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California Wine Tours and Wine Maps

Plan Your California Wine Travels


California is the United State’s top wine producer, by far. The Golden State cranks out 2 billion liters of wine annually, accounting for just about 90% of the nation’s total wine production.

With hundreds and hundreds of wineries to visit in more than 100 AVAs which spread from the Mexico border nearly up to the Oregon border, from the coast and in through the state’s many valleys, planning a California wine tour is more of an exercise of prioritization than it is in other parts of the United States.

You’ll get a good sense of what you’re in for when you download the attractive map published on California’s Wine Institute’s website. Most state wine maps indicate the location of specific wineries; California’s wine map pinpoints its AVAs.

It sounds daunting, but there is good news: You’ll always have plenty of wineries to visit on your next California trip.

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For convenience sake, the California Wine Institute, an advocacy group for the state’s wine industry, divvies up the state into six regions. Here's an overview of the regions, links to wine trail maps and to lots of other handy information to plan your California wine travels.

1. Northern California Coast

Moshin Winery in Sonoma Count
Moshin Winery in Sonoma County. Photo by Alison Stein Wellner
The term “Northern California Coast” may not mean very much to most people, but two of the counties within it are some of the most recognizable for their role in wine production in the United States even for people who don’t drink wine – that’d be Napa and Sonoma.

The Northern California Coast area stretches from San Francisco to just beyond Mendocino, so it also includes Mendocino and Lake counties, as well as some of Marin and Solano counties. All together, this area accounts for more than 800 wineries.

2. Central California Coast

Santa Barbara Wine Country.
Santa Barbara Wine Country. Photo by Alison Stein Wellner.
This area stretches from just south of San Francisco down the coast to Santa Barbara, and includes in its 6.8 million vineyard acres areas that wine aficionados will know well: Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo and of course Santa Barbara. There are 600 wineries in this region.

Paso Robles
Just at the midpoint between San Francisco and Los Angeles is Paso Robles, is some of the most beautiful in the country. Best known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel in the reds, and Chardonnay, Viognier and Roussanne in the whites. San Luis Obispo
About thirty miles south of Paso Robles is San Luis Obispo, or SLO wine country. There are three AVAs here: Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande Valley and Avila Valley. Specialties include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Grenache, Viognier, Zinfandel.

  • San Luis Obispo Winery map

  • Santa Barbara
    Santa Barbara county is a very popular wine destination from Los Angeles, but it’s got more than just geographic convenience on its side. The county’s part of the California shore line is unique because it juts out from west to east, rather than north to south. (Look at a map of the California coast if you find this idea confusing and you’ll see it immediately). There are four AVAs within this wine region-- the Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley, Sta. Rita Hills and Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara -- each with very different microclimates and varietal specialties.

  • Santa Barbara Wine Maps
  • Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner in Santa Barbara
  • 3. Sacramento/San Joaquin Valley

    Moving inward from the coast is the vast agricultural empire of California, between the coastal range and the Sierra Nevada mountains, and covering a great deal of the state’s north-south territory.

    This is California’s vineyard powerhouse, where the majority of the state’s grapes are grown. In the San Joaquin Valley, the most popular grape varietal is French Colombard, used in white jug wine – in fact, this entire region has been best known for growing grapes for jug and box wine, but that is starting to change. Check out Lodi for Zinfandel, the Sacramento Valley for Chardonnay, for instance.

    4. Sierra Nevada

    In the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains is a wine region best known for its Zinfandel and Syrah.

    5. Southern California

    This is the birthplace of California wine – it was a San Diego mission that first planted wine grapes. This area, which stretches from north of Los Angeles to the Mexico border is the includes the Los Angeles proximate AVAs of Saddle Rock-Malibu and Malibu Newton Canyon and the Cucamonga Valley. There’s also the Temecula Valley, northeast of San Diego, which specializes in Syrah, Grenache, Viognier and Tempranillo, and the Ramona Valley and San Pasqual Valley AVAs.

    6. Far North California

    As you’d expect, this region is not far from California’s border with Oregon, and specializes in cool climate varietals. This is a far less-touristed corner of California’s wine country. It includes Humboldt County and the Willow Lake AVA, where wineries are generally open by appointment, the Shasta-Cascade area , home to small production wineries, the Seiad AVA, which currently has no active wineries, and the Trinity Lakes AVA, home to one winery, Alpen Cellars

  • Humboldt County wine map
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