Visit wine country California in fall

October 12, 2014

Sonoma vineyard, October 2011

There’s only one reason why to visit wine country in fall, and that’s “harvest.”

Grapes hang full and heavy on the vines in the fall, waiting patiently in their lush beauty for the buzz and hubbub of the harvest. They’re just beautiful. And grape harvest? It’s exciting, it’s fun and it’s romantic.  If you’re lucky (or a good planner) you might be able to get tickets for one of the harvest parties some wineries host that time of year.

While Napa’s the first name that comes to mind when someone says “California wine country,” we–and may of us in the Bay area–favor Sonoma, home to many fun and funky wineries that make great wine. As Napa got snootier and more expensive, it also got less interesting, in our view. (Never mistake an expensive wine for a good wine. The two don’t always correlate.)

Autumn visits to Dry Creek and Alexander Valley vineyards are a must-do  for us, and we have our short-list of favorite Sonoma tasting rooms.

Oh, you want to know what they are? Ok.

Gundlach Bundschu
Lambert Bridge
Nicholson Ranch
…among others


Here’s a little secret: Some of the most beautiful tasting rooms–with sweeping wine country views and elaborate shops–also feature some of the worst wine. So we might drop by Viansa for its lovely setting, but you won’t catch us drinking that wine. No, for that we’ll head over to one of our favorites.

Many of the Sonoma wineries offer tours and tastings. We haven’t done a jeep tour jet, but many wineries now offer to zoom visitors around their vineyards and explain a bit about their process. It’s been on our list for too long.

Why haven’t we taken a Jeep tour?

Mostly because we prefer to visit wine country during the week, when it’s not overrun with visitors, and the tours are usually only held on weekends. But one day…

So here we are on the first day of fall.  Autumn is the loveliest time of year to go almost anywhere, so our wine country has stiff competition.  As I write this we’re heading to Sicily for wine harvest there. We’ve also been in the wine region of northern Italy during grape harvest. It’ll be fun to compare the different experiences.

Next year, we’re skipping harvest altogether and spending an entire month in Santa Fe, NM.

I’m thinking that we need to expand autumn by a few months. Less cold winter, less hot summer and more gorgeous fall. What do you think–want to start a movement?


Men I love wandering around Nicholson Ranch in March 2014.

3 comments on “Visit wine country California in fall
  1. You are so lucky to be able to spend so much time traveling and spending quality time at so many lovely destinations. I envy you!

    I love visiting vineyards and have been to Napa twice and to the Loire Valley in France. My dad is a wine connoisseur and I grew up with a large wine cellar in our home, and as the youngest child benefitted with going on wine trips alone with my parents. Ah, it was priceless!

  2. I am planning a December visit to SF. Is it too late to visit some of the wineries you have suggested in Sonoma then? What about going to Calistoga. Looking for an inexpensive place to perch myself for a few days or a week.

  3. I love Sonoma too and really enjoyed my recent trip there. Usually we spend more time in Napa because my brother lives there, but this time I had a day to walk around downtown Sonoma. It’s always fun.

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