Wine Country Trip Tips

How What Where When?

Why are you going to wine country? What are you looking for? Who are you going with? There are so many wineries to choose from that you may wonder where to start. With so much to consider, we here at WinoTripping have put together some trip tips, including a list of wineries orgainized by theme. Are you taking you parents? Maybe you're looking to impress that guy you met on twitter? How about Napa alternatives? Check the list below.

Planes, trains and automobiles

Coming to California wine country from someplace else? Here are some things to consider.

When to go. Seasons. Fall (September - November) is havest time and is the busiest time in wine country. Not only are the tasting rooms full of trippers, but the winemakers and crew are busy with the early laborious stages of winemaking. But the havest season can be very exciting and educational, making Fall one of the Best, and one of the worst times to visit. Winter is the quietest time of year in wine country. While it may be a bit cooler or raining, you can get lucky and have a clear, warm day even in January.

What to wear? There is no need to get dressed up to visit a winery. No matter how fancy the place looks, the dress code is always casual. But don't let that stop you from getting dressed up if you want. Wear comfortable clothes, including good walking shoes (in case you decide to go on a winery tour, or two). In the summer, Napa and Sonoma can get pretty warm, lows in the upper 60's and highs in the 80's, but the nights are cooler, so plan to bring a sweater or light jacket. In the winter expect 40's and 50's with a pretty good chance of rain.

Flying in? The best airport to fly in to is Oakland, as it's easier than SFO to navigate in and out, then it's about 1 1/2 hour drive up to Napa and Sonoma, depending on traffic. If the best flight deal has you flying into SFO, take it, it's not that big a deal. The difference is that to get to Napa and Sonoma from SFO you have to drive through San Francisco. So it'll slow you down a bit, but you'll be in San Francisco! How bad can that be?

Renting a car is your best bet, especially if you're planning on an extended stay in the wine country. For a daytrip, you could stay in SF and use a limo service to get you there. They will drive you around to the wineries, then drive you back to SF.

Coming in by Amtrak? Get youself to Oakland or San Francisco (by shuttle bus), then you can rent a car from there.

Take a peek at the quick-hit list below to help start you on your way to a great wine country experience in Napa or Sonoma County. If you want to avoid the crowds, try one of highly recommended alternative wine countries in California, like Carmel Valley or Murphys. We will continue to expand our exclusive winery reviews and bring reports from other regions in California, Oregon, Washington, and beyond.

Wineries by Theme List

Wineries with your parents:
Rubicon Estate (Napa)
Robert Mondavi (Napa)
Beringer (Napa)
Toad Hollow (Sonoma)

Art & Architeture:
Turnbull Wine Cellars (Napa)
Clos Pagase (Napa)
Castello di Amorosa (Napa)
Twomey (Sonoma)

Beringer (Napa)
Chateau Montelena (Napa)
Frank Family Vineyards (Napa)
Monticello Vineyards (Napa)

Kick it like Disney:
Rubicon Estate(Napa)
Castello di Amorosa(Napa)

Impress a Date:
Paraduxx (Napa)
Lynmar (Sonoma)
Iron Horse (Sonoma)

Best Napa-alternatives:
Russian River Valley (Sonoma)
Silverado Trail (Napa)

Dog Friendly:
Taft Street (Sonoma)
Clos Du Val (Napa)

Pampering Spa's and Hot Springs:
Calistoga is your town.

Small Family Winery Experience:
Taft Street (Sonoma)
Porter Creek (Sonoma)
Goosecross Cellars (Napa)

Money is no option:
Vine Cliff (Napa)
Rubicon Estate (Napa)
Frog's Leap(Napa)