Although most people think of Napa first when they think of California wineries, the truth is that there are excellent wineries all up and down the state. In fact, California produces almost 90% of all American wine.
The climate in California, with its warm days that are cooled at night by coastal fog, and the soil of the region combine to grow delicious grapes. Those grapes, of course, are turned into equally delicious wines. So, if you’re interested in a winery tour in California, don’t limit yourself to just Northern California wineries!
Planning the Ultimate RV Winery Tour in California
Planning a California winery tour lends itself perfectly to an RV adventure. Since the state is so large, you can stop at several locations in Northern, Central, and Southern California and experience the California wineries in each region. You can also visit the state and national parks in the area, spend a day at the beach, or check out some of the other cultural and natural attractions that are unique to this beautiful state. Of course, with more than 4,000 wineries in the state, you could spend your entire trip touring wineries and not hit them all.
Wineries in California
There are California wineries all across the state, but you can group them into six categories: the North Coast, the Central Coast, the Sierra Foothills, the Inland Valleys, Southern California, and Far North California. You’ll find a map here showing each of these regions, but an all-encompassing wine tour would begin in the Far North and head to Southern California (or vice versa).
Winery Tour Route
There are many different wine roads in California, depending on the region where you want to focus your attention. Here are some suggestions for where to stay and what to do on your wine tour of California.
The Far North region begins just as you cross the Oregon state line into California. Many of the wineries in far Northern California are centered around Humboldt or in the Shasta County region. Along with touring the Shasta County wineries, you can expand your RV road trip to include a trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park, or spend a day boating, swimming, or fishing at Shasta Lake. The Far North region of California is also known for its artists and craftsmen, so you can spend a day browsing galleries or visiting shops to see the local handiwork.
Wineries to Visit
While you’re in the Far North, try one of these wineries on your road trip:
Where to Stay
There are plenty of campgrounds in the Far North region of California. Thanks to the areas many lakes, the coast, and the mountains there are lots of outdoor activities as well. If you’re looking for a campground in the area, McCloud RV Park is right at the base of Mt. Shasta and promises breathtaking views, full hookups, and two ponds on the grounds. Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort has full hookups close to the lake which features a Splash Zone, along with fishing, swimming, boating, and more.
You can find an RV, trailer, or camper in the Far North to fit your road trip needs here.
This is the California wine region most people are familiar with – the North Coast includes the Napa Valley and Sonoma County, along with the picturesque Mendocino County. Lake County, home to the largest freshwater lake in California, is known for its affordable wines and all the water activities Clear Lake has to offer.
Although you can spend your entire time in Napa or at Sonoma California wineries and you likely still won’t hit them all, there are other activities as well. Take a hot air balloon ride and see the area from above, have dinner at the notoriously swanky French Laundry (but make reservations well in advance and save up!), or do some hiking and exploring outside at one of the many state parks or beaches.
Wineries to Visit
There are so many wineries to visit, we won’t be able to get them all in this guide! However, here are a few to get you started. Many of these wineries require reservations ahead of time, and some charge a fee for wine tastings.
- Louis M. Martini – This gorgeous winery and vineyard offers a variety of tastings and tours at several price points, from $30 outdoor Martini Park tastings to the $150 Library Tour tasting that includes your own personal sommelier.
- Chateau Montelena Winery – The imposing castle that is home to this winery offers a magnificent backdrop for this family-owned winery. The chateau’s specialties are cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, and there are beautiful gardens and a lake on the grounds as well.
- Pine Ridge Vineyards – If you’re more impressed with nature than architecture, the Pine Ridge Vineyards offers tastings with amazing views of the vineyards and the rolling hills of Napa.
Where to Stay
There are many beautiful places to stay in an RV on the North Coast. Both Clear Lake and the coast offer amazing scenery and plenty of spots to set up camp while you explore the area. Bothe-Napa Valley State Park has somewhat rustic camping (no hookups) in the heart of wine country. The Sonoma County Fairgrounds have full hookups and are available year-round when the fair is not in session.
RVshare has a variety of well-equipped RVs and trailers in the North Coast area if you need to get outfitted for a wine-tasting road trip.
California’s Central Coast is also home to many wineries and popular stops. The region includes everything from the San Francisco Bay Area (although Californians call that Northern California, on a map it’s closer to the middle) to Paso Robles and Santa Barbara County, which gained even more attention as a wine region after the movie “Sideways.” On a wine tasting tour of the state, be sure to stop in San Francisco to see sites like Golden Gate Park and the Exploratorium, and stop in Santa Barbara to shop on State Street or visit the Old Mission Santa Barbara. Be sure to save time to tour the opulent grounds of Hearst Castle as well.
Wineries to Visit
Paso Robles is about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and makes a great place to stop on a road trip for some wine tasting and exploring. Here are a few wineries to visit there, and farther south in Santa Barbara County.
- Adelaida Vineyards & Winery – This organically-farmed winery focuses on sustainable agriculture in the mountains of Paso Robles. Adelaida offers several choices for food and wine tastings at their vineyard.
- Fess Parker Winery & Inn – You are in California, so it seems fitting that at least one winery on the tour should have ties to a celebrity. Fess Parker made his name as an actor playing roles like Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone before settling in Santa Barbara and starting a winery to pass down to his children. You can now visit his winery in Los Olivos and sit for a tasting or have a glass or bottle of wine with friends on the veranda.
- Folded Hills Winery, Ranch, Farmstead – This winery and 600-acre ranch in Gaviota, near the city of Santa Barbara, features an original 1898 ranch house which is now the tasting room. You can try wines inside the historic building, or outdoors while admiring the scenery. Don’t miss the farmstead across the street with its pigs, donkeys, ostriches, and other animals.
Where to Stay
Paso Robles and Santa Barbara County have no shortage of beautiful campgrounds where you can stay while you explore the area. The Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground is a large camping area in Buellton, within walking distance of a local winery. Flying Flags is also close to the charming Danish-style town of Solvang, where you can shop and visit more wineries. Carpinteria State Beach Campground is right on the beach and offers gorgeous views of the water and the sunset.
RVshare has many RVs, trailers, and campers listed in the Central Coast region for your next trip!
The Temecula Valley is where many Southern Californians head for a quick trip to wine country. The area has a variety of delicious wines, but is especially known for growing Italian, Spanish, and French grapes for wines like Syrah, Zinfandel, and Sangiovese. Save time to explore other parts of Southern California as well, like Disneyland, Joshua Tree National Park, and the San Diego area.
Wineries to Visit
Most of Southern California’s big wineries are in the Temecula area. Here are a few to try:
- Baily Vineyard & Winery – This family-owned vineyard and winery is especially known for wines made from cabernet sauvignon and other Bordeaux grapes. You can pop by the main testing room at the visitor center without an appointment, but if you want to visit the Estate Tasting Room, you’ll need to make a reservation.
- Palumbo Family Vineyards & Winery – The Palumbo family pride themselves on the sustainable processes they use to grow and make their wines. You can do a tasting on-site, or reserve a tour and tasting for a more in-depth understanding of how the wines are made.
- Vindemia Winery – The outdoor tasting room at this winery is in the midst of a rose garden, making a beautiful and relaxing spot to appreciate the wines. The tastings also feature bread and estate-grown olive oil, and this is another winery that uses sustainable practices.
Where to Stay
Besides wine tastings, Temecula has plenty to do! Take a hot air balloon ride, try your luck at the Pechanga Resort Casino, or head out on one of the bike trails in the area. There are plenty of places to stay while you explore the area as well. The Temecula/Vail Lake KOA is near hiking and mountain biking trails and has three pools for cooling off. Wilderness Lakes RV Resort is on 80 acres and is just a short drive from Temecula. The Pechanga Resort & Casino also has an RV campground and along with being next to the casino, guests can use the resort’s 4.5 acre resort pool area called The Cove.
RVshare has many options for renting a motorhome, trailer, or camper in the area.
RVing in California
California is a state meant for road trips! Because so many of the state’s attractions and wineries are spread out all along the coast, and in the mountains on the eastern side of the state, an RV is the perfect way to take a California winery tour. You can tailor your tour to the areas of California you wish to explore, and to the amount of time you have to spend in each area. Whether you just have time for a quick weekend getaway, or you want to do an extensive tour of wineries across the state, you’ll have a wonderful time exploring California and sampling the unique wines the state has to offer.
RV Winery Vacation
If you’re wondering about the best time to visit California wineries, many people agree that late summer through early fall is ideal. By late summer, the grapes are almost ready to be picked and vines are bending under the weight of that nice, juicy fruit. Fall is, of course, harvest season and you may be able to get a glimpse of how that process works when you visit.
If you’re planning an RV winery tour, you may also want to consider signing up with one of RVshare’s partners, Harvest Hosts. Members are able to stay overnight at the more than 2,199 campgrounds that are part of Harvest Hosts without paying any camping fees. If you’re going to be camping for any length of time, the $99 membership fee will pay for itself pretty quickly! Members do need to have a self-contained RV with a toilet, water tank, and inside cooking facilities.
If you’re interested in learning more about Harvest Hosts, you can read more here.
Happy trails and happy wine tasting!
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