Best California Wineries That Can’t Be Missed

Whether it’s fog-laced redwoods on the Sonoma Coast, manicured gardens near Santa Barbara, or one of the best views of Napa, you’ll find picturesque landscapes at each of these California wineries.

From the coast to Northern California, you’ll want to savor the views long after your glass is empty. It’s always free to look; tasting fees are sometimes waived if you purchase a bottle of wine.

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Sonoma County

What: Stryker Sonoma
Where: Alexander Valley, California
Details: Pat Stryker followed her dream and founded this estate winery in 1999 to capitalize on the view of terraced vineyards encircling the tasting room. Looking out from the glass-walled tasting room, expect to find one of the best views of Alexander Valley. When paired with flights of Bordeaux varietals, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay (grown primarily on the property but also sourced from vineyards in the Rockpile appellation), it’s the perfect afternoon.
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What: Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery
Where: Healdsburg, California
Details: Along the upper portion of the Dry Creek Valley appellation — on Dry Creek Valley Road — is one of the best views of Lake Sonoma. Stop in at Ferrari-Carano, which produces some of the most celebrated Chardonnays in the state (sourced from a variety of regions, like Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, and Carneros, as well as small estate lots), which you can try in the new underground Enoteca Reserve Tasting Bar & Lounge. But first, take a peek at Lake Sonoma down below and stroll through the winery’s five acres of flower gardens that feature around 10,000 tulips each spring.
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What: Flowers Vineyard & Winery
Where: Sonoma Coast, California
Details: Former nursery owners in Pennsylvania (Walt and Joan Flowers) scooped up this prime slice of real estate along the Sonoma Coast in the late 1980s with the intent to make wine. Today, their wines are award-winning — Chardonnay and Pinot Noir — but it’s the view that stays with you long after the glass is empty. From the tasting room, expect to see layers of coastal fog, moss-covered trees, and wispy pines. Make an appointment, which includes a tour where you’ll walk through the vineyard and taste two to three wines.
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Napa Valley

What: HALL Wines
Where: Napa Valley, California
Details: Perched high above the Rutherford appellation on Auberge Road, and at the end of a curvy, uphill drive, is one of two HALL tasting rooms — the second is along the main drag (Route 29) and where most people go. Inside and out, this smaller, more intimate tasting room resembles a chic home with windows looking out onto the vineyards. Modern art hung on the walls, along with its glamorous underground cellar (with 14,000 square feet of caves and a communal table for events or private tastings), make this one of Napa’s most luxurious tasting rooms. You must phone first to arrange your visit.
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What: Sterling Vineyards
Where: Calistoga, California
Details: This Napa Valley winery’s tasting room is so high up that one must hop an aerial tram to reach it. The facility — which mimics stark-white architecture on Crete, Greece — offers not only tastings and a view but also art galleries, overlooks, a view of wine production through glass windows, and elevated walkways.
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What: Domaine Carneros
Where: Napa Valley, California
Details: A French-style estate with a wide deck showing off the Carneros appellation, Domaine Carneros ranks among California’s best sparkling-wine houses — in part because it’s owned by Tattinger, a celebrated French Champagne producer. Table service (a rarity at California wineries) on the terrace allows you to order not only bubbly flights or bottles, but cheese plates, caviar, a selection of European-style pastries, and smoked salmon. What better way to take in the view?
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Mendocino County

What: Yorkville Cellars
Where: 
Yorkville, California
Details: Yorkville Cellars is a small-production winery producing Bordeaux-style blends as well as Malbec and Semillon. The Mendocino County estate — also along the rugged Mendocino coastline — is the perfect spot to snag a cat nap or snack on a wedge of artisan-farmstead cheese during a hectic day of winery visits. Under the shade of mighty oak trees, and with the view of redwood forests, fruit orchards, and neighboring sheep ranches, you’re 1,000 feet above sea level. Yorkville Cellars is a small-production winery producing Bordeaux-style blends as well as Malbec and Semillon.
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Placer County

What: Ciotti Cellars
Where: Loomis, California
Details: Ciotti Cellars is a small production winery located in Placer County. Small production means they focus on making small lots of ultra-premium wines for your enjoyment. Because of this limited production they’re able to pay extra attention to details creating wines rich in aromas, deep in color and character with velvety finishes.  Today Ciotti Cellars is committed to making sure that same time honored family tradition continues, carefully cultivating and selecting only quality fruit to make premium hand crafted wine’s to be enjoyed and shared with family and friends.

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What: Fawnridge Vineyards
Where: Auburn, California
Details: Fawnridge Vineyards was started in the summer of 2002. Barbera and Syrah grapes were selected based on the soil and climate conditions. After consideration of numerous ways to develop the vineyard layout, Vertical Shoot Positioning was chosen based on research within the wine industry. This method trains vines up a vertical trellis on horizontal wires up to six feet tall. Grapevines receive improved sum exposure resulting in superior quality. This all makes for better wine from the harvest of superior grapes.

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Amador County

What: Amador Cellars
Where: Plymouth, California
Details: Amador Cellars is a unique winery located in the heart of Amador County’s lush Shenandoah Valley wine country. Built in 2003 of rice straw and concrete the winery and tasting room conveys Old World architecture and style that emphasizes simplicity, utility and function. It sits on a knoll overlooking rolling vineyards in the shade of a stand of Valley Oak. A perfect spot for enjoying a picnic and fine wine.

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What: Avio Vineyards and Winery
Where: Sutter Creek, California
Details: Avio Vineyards is a destination that embodies the spirit of northern Italy. Our estate is reminiscent of a traditional Tuscan farmstead, complete with a rustic courtyard and fountain. Additionally, we offer an unforgettable setting for weddings, parties, meetings and other various events.  We specialize in creating smooth, Italian-style varietals. The wine making family in Avio, Italy has been producing exemplary wines for generations, and we here continue the traditions.

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Santa Ynez Valley

What: Melville Winery & Vineyards
Where: Lompoc, California
Details: Melville’s tasting room is on the ground floor of a Mediterranean-style villa, in the Santa Rita Hills appellation about 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean near Santa Barbara. This area falls within the larger Santa Ynez Valley, which was immortalized in the movie Sideways. Complete with French doors that lead out onto an expansive patio, the villa also has an area where you can enjoy your picnic lunch — paired with a glass of small-lot estate-grown Pinot Noir, of course. Clones of Pinot Noir grapes (Melville’s specialty) are marked by signs in the vineyard just a few steps from the patio.
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What: Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards
Where: Buellton, California
Details: A fountain out back — where there is an outdoor tasting bar on weekends — contributes to a casual, backyard feel at this biodynamic winery that appeared in the film Sideways. Access the tasting room by driving down a long gravel road. Get rewarded with unobstructed views of surrounding vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills appellation (part of the larger Santa Ynez Valley), which is famous for its Pinot Noir — including the bottles produced at Alma Rosa.
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