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Wine, wonderful food and wall-to-wall sunshine, the Napa and Sonoma valleys have long been a weekend escape for West Coasters looking for a bucolic break from the norm. In the past 20 years, wineries have gone from strength to strength, attracting visitors from all over the world and holding their own against wines from more established old-world regions. Beyond the wine, the region has charming towns a-plenty, scenic drives and even some beaches, plus San Francisco is only a short trip south. The best times to visit are spring and fall; from March to May the region bursts into leaf, with bright green vines and wildflowers in the fields, while come harvest time, leaves turn golden and restaurants are filled with delicious homegrown produce.
Of course, the biggest draw for most people is wine tasting. Serious wine lovers spend hours poring over their maps and working out the best way to take in the top vineyards, but novice appreciators can have fun too; a drive down highway 29 will take you past some of the region’s top spots. There are over 400 wineries in Napa Valley alone (and a further 400 in Sonoma County) so you’ll never see them all in one trip. We recommend splitting Napa and Sonoma into separate days so you’re not zigzagging across the region, and a guided tour (with driver) makes a great choice too if everyone in your party is hoping to partake in a few glasses.
If wine is a real hobby, make sure Blackbird winery in on your list - the premium wines created by Michael Polenske and his team are world-renowned, and the property is beautiful too.
For a dose of wine country grandeur, you can’t beat Francis Ford Coppola’s Inglenook—there’s even a 19th-century chateau on site. You can book a wine tasting or have lunch in the bistro, where dishes are naturally accompanied by the vineyard's wines. Alternatively, Robert Mondavi’s famous winery is open year-round. With landscaped grounds dotted with sculptures, beautiful views over the hills and a location right off the main highway, it’s a great introduction to the world of wine tasting.
Over in Sonoma, the small Scribe winery is a favorite with city dwellers making the trip from San Francisco. You’ll need to book before you visit, but it’s well worth the effort. The nearby Fremont Diner is a great place to stop for lunch too. For a vineyard with on-site dining, the St Francis winery makes a great choice. It’s food and wine pairing menu consistently ranks as some of the best eating in the area.
Napa & Sonoma have natural beauty to spare, and you’ll be enchanted by vineyard views as you drive through the region, but the area’s towns have plenty to attract you too. Sonoma Town, built around a central square is eminently walkable, with lots of local stores selling unique gifts and clothing, great bakeries to stop in at for a little something sweet and delis that will pack you up a picnic lunch to take with you on the road. Of course, you’ll find wine tasting rooms here too, as well as an olive oil tasting room and shop.
Yountville packs a punch as the famous home of Thomas Keller’s French Laundry restaurant, which put Napa Valley on the map as a top dining destination. The restaurant has a coveted three Michelin stars, and reservations can book up months in advance, so make sure you think ahead if the French Laundry is on your bucket list. If a reservation here is not possible, Yountville has many other fine dining options to tempt your taste buds.
Known as “Napa Valley’s Main Street”, St Helena is a lovely place to spend an afternoon browsing the chic boutiques and art galleries that fill the town. There’s also a farmer’s market every Friday throughout summer and fall packed with delicious local produce and street food stalls. If you are looking for serious R&R, the town has several day spas so you can truly get away from it all. Our St Helena house rentals are ideal for those who are looking for a mixture of vineyard tours and small-town charms.
Northern California might not be well known for its beaches when compared to the surfing spots in the south of the state, but in actual fact, there are some beautiful stretches of sand just a few miles away from the main wine tasting routes. The beaches here are not ideal for swimming, but for an evening’s stroll or an impromptu picnic, they couldn’t be more perfect.
Jenner’s Goat Rock beach, west of Santa Rosa city, is known for its population of harbor seals who take over the sands in the spring and summer months. While you shouldn’t get too close (or bring your pets), children will love getting a look at the seal colony as they frolic on the sand and flop into the water.
Wide and sandy, Salmon Creek beach is a great place for an early morning run to clear your head or an afternoon where the kids can run around freely. You’ll often see surfers here when the waves are up, and it’s also a favorite picnic spot on summer weekends.
With spacious rooms, vineyard views and all the comforts of home, our wine country homes are perfect for a weekend jaunt or a longer stay in beautiful northern California.
Whether you’re looking for an ultra-modern property with sleek swimming pool, or a more traditional ranch-style home, you’ll find what you’re looking for among our great selection of Napa vacation rentals . Sleeping from 6 to 14 people, they make a great choice for a trip with friends or a family getaway with plenty of space for the whole family.
Wide open spaces and world-class views are the order of the day at our luxurious Sonoma villas , along with chef-style kitchens and comfortable beds. Most of our homes in the region have their own pools, where you can relax with a glass of local wine and watch the sunset over the vineyards after a fun day of exploring.