Raise a Glass to These 11 California Wineries

They don’t call it wine country for nothing…California has some of the best land for growing the grapes that are responsible for delicious wine. With a gorgeous climate as the backdrop for such bounty, it is an obvious choice for a wine getaway. These 11 wineries all have their own personalities and characteristics that will entice you to visit more than once. Not a fan of wine? Trust us, go for the beauty of it all and you won’t be disappointed. And on that note, reservations are required on virtually all tasting and cave tours currently. Call ahead to avoid disappointment. Now, on to the toasting!


Castillo di Amoroso (Calistoga, CA)


Castillo di Amoroso is the incredible realization of winemaker, Dario Sattui. It was his dream to build a 13th century authentic Tuscan castle & winery, brick by brick to honor his heritage. Although his original intention was to build an 8,500 sq. ft building to overlook his vineyard, after many decades, this hand-made medieval masterpiece of chiseled stone and antique bricks imported from Europe, ended up being 121,000 square feet with 107 rooms, four stories above ground, and four underground levels. Their spectacular, one-of-a-kind winery tour includes a visit to the chapel, a massive ballroom, and even a torture chamber! Looking for event space? There are many areas that are available to rent for special events and would make a gorgeous backdrop for photos. Don’t forget to carve out time to spend in the tasting room and sample some of the finest wines they sell - everything from their pink, sweet, bubbly La Fantasia to their bold, spicy Il Barone. This is a must-see on our list of picks.


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Far Niente/Dolce Wine Estate (Oakville, CA)


Originally founded in Oakville, Far Niente is Italian for “without a care” which is exactly how you will feel after visiting this winery and sampling their wines. Their gardens and property are breathtaking, filled with dogwood, oak, and acacia trees. Take a tour of their wine caves which were the first constructed in North America since the turn of the century. The walk takes you through the dimly lit depths until it comes upon the spectacularly ornate Dolce Gate... the entrance to the cavern that stores the cases of Dolce, sweet late harvest gold nectar, made of a combination of Semillon & Sauvignon Blanc. It’s gold in a glass!


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Nickel & Nickel Winery (Oakville, CA) Nickel & Nickel is a sister winery to Far Niente, specializing in single vineyard varietals, which means, the wine is not blended, comes from a single type of grape, and is sourced from one vineyard. Established in 1997, it looks like an exquisite farmhouse with a barn on 42 acres of beautiful grounds, but it is actually a state-of-the-art winery. Nickel & Nickel is solar powered and utilizes net-zero electricity. Descend the staircase beneath the property to walk the 30,000 sq. ft. barrel cellar. Hollow columns carry the wine from the tanks above to the barrels below. Your tour concludes around a dining room table with other guests sampling a few of the single vineyard wines paired with complimentary cheeses and fruits.


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Robert Mondavi Winery (Oakville, CA)


Located in the heart of Napa Valley, Robert Mondavi is probably the most visited & iconic winery in the region. The winery is home to the renowned To Kalon Vineyard, which is rated #1 in North America and #5 in the world. Looking much like a monastery, it was established in 1966, and is one of the oldest wineries in a region renowned for producing some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon wines in the world. Their Sauvignon Blanc grapes are used in their signature Fume Blanc wine.

VISITOR NOTE: Most tastings do not include tours which need to be booked separately.


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Rutherford Hill Winery (Rutherford, CA)


Located along the Silverado Trail, overlooking the Oak Grove and valley below, this winery has appeal both above and below ground. Rutherford Hill is credited with developing the California Merlot and to this day, Merlot is their flagship varietal. Rutherford Hill was the pioneer of developing the pallet-stacking system of more than 8,000 barrels within their mile-long caves. The temperature and humidity within these caves result in a reduction in wine evaporation thus creating a higher yield. Join one of their educators and take a 90-minute walk-through the caves to learn more in depth about Rutherford Hill’s history, winemaking processes, and commitment to sustainability with the tour culminating in a wine tasting of up to five wine selections.


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Domaine Chandon (Yountville, CA)


Like the bubbly? Do you know how it’s made? Walk the beautiful grounds, entering under the wisteria-lined arch to tour the facility, and see how different the process of making sparkling wine is from red or white wine. Steel tanks, yeast, bottle fermenting, riddling... no, it can’t be called Champagne! It takes a labor of love to make a bottle of bubbly. Maybe that’s why we drink it at weddings and on Valentine’s Day.


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Pine Ridge Vineyard (Napa, CA)


In the heart of the Stag’s Leap region of Napa, look for spectacular Cabernet Sauvignon from Pine Ridge Vineyard. Take the 90-minute wine cave & tasting tour where you can stroll through the vineyards as well as explore the wine caves before your barrel sampling and wine & cheese pairing. Make sure to check out the impressive backlit Dale Chihuly glass sculpture in the wine cave. Pick up a bottle of their flagship cabernet, Fortis, which is very difficult to find outside the vineyard.


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Del Dotto Estate Winery & Caves (St. Helena, CA)


Upon arrival, you will find beautiful olive trees lining the parking lot which will take you back in time with the stunning Venetian architecture. Proceed inside and you will be greeted in the elegant Italian marble entrance with a glass of white wine while you wait for your small group tour to begin. The tour guide will take you into the caves where Murano chandeliers light your way. You’ll enjoy tasting a variety of red wines sampled directly from the aged barrels in the cave. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and friendly, and upon return to the foyer, will pour you a glass of wine to enjoy with your home-made pizza and answer all your questions before you purchase a bottle of wine to take or ship home. VISITOR NOTE: Be sure to reserve the Cave Experience & Barrel Tasting Tour in advance.


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Rombauer Vineyards (St. Helena & Plymouth, CA)

Family-owned and operated since 1980, Rombauer Vineyards offer a tasting room on the hillside with a beautiful view of the Mayacamas Mountains. The staff is very friendly and are happy to share the wines and stories with you to ensure you have a great experience. There is an outdoor trail down the hillside decorated with a large variety of plants and flowers as well as works of art collected by the Rombauer family. Explore the trail down to the cave door where barrels are stored and take a photo in front of the large, oak barrel-shaped door.


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Spring Mountain Vineyards (St. Helena, CA)


At the end of the winding road up the mountain, enter the property facing the Victorian mansion that was made famous around the world after being filmed as part of the Falcon Crest series. Be transformed back in time with the exquisite architecture from 1880 along with beautiful rose bushes and olive trees around the property. Enjoy some of the historical artifacts preserved from the previous century of wine making on the estate. The vineyards were built into the hillside and tiered vertically up the mountain which offer different profiles for each of the grape varietals due to a difference in soil, climate, slope and sun exposure.


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V. Sattui Winery (St. Helena, CA)

No visit to the Napa Valley is complete without a visit to the V. Sattui Winery. It’s not so much the wines that one stops for, it the extensive marketplace filled with artisan meats, cheeses, kitchenware, wine country souvenirs, and a tasting room. The grounds host numerous areas for picnics and games. One of the best experiences is to take advantage of the bounties of the marketplace and pick up a bottle of V. Sattui wine, plastic cups, a few chosen foods, and have a picnic under the olive trees! VISITOR NOTE: No outside food or beverage is allowed.


Learn more about V. Sattui Winery

 

We hope reading about these California wineries has sparked some travel inspiration. Let us know if you have visited one of these amazing wineries by reaching out to us at winniwanderer@winni.com. Hearing from you would make our day!

 

By Staff Contributor