If California were a country, it would be the fourth largest wine producer in the world, only behind France, Italy and Spain, and ahead of Australia, Chile and South Africa. Wine tours in California have become such a big part of the economy that they are the second most popular tourist attraction in the state, only behind Disneyland. Need to say more?

Since I love wine my Pinot Noir and my Cabernet Sauvignon, I asked some fellow bloggers to share with us their favorite California wine tour and they came up with some very nice and less touristy wineries. So, if you’re planning a trip to the Golden State, there are five California wineries that offer tours with tasting, food pairings and great atmosphere.

5 Wine Tours In California That You Can’t Miss

Russian River Valley Vineyard, Forestville – by A Sherrie Affair

In Sonoma County in Northern California, there is a great diversity of land which in turn helps create a large diversity of wine.  The Russian River Valley is a region that is located in Sonoma County. While visiting, we discovered by chance a unique winery called The Russian River Valley Vineyard.

Wine Tours In California - California Wineries

When you pull into the stone parking lot you get the feeling that is a laid-back setting.  There is an old barn surrounded by a courtyard and vineyards.  The courtyard area has plenty of picnic tables, bars, comfortable chairs, wooden tables, and a real brick and clay pizza oven.  There are even a few antique trucks to add to the relaxed atmosphere. Here is where you can enjoy a nice and relaxing tasting.

Pairings are offered to be included in your wine tasting.  The Russian River Vineyard specializes in Pinot Noir and Chardonnays which are paired with cheeses, nuts and fruits.  Each enhanced the flavor of their amazing wines.

If you have saved some of your appetite for a meal, join them in their award-winning restaurant. Amazing fresh and organic farm to table pure deliciousness! They have their own farm located right on the property that grows over 150 different vegetables, produce and flowers. Creating amazing meals to go with their superb wine.

Beringer Vineyards, St Helena – by Outside Suburbia

Beringer’s classic Zinfandel Rosé was my first introduction to wine, so on a recent trip to Napa Valley, I wanted to stop by for a tasting and learn a little more about the California wine icon. As the region’s oldest continuously operating winery, Beringer is built on 142 years of winemaking tradition and the very first winery to offer public wine tours in California.

Wine Tours in California - California Wineries

Visitors are welcome to walk the expansive and beautiful grounds featuring the Rhine House, a seventeen room mansion that is a classic example of ornate Victorian architecture. Our hour-long private seated tasting was hosted by wine educators in a private tasting salon in the historic Rhine House.

This custom tailored experience was accompanied by an artisan cheese plate to complement and enhance the wines. We tasted the Reserve and Single Vineyard wines that made Beringer the most awarded winery in Napa.

You can also take a 30 minute or 60-minute tour that explores the caves, family history, and winemaking process.  If you are short on time but want to just do a wine tasting, you can enjoy a tasting on the Rhine House Porch. You will get to taste Beringer’s three iconic Napa Valley Wines: Private Reserve Chardonnay, Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Nightingale paired with artisan cheeses and a sweet treat.

Kalyra Winery, Santa Barbara – by The Discoveries Of

I first came across Kalyra in a somewhat unusual way: it features in one of my long-time favorite flicks Sideways. Understandably, when I finally made it to Santa Barbara wine country as part of my West Coast Road Trip, it was at the top of my to-visit list.

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Kalyra is located in Santa Barbara County – the product of an Australian-born winemaker who has been producing wines from a blend of Australian and Californian grapes for over 20 years. They produce a wide variety of wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc. Cabernet Franc and a totally fabulous Orange Muscat dessert wine (I couldn’t resist buying a few bottles of the latter to bring home to the UK with me).

The tasting room is a real experience: the word Kalyra means a wild and pleasant place in Aboriginal. It’s apt – the winery boasts stunning views that make for a pleasant backdrop during the tasting. You can opt for the normal tasting, which covers a spectrum of Kalyra’s wines, or the Reserve Dessert Wine and Port Tasting. If you’re feeling particularly indulgent, you could go for both, although you might want to make use of the spittoon in that situation.

Overall, my visit to Kalyra was a real highlight of my time in Santa Barbara and I’d recommend it for anyone going wine tasting in the area.

Halter Ranch, Paso Robles – by Pure Wander

Paso Robles is south of trendy wine regions like Sonoma and Napa Valley. But they have wonderful, if not better, varieties than its northern rivals. The region’s laid-back attitude is reflected in the wines, which are intelligent but not presumptuous.

California Wine Tours - California Wineries

While there are more than 300 wineries and vineyards to choose from in the area, one of the most scenic is Halter Ranch. New to the scene, they offer something for everyone – bold reds, full whites and fruity rose. They’ve recently released an olive oil from their trees on the property too.

On a good day, you can have an outdoors tour of endless grape vines snaking along the property. There’s also a lovely small pond, perfect for picnics or letting the kids burn off some energy exploring. Any time of the year you can visit the processing plant, including man-made wine caves and lots of state-of-the-art equipment. If you fall in love with their wines, they have an insider’s club and membership to all their up and coming releases.

Sterling Vineyards, Calistoga – by A Social Nomad

There’s something magical about arriving at a vineyard, normally you drive (or are driven) up to an imposing road, surrounded by vines to an impressive building.  Not so at Sterling Vineyards in Calistoga. Here you take an aerial tram to your wine tasting, 300 feet above the parking lot. That’s right. A cable car, not an ordinary car, you literally fly into this spectacularly located winery.  It allows you to arrive at the winery with minimal impact on the growing areas.

California Wine Tours - California Wineries

The unique doesn’t stop there.  The main buildings of the winery are designed and painted white to mimic those on the Greek island of Mykonos and you’ll find bells salvaged from St Dunstan’s church in London, England.

The vineyard, in operation since 1964, produces Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Rose, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sparkling Wines.  The vineyard’s Cabernet Sauvignon regularly scores more than 93 points for their Cabernet Sauvignon.

General admission, for US$35 includes your aerial tramway ticket and a self-guided tour of the lower area of the winery, access to the terrace and a current release tasting.  Step it up for the Platinum experience at US$75 per person to include a one hour guided tasting and food pairing experience.

As we all know, there are many more California wineries that are worth a visit, be it for the quality of their wines, for their location or maybe a bit of both. Have you ever been on a tour of a vineyard in California? Would you like to? Leave your thoughts in the comments!


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