Northern California Wine Country in Napa Valley and Sonoma County -- a glorious drive an hour or so north of San Francisco -- have long drawn honeymooners, gourmets, wine-lovers, and and others with a taste for romance and the fruit of the vine.
There's so much to see and do in California Wine Country, and so many exquisite places to stay in this part of California, that you may initially feel overwhelmed by the surfeit of Wine Country choices. Don't let that deter you -- this is one destination northern California worth investigating -- and taking your time to do so.
To help you get your bearings, have a look at this illustrated map of California Wine Country. One more thing before you hit the road: To raise your level of wine expertise and add to the enjoyment of your Wine Country trip, I suggest you pick up a copy of California Wines for Dummies (compare prices).
Sonoma County in California Wine Country
Birthplace of the California wine industry, 17-mile-long Sonoma Valley sits between two mountain ranges and is home to dozens of wineries where tastings and tours are held daily. Sonoma's town square is the Plaza, surrounded by historic adobe buildings, boutiques, and restaurants. Thanks to its hot springs, the area has drawn health-conscious visitors for more than a century. Today it includes several world-class resorts and spas.
Napa Valley in California Wine Country
Napa Valley, which consists of six towns (Calistoga, St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, Yountville, and the city of Napa), similarly boasts first-class wine producers, restaurants, resorts, spas, and Wine Country scenery.
Visiting Northern California Wineries
Imagine a sun-dappled day outdoors. The two of you are at a winery, overlooking acres of grapes bursting with flavor in the California warmth. You raise your sparkling glasses of wine, toasting your good fortune and your new love. It's the California Wine Country experience -- and it's a memory that lasts a lifetime.
According to Napa Valley Online, "The majority of small, family-owned wineries give tours only by appointment. These are the wineries that can be the most interesting, and that will give you a chance to actually talk with the wine maker herself (or himself).
"To visit these wineries, call in advance. While you may be able to set up an appointment the same day, or the next day if you're spending the night in the valley, you're better off phoning before you even come to the valley."
In addition to offering tours, tastings, and hosting special events, some large and small wineries make their premises available for outdoor garden weddings. Check with individual properties for availability and prices.