Fancy a tipple? Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or a happy amateur, you’re sure to fall in love with Californian wine. People come from all over the world to visit the wineries of the Golden State and take wine tours from Napa Valley to Sonoma County and Santa Cruz. With literally hundreds of wineries across the state, narrowing it down can be a hard task. To help you get started, we’ve chosen 8 of the very best wineries in California where you can enjoy a glass (or several glasses) of your favourite vino.
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1. Parrish Vineyards
Set in the stunning Paso Robles wine region, this family-run vineyard’s history spans an incredible nine decades and four generations. Parrish Vineyards all started when the family’s grandfather planted 500 acres of grapes in the Atascadero during the pre-Prohibition era.
The family now produces wine on 150 acres across three estate vineyards and is run by owner and winemaker David Parish. He spent two decades designing and building vineyard trellising through California’s iconic wine regions, however, he fell in love with the Central Coast. Today, he lives in Paso Robles making Bordeaux varieties and Napa-style wines that love the limestone soils of the region.
Can’t wait to taste these fine wines? Join us on our California Coast Food and Wine Trail trip and you’ll get to visit this winery. You’ll even get to meet David and learn all about how he produces some of the best wines in the world.
2. Louis M. Martini Winery
Head to St. Helena, a city in Napa, the most famous wine region in California, and you’re guaranteed to find dozens of world-class vineyards. But where to start? The Louis M. Martini Winery is a strong bet as one of the best wineries in California, with a legendary history of wine-making spanning nine decades.
As one of the original wineries in Napa in the post-Prohibition era, Louis M. Martini Winery has made award-winning California red wine – Cabernet Sauvignon – since 1933. They source grapes from the best mountain vineyards in the Napa Valley and you can taste these superb wines in the gorgeous spaces like Winemaker’s Table and the Heritage Lounge. Or soak up the California sunshine in the outdoors Martini Park where you’ll look over a stunning sycamore grove as you sip the good stuff. You can even tour the underground cellar to see old artefacts and learn how the Martini family played a role in shaping Napa Valley as an iconic wine region.
Trafalgar tip: If you’d like to sample the goods of Napa Valley and Sonoma County, join us on our Northern California trip where you visit the best local wineries and enjoy an unforgettable wine tasting over lunch.
3. Beringer Vineyards
While you’re in St. Helena, be sure to also stop by Beringer Vineyards, renowned as one of California’s oldest continually operating wineries. Its history began in 1868 when founder Jacob Beringer sailed from his home in Mainz, Germany to the United States, enticed by the opportunities of California’s fertile lands. Jacob and his brother Frederick purchased 215 acres of land in Napa Valley in 1875, next door to the equally iconic Charles Krug winery.
This land became the Beringer estate and has been the site of many firsts in the wine industry. Beringer was among the first to use hand-dug caves and cellars and was also the first to give public tours in 1934, starting the beloved tradition of Napa Valley wine tours. They are also the first and only winery to have both a red and white wine awarded the #1 Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator. And if that’s not enough, the estate’s 19th-century architecture and beautiful gardens are designated as an official Historic District, making this one of the best wineries in California.
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4. Charles Krug Winery
Head next door to Charles Krug Winery and you’ll find even more centuries-old Napa Valley wine history. Established in 1861by Prussian immigrant Charles Krug, this winery is considered to be the very first winery in the Napa Valley. In 1943, the famous Mondavi Family purchased Charles Krug Winery and have run this iconic estate for over 75 years and four generations.
It now spans over 500 pristine acres and has been producing award-winning wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-style wines, for over 160 years. While you may be drinking red here, you’ll be seeing green as the vineyard is committed to sustainability. Their Napa Green-certified vineyards span 400 acres. You can also taste the wines in the gorgeous Redwood Cellar, a designated National Historic Landmark built in 1872. As you sip away, you can admire the family’s original wine tanks and incredible stone and beam construction.
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5. Raymond Vineyards
The history of this legendary family-owned vineyard goes back to 1933 when the pioneering Raymond family arrived in Napa Valley. They became connected to the esteemed Beringer family through marriage in 1936 and wine-making royalty was born. Roy Raymond worked as a winemaker for Beringer until 1970 when he and his two sons established their own 90-acre estate in Rutherford. After producing their first commercial wine in 1974, Raymond Vineyards shot to success with high-quality wines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and more.
The winery has since transitioned to organic and biodynamic farming practices and has become a Napa Valley icon. They were even once named the most Instagram-friendly winery by San Francisco Magazine’s Best of Wine Country Awards. You can enjoy some unique wine-tasting experiences, like being a winemaker for a day. Learn the art of the winemaker, all while blending your own red wine. You can even take it home, complete with your own custom label. Now that’s a souvenir!
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6. J Vineyards & Winery
Set in the heart of Sonoma County to the north of Napa Valley, Healdsburg is another unmissable California wine region. And one of the greatest wineries to visit here is J Vineyards & Winery. Founded in 1986, the winery has been producing world-class wines for over 35 years. They still use many old-world techniques, like the rare Coquard press, one of very few in the US. So you know you’re sipping something very special.
The winery is famed for its portfolio of world-class sparkling wines, including Chardonnay blends and single-vineyard Pinot Noir. But what to try first? Their very first wine – the Vintage Brut sparkling – is arguably their best wine and is only available at the winery… So be sure to get your hands on it! If you’re lucky, you might also sample their highly-acclaimed 2018 Annapolis Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir.
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7. MacRostie Winery and Vineyards
While you’re in the Healdsburg area, don’t miss MacRostie Winery and Vineyards. It’s one of the best wineries in California, backed up by its string of awards including being named the ‘Best Winery in Sonoma’ and the ‘Best Tasting Room in Napa and Sonoma’ at San Francisco Magazine’s Best of Wine Country Awards.
MacRostie Winery and Vineyard’s history goes back to 1974 when there were only a few dozen small wineries in Sonoma Valley. That year, Steve MacRostie came to this still relatively unknown region and made his first Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. He would go on to establish MacRostie Winery in 1987 and today we’re all thankful he saw the golden potential of Sonoma! MacRostie’s is now a Sonoma Coast icon, famed for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Steve is recognised as one of the region’s pioneers and is still pouring a lot of love into these superb wines.
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8. Frog’s Leap Winery
Back over in Rutherford in Napa Valley, you can’t go wrong with vino at Frog’s Leap Winery. Established by the winemaking pioneer, John Williams, this is truly one of the best wineries in California. John arrived in Napa Valley in the early ‘70s and worked at legendary wineries such as Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Spring Mountain Vineyard before establishing Frog’s Leap Winery in 1981.
Inspired by the organic farming techniques of the finest French estates, Frog’s Leap became of the first wineries to farm grapes organically in 1989. Today, you can raise a glass of their award-winning California red wine including Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc… And sip away while surrounded by historic farmhouses, stunning gardens, and lush vineyards.
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Have you visited any of the best wineries in California? Let us know in the comments below!