How to Find the Best Wine Tours around the Bay Area

Just like anything in life, planning is essential. That’s especially true when it comes to creating an enjoyable California wine tour. Our three steps to success are 1) Decide the atmosphere, 2) Choose new vs. old wineries, 3) Map out locations. Read on to learn more about the Bay Area wine country, the best California vineyards, and how to make your tour a success.


Tip #1 - Decide on the Atmosphere

There are dozens of California wine tours and touring companies to choose from, and their atmosphere and experience can vary tremendously. Before you start booking and planning, take a step back and think about your overall goal. Every tour company offers transportation ranging from private limos to tour buses, so the mode of transportation you choose will have a definite effect on the atmosphere.


Romantic Experience - If this trip is all about romance, you’ll want to plan around finding the perfect place to stay along with the best dining. For romance, you can’t get any better than the Napa Valley. A tour usually consists of visiting three or four different wineries. In Napa, three to visit are Castello di Amoros, Chateau Montelena Winery, and the Regal Domaine Carneros. Reserve your limo and have a wonderful time. A Napa Valley wine tour is one of the top California attractions.


Private Tour - Many wineries, especially the smaller boutique ones, offer private tours. It’s a much more personal experience filled with world-class cuisine and culture. Most private touring companies can take you to any wineries you choose. For example, you might want to stay in Calistoga and Sonoma or only tour Napa. The choice is all yours, and the touring companies are there to serve you.


Small Group - If you have a small group of friends and relatives, there are special tours, usually for groups under 12 people. You’ll need to reserve a van large enough for everyone. Before you make reservations, find out what preference everyone has. Do they only like white wine or red wine? Perhaps they would prefer older wineries with more history. Once you gather all the information, it will be easier for you to choose the best California vineyards for your tour. 


Large Group - Does a bus full of people sound fun to you? There are wine tours that include up to 50 people. You can go as a couple or take a few friends. These tours are loads of fun, and it’s easy to make friends. Larger group California wine tours take very little planning on your part. Just make your reservations and hop on the bus.


Tip # 2 - Choose New vs. Old Winery

The best California vineyards aren’t necessarily the oldest ones. Some new vineyards are worth the trip and super fun to tour. That being said, since wine production takes years, it’s important to call ahead if you’d like to visit a newer vineyard to make sure they offer wine tasting.


Here are a few up and coming vineyards you might want to check out:

  • Vinca Minor - located in Berkeley and offers natural wines.
  • Blue Ox - also located in Berkeley and a very popular wine tasting destination. 
  • Shadowbrook - in Walnut Creek offers wine tasting and even a class on Thursdays.


If you’re all about historic California attractions and staying with classic vineyards, you have to visit the oldest premium winery in Sonoma. It’s Buena Vista Winery founded in 1857 by Count Agoston Haraszthy. Other 100-year-old wineries you won’t want to miss are:

  • Charles Krug – Founded in 1861
  • Chateau Montelena – Established in 1882
  • Beringer – Rhine House completed in 1884
  • Beaulieu Vineyards -  Founded in 1900

The best California vineyards aren’t necessarily the oldest ones. Some new vineyards are worth the trip and super fun to tour. But, since wine production takes years, it’s important to call ahead if you’d like to visit a newer vineyard to make sure they offer wine tasting.


Tip # 3 - Map Out Your Wine Tour

When you start mapping out your wine country tour, keep in mind your preferences. Do you like fruit wines, dry white wines, heavy reds, or all of the above? Go where your palate tells you to, then look at a map and decide.


Make sure you leave enough time for extra stops like lunch or shopping. Most wineries have lovely gift shops, so don’t plan your trip so tight that you don’t have time to browse.


Although there are approximately 271 wineries in the Bay area, there are two significant areas for California wine tours:

  • Napa, Santa Rosa, Sonoma
  • Santa Cruz Mountains


These two areas are about 3 to 4 hours apart from each other so you can’t tour them on the same day. It’s best to take your time and enjoy the ride and enjoy these California attractions. On your way to Santa Cruz make sure you leave time to visit beautiful San Jose.


Once you’ve made your list of wineries you’d like to visit, find out what their hours of operation are and when they have tours.


If you’re touring Napa, one of the most popular California attractions is the Napa Valley Wine Train with Gourmet Lunch. No tour of the wine country is complete without this incredible experience.


Now that you’ve learned more about California wine tours, check out our blog on the five best places to live in California and see the new homes Pulte is building.



Contributed to Your Home blog by Carol Youmans

Looking for more tips, ideas or inspiration? Return Home here.

Published 11.3.19

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