Posts tagged with "wine country"

Travel California Wine Country’s Back Roads This Summer

California’s northern Central Coast, extending from the San Francisco Bay to Monterey County, is the focus this month as part of Wine Institute’s Wine Country Back Roads series. California is home to dozens of distinct wine regions, including some of the world’s most famous destinations. But hidden among even the high-profile appellations are the wine roads less traveled. These welcoming regions feature stunning rural scenery, delicious wines and, often, fewer visitors. There’s still plenty of time this summer to discover off-the-beaten path wine roads and regions, and the Central Coast is a great place to do it.

The entire Central Coast wine region and Santa Cruz Mountains stretches roughly 250 miles along the California coastline, extending from San Francisco County to Santa Barbara County. Grapes there are among the oldest in the state, planted by Franciscan monks in the late 18th century as they made their way north on El Camino Real (known today as Highway 101). Now hosting thousands of acres of vineyards and hundreds of wineries, California’s Central Coast and Santa Cruz Mountains are home to 14 percent of the state’s winegrapes.

TASTE: Not far from San Francisco, with its famously steep hills and Victorian architecture, you’ll find several hospitable wineries near the East Bay cities of Moraga, Oakland, Berkeley as well as Treasure Island to help you kick off your Central Coast adventure.

Nearby Livermore Valley, 35 miles east of San Francisco, is the one of the state’s oldest wine regions and the genetic source of 80 percent of California’s Chardonnay vines. Along with its iconic Chardonnay, Livermore is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as Italian, Rhone and Spanish varieties. Discover the region’s rolling hills and scenic canyons along the Burgundy Wine Trail, or enjoy mountain vistas on the Red Trail.

The Santa Clara Valley, also known today as Silicon Valley, includes more than 30 wineries, many clustered near Gilroy and San Martin. The Santa Cruz Mountains, west of Santa Clara Valley, was among the first American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) to be defined by its steep mountain topography. The area played a pivotal role in California’s winemaking history with viticultural roots going back more than a century. Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot predominate on the warmer eastern inland side of the AVA, while Pinot Noir thrives on the coastal side and ridge tops. The region boasts more than 60 wineries. For a scenic overview, try the Silicon Valley Wine Trail in the hillsides above Silicon Valley, or the coastal Corralitos Wine Trail, at the sunny, southern portion of the AVA.

San Benito County, set in an idyllic valley about 75 miles southeast of Santa Cruz, has been growing winegrapes since the mid-1800s, planted by French and German immigrants. The region grows a wide variety of grapes but is best known for Pinot Noir and Syrah. Find wineries near the towns of Hollister and San Juan Bautista.

Heading back to the coast, Monterey County is known or having one of California’s longest growing seasons, thanks to cool marine air that blows in from Monterey Bay. Franciscan friars introduced winegrapes to the area more than 200 years ago, and over 40 varieties are planted there today—including more Chardonnay than in any other county in America. Monterey is also well known for its cool-climate Pinot Noir. With eight distinctive AVAs within its borders and 82 wineries, Monterey offers an array of tasting opportunities. The River Road Wine Trail, set among the canyons and slopes of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, highlights Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, along with northern Rhône varieties such as Syrah. Beautiful Carmel Valley is renowned for producing rich, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

TOUR: The Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Passport event on July 20 includes special tastings at more than 40 participating wineries. (As a bonus, passport experiences can be redeemed for a full year after the event.) The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk amusement park is nearby with its multiple attractions. Livermore Valley hosts Taste Our Terroir July 25-28, a four-day food and wine affair offering wine tasting adventures, garden tours, food pairing events, seminars, falcon demonstrations and more. Music in the vineyards is a Santa Clara specialty, with performances scheduled at individual wineries throughout the summer. While visiting San Benito County, take a hike among towering rock spires and observe falcons and golden eagles in flight at Pinnacles National Monument, formed by ancient volcanos. On Monterey’s Cannery Row, sample local wines at A Taste of Monterey and visit the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium or John Steinbeck Museum.

For more information on lodging, dining and upcoming events, see San Francisco Travel, Livermore Valley Wine Country, Wineries of Santa Clara Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association, Discover San Benito County and Monterey Wine Country.
For all of the wine regions included in this series, use the discovercaliforniawines.com interactive map to search wineries by amenities such as tours, gardens and picnic areas, and view winery events around the state.

To see Wine Institute’s Back Roads guides to other California wine regions, visit https://discovercaliforniawines.com/media-trade/news.

Taste the Roads Less Traveled in California’s Wine Country this Summer

California is home to dozens of distinct wine regions, including some of the world’s most famous destinations. But hidden among even the high-profile appellations are the wine roads less traveled, featuring stunning rural scenery, delicious wines and, often, fewer visitors. To help wine lovers discover new wine roads and wineries this summer, Wine Institute’s California Wine Country Back Roads series highlights off-the-beaten-path wine roads and regions. The five-part series begins with the back roads of California’s North Coast.

SONOMA COUNTY

Home to nearly 500 wineries, plus green valleys, rolling hills, regal redwoods and 55 miles of spectacular coastline, Sonoma County is one of the most well-known wine regions in California. Even so, there’s always something new to explore along Sonoma’s rural roads.

TASTE: The region is best known for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon, but Sonoma’s diversity of climate and soils allows vintners to grow dozens of other varieties as well. You’ll find a more relaxed pace in the Alexander Valley where winding country roads lead to some of the county’s most delicious Cabernet Sauvignon wines, known for their elegant style. As one of Sonoma’s larger appellations in terms of vineyard acres, Alexander Valley’s back roads include more than two dozen wineries. Hidden treasures can also be found in the nearby Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley.

TOUR: On June 22-23, Experience Alexander Valley invites small groups of 20 or less to experience everything from blending seminars with winemakers to ravioli-making workshops to bocce in the vineyards. Also on June 8 – July 14 is the Art of Wine with a Vintage Palette at the Healdsburg Center for the Arts, featuring 60 artists celebrating the wine country culture of the North Bay. The free opening reception is June 8.

For more information on lodging, dining and upcoming events, see Sonoma Tourism.

NAPA VALLEY

A small region with a deservedly large reputation, the Napa Valley is known the world over for its acclaimed wines—primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and other Bordeaux varieties—and a thriving culinary scene that includes Michelin star restaurants, delicious food truck fare and every level of cuisine in between.

TASTE: Bordered by two mountain ranges—the Vaca on the east and the Mayacamas on the west—the Napa Valley is rich with less-traveled mountain roads that invite visitors to meander and discover. Spring Mountain Road, just a few minutes off busy highway 29, is a rural respite of family owned and operated wineries, along with 1,000 acres of gorgeous hillside vineyards. Likewise, Mount Veeder, Atlas Peak, Howell Mountain and Diamond Mountainreward travelers with mountain vistas and limited-production wines. (Due to their remote locations, some wineries require advance appointments.)

TOUR: Festival Napa Valley is in July, featuring performers SEAL, Patti Lupone, jazz artists the Yellow Jackets, and a full slate of the finest concerts, operas, and fabulous winery parties. Free outdoor concerts will be at the St. Helena Concert Series, held on alternating Thursdays, June-August, in Lyman Park. Wind down the summer season at the Calistoga Harvest Table on Sept. 8, where local restaurants and 40-plus wineries team up to produce an epic feast laid out on 1,000 feet of tables in the center of Calistoga’s picturesque downtown.

For more information on lodging, dining and upcoming events, see Visit Napa Valley.

MENDOCINO COUNTY

Fifty miles north of Healdsburg lies ruggedly beautiful Mendocino County, home to towering redwoods and a foggy coast. More than 90 percent of the land is wild and undeveloped, and the region is known for its small-town vibe and relaxed hospitality.

TASTE: Drive along Highway 128 in the Anderson Valley and find more than two dozen small wineries producing everything from crisp sparkling wines to gorgeous cool-climate Pinot Noir to aromatic whites. The region’s producers are proudly “green,” with a high percentage of wineries using sustainable, organic or Biodynamic methods.

TOUR: Celebrate Father’s Day weekend June 15-16 with A Taste of Redwood Valley, a chance to sample library wines, small-production lots and even spirits. Anderson Valley wineries host their Barrel Tasting Weekend July 20-21, featuring previews of new wines and tastes of current releases.

For more information on lodging, dining and upcoming events, see Visit Mendocino.

LAKE COUNTY

Bordering Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties, Lake County was named for the region’s many picturesque lakes. Vineyards are planted throughout the county, from the agriculturally rich valley at 1,370 feet elevation to the rocky red soil around Mt. Konocti—a dormant volcano—at elevations above 2,000 feet.

TASTE: Home to more than 30 wineries, Lake County is known for its high-elevation Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc wines. Mini-tours around Clear Lake include Upper Lake and Lakeport, Nice and Clearlake Oaks, Lower Lake, Middletown, and the volcanic slopes of the Red Hills American Viticultural Area.

TOUR: On June 16, the Lake County Beer, Wine & Swine Baconfest brings together dad-friendly favorites for Father’s Day. Red, White, & Blues celebrates the best of Lake County wines on July 6 at Langtry Estate Vineyards in Middletown.

For more information on lodging, dining and upcoming events, see Lake County Wineries.
For all of the wine regions included in this series, use the discovercaliforniawines.com interactive map to search wineries by amenities such as tours, gardens and picnic areas, and view winery events around the state.

Suisun Valley, Fairfield

Story by Susan Hiland provided by Daily Republic

Suisun Valley greeted a group of out-of-town travel writers with a bounty of beauty, food and wine over the weekend.

They toured just about every winery, olive oil factory, candy-making company and barley brew-maker in the area.

This was the result of the Fairfield Conference & Visitors Bureau reaching out to Geiger & Associates, which has put together these travel tours for several communities including Lodi.

“This is the first time we have done something like this,” said Anand Patel, president/CEO of Visit Fairfield. “The goal was to get people thinking about Fairfield and Suisun Valley.”

He said he hoped that the travel writers would see the beauty of the valley and share that with their readers. The writers came from Portland, Oregon, Southern California, Northern California and even Quebec, Canada.

“We hope people read their articles and get interested in the valley,” he said.

The group of writers included Susan G. Hauser, Elyse Glickman, Vaughn Lowery, Wendy van Diver, Cortney Erndt, Carla Waldemar, Ruksana Hussain, Wendy Lemlin, Janet Boileau and Robin Raven.

The writers arrived Thursday and enjoyed an afternoon at Jelly Belly Candy Co., where they took the tour, sampled sweet treats and shopped.

“Every single stop we hope they learn something new,” Patel said.

Boileau, a writer and publisher for Taste and Travel International Magazine, which is a culinary publication with 20,000 subscribers across Canada, had no idea about Suisun Valley.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “But this is a very impressive part of the wine country.”

She was enjoying how relaxing the area was with some wine from Suisun Valley Wine Co-op along Pleasants Valley Road. The stop offered an opportunity for everyone to sample a variety of wines from the area in one place.

Lowery is the president of 360 Magazine, a lifestyle magazine that goes out to thousands of subscribers from Los Angeles to Japan.

“Anyone visiting here needs to stop at Il Fiorello Olive Oil Co.,” he said. “It was a sensory overload.”

They sampled a meal with each of the foods having been created using produce from the company’s garden.

“This is a great cross of Napa and Sonoma,” Lowery said. “It’s a place you can take time out and is very drivable.”

He said he was envisioning himself returning with a convertible, rolling the top down and just cruising through the back roads as a vacation.

“We tasted the grapes at Wooden Valley Winery. They were so sweet, I thought no way that was real,” he said.

“Fairfield is just a great town for a great road trip,” he said.

Hellfire in Wine Country 

By Matt Villard

It’s been over a month now since devastating wildfires erupted in Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino Counties and burned over 200,000 acres.  That’s over 313 square miles, or nearly the size of San Diego, worth of charred and destroyed land.  

The toll on the wine industry was, and still is huge.  23 properties in the 4 counties reported major fire damage.  The full extent of the damage to the vineyards will not be apparent until next year at bud break when vineyard owners will be able to count dead and damaged vines.  All of the wineries suffered, even if they were not directly in the path of the fire, due to power outages, road blocks, personnel being evacuated, etc.  But, the wineries and vineyards will recover.

However, the devastation to the people and communities will take far more time and care.  42 people are dead.  Over 8,000 structures ( including people’s homes) are destroyed.  Over 100,000 people have been displaced.  For most of those who lost their home, they had very little warning and had to leave everything behind.  Their entire lives went up in flames.  I’ve heard stories and seen pictures from friends of mine about how little time there was to evacuate.  One picture stands out in my mind of ash falling around their car and flames on the horizon as they desperately  loaded their young children and dogs into their cars to race away to safety.  This friend was fortunate enough that their home survived.  Many, many others were not as lucky.  

There are ways you can help.  There are a plethora of good relief funds and donation sites out there.  A quick internet search will yield many results.  A meta-site I found is https://www.northbayfiredonations.com which has a huge listing of links to other relief funds and donation sites.  Here’s  a gofundme page.  Here’s a link to Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate donation page.  Please take the time and see if there’s anything you can do to help.