 wines from Lodi producers.
Grapes bursting with flavor and ready for harvest in Lodi
Napa Valley and Sonoma
About an hour north of San Francisco, these two famous wine regions grow some of the most delicious grapes in the world at hundreds of wineries. Some are housed in castles or in well-maintained barns, and many have won international awards. In Napa, visitors will find prestigious wineries, spacious tasting rooms and elegant lodging along the Silverado Trail. In contrast, Sonoma County is more intimate, especially in the northern Russian River Valley area. When should you go? Hillsides are lush in the spring, tourists favor summer, autumn is busy for vineyards, and winter is quiet.
A food and wine festival in Napa Valley
Temecula Valley has been producing top wines since the 1970s, and visitors often are surprised to find out the noted wineries are in hills very close to the California desert. The array of outstanding grape varieties includes Chardonnay, which grows in cooler climates, and Syrah and Grenache, which favor warmer climates. Learn more about the region by talking directly to the winemakers in tasting rooms. While touring Temecula Valley, stop in elegant restaurants overlooking vineyards, browse in Old West boutiques, ride in a hot-air balloon or play a round of golf.