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12 Amazing Northern California Wineries You Must Visit

For my birthday this year, I decided to visit a handful of Northern California wineries in partnership with Visit California. Though I had been to Sonoma, I had never experienced Napa or that hidden gem of wineries, Lake County.

View of vineyard with mountains in background.

We all think California first when planning a wine tasting trip, and rightfully so with some of the best wine regions in the world.

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But did you know the Golden State is the fourth-largest wine-producing region in the entire world? The United States falls fourth behind Italy, France, and Spain, primarily because California produces 80% of US wine and 95% of the country’s wine exports. California wine is pretty special, and we were excited to visit some new spots.

Every single winery on this list has produced award-winning wines, so a visit to any of these wineries will be a treat.

Whether you go wine tasting with friends, book a private tasting, or attend one of the many wine-tasting experiences, you’re going to love these wineries in Northern California.

Though I did this trip over about five days, you could make a day trip of visiting the wineries in each county.

If you’re thinking of visiting Southern California, be sure to check out my favorite Santa Barbara restaurants. You’ll find a lot of wonderful places to taste wine, there, too.

Where is this Region of Northern California?

All three regions and eleven northern California wineries we visited are just north of the San Francisco Bay area, so you’ll fly into San Francisco International Airport and rent a car for the trip.

In Napa, many of the wineries are close together, some were even walking distance from our room at the Harvest Inn. But things are more spread out in Sonoma and even more so in Lake County.

Each winery is marked on the map below, so be sure to come back and refer to it when you’re ready to start exploring.

Sonoma County Wineries

Sonoma is actually the largest wine producer among these three counties. It’s also the largest area geographically, so has more vineyards and wineries.

It’s a beautiful area with gorgeous scenery, making it a great vacation destination. Because of the vast array of soil types and microclimates, more than 60 grape varieties are grown in Sonoma wine country, producing a diverse range of delicious wines.

Tip: To save a bundle, you can purchase a Sonoma County Tasting Pass for 1 day, 2 days, or 30 days. This pass has a lot of free tastings!

Francis Ford Coppola Winery 

We’ve been members of Coppola Winery in Geyserville for about twelve years, getting quarterly shipments of their red wines. There is a lot more to do at this winery than taste, so make sure to take time to explore!

Woman sitting at table at winery holding glass of red wine.

Of course, wine tasting is the reason most people visit wine country, Coppola included.

  • If you don’t have a reservation, you’ll want to step inside the lounge for a tasting at the Main Bar. This is complimentary for wine members and $25 for visitors.
  • Reservations are recommended for a seated tasting on the Terrace, which takes about 45 minutes. This tasting flight is $20 for wine members and $40 for visitors.
  • You can also take a complimentary tour of the property as a wine member. Guest pay $10 plus tax each for this experience. Reservations are strongly encouraged.

We participated in a seated tasting inside instead of the Terrace Tasting as it was drizzling outside, but it was lovely.

As much as we drink Coppola’s red wines, my husband said he’s forgotten how much he enjoyed their Chardonnays. Guess we’ll be ordering Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay in the future!

After your tasting, explore the memorabilia from Francis Ford Coppola’s movies. This is a self guided tour so take your time exploring the Academy Awards, props like Don Corleone’s desk from The Godfather, and a sneak peek at Coppola’s upcoming movie.

Memorabilia from movies.

If the weather is warm (May 4th- September 29th), make plans to visit the pool area. This is quite the experience so be sure to check it out and book as far in advance as you can.

Have lunch or dinner at Rustic Restaurant. They have a lot of choices on the menu, featuring Francis Ford Coppola’s favorites, and offer daily specials, so be sure to ask. The portions are huge so keep that in mind.

Salmon on top of grains and spinach with sauce.

Jordan Vineyard & Winery

This was our second visit to the Jordan Vineyard & Winery in Healdsburg and it’s still one of our favorites.

Bottle of white wine with napkins in front and glasses in back.

Our last visit was ten years ago for the Jordan Winery Estate Tour and Tasting, so we were able to take a ride out through the vineyards and see what else they were growing as well as experience a tasting outside amidst the vineyards.

This visit started with a champagne welcome toast and tour of the historic oak wine tanks room along with a tasting of the Jordan Russian River Valley Chardonnay and hors d’oeuvre.

Large oak barrels with smaller barrels in the middle.

Next was a tasting of the Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon in the Grand Library of the Winery’s Château.

Finally, we took a walk through a secret door into the French-inspired cellar room for a small group seated wine pairing with food prepared by Executive Chef Jesse Mallgren.

Large table set with food pairings and wine glasses.

This is such a special way to taste wines at Jordan. Check out all their tours before you go. If you’d like to experience the wine tour we took, it’s called Discover the Château.

Cline Family Cellars

Though we didn’t have time to visit Cline Family Cellars in Sonoma Valley this time, we were members for years and still love their wines. We found Cline on a family vacation back in 2014, and it’s the perfect winery to visit if you have kids with you. Mom and Dad can enjoy wine tastings while taking the kids on a self-guided tour of the property.

Lake County Wineries

After a couple of days in Sonoma, we headed north of Napa and Sonoma to Lake County, excited to explore wineries and vineyards there. The drive to Kelseyville was about an hour from Geyserville, with beautiful views and lots of twists and turns my husband loved. I was happy to let him drive!

View of mountains behind a vineyard.

Though Napa and Sonoma wineries are typically closer together, there is something really special about the wide open space of Lake County. For those interested in the California Gold Rush, there’s also a lot of history in there.

In Lake County, you’ll find more than 30 wineries, the cleanest air in the Golden State, Clear Lake – America’s oldest lake, a robust arts and entertainment scene, and local artisan shops. I wish we’d had more time to explore! Fortunately, we did make time for the five wineries listed below.

Shannon Family of Wines

We spent a couple of hours with Joy Merrilees, the Head of Production, and Jerónimo Da Valle, winemaker at Shannon Family of Wines. It’s so fun to hang out with other wine lovers, and we could have stayed all day!

Two women and two men at bar for wine tasting with bartender in background.

We started the tour with a glass of sparkling wine, their Cricket Farms Brut Rosé, followed by the 2023 Clay Shannon Sauvignon Blanc and 2023 Rosé.

Bottle of rosé wine with glass with small tasting.

The Sauvignon Blanc was especially easy to drink, with a crisp, bright flavor. We took a break from tasting and explored a little of the property with Joy and Jerónimo, who hails from Argentina. Joy and Jerónimo’s passion for winemaking makes you want to learn more, and they are happy to share and answer questions. 

Following the winery tour we began the red tasting experience with the 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon, which was wonderful. Next was the 2019 Ovis Cabernet Sauvignon, which my husband and I knowingly gave each other the look that we would be ordering this one for home.

Bottle of red wine next to glass with tasting.

Ovis is Latin for sheep, and as the Shannon family has sheep that are “wooly caretakers” of their vineyards, this small lot collection pays homage to them.

It was fascinating to learn about how the sheep feed on the grasses and put back beneficial bacteria into the soil. It’s a brilliant partnership. We tasted the 2020 Buck Shack Zinfandel, aged in bourbon barrels, and the 2020 Clay Shannon Red Blend, and I loved them both 

Shannon Family of Wines has a special discount on your first visit of 50% off your order with a flat $10 shipping. We joined the wine club and already have our shipment. I’m looking forward to tasting our next shipment and sharing it with friends. By the way, wine clubs can save you a bundle, so if you find something you love, join!

And speaking of friends, the team at Shannon makes you feel like you are part of theirs. It was a great way to begin our exploration of Lake County.

Boatique Winery

No, that isn’t a typo. The Boatique Winery actually has a gorgeous antique boat on the premises. The name is a play on the words boat and boutique winery.

Antique boat in a warehouse.

The small winery tasting room when you first enter Boatique is cozy, but there’s more seating available when they are busy. It was chilly when we were there, and I loved the bonus of being able to sit by the fire while learning about their wines.

Glass of wine in front of a fireplace.

We enjoyed the 2021 Pinot Noir and 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a tasting of the 2020 Madi’s Muse Estate Red and 2020 Runabout Estate Red, which were lovely.

Glass of red wine next to bottle.

Boatique has a few choices for tastings, including seasonal sunset tastings. Book on their website or give them a call.

You can actually stay on a vineyard right next door in The Cottage. More on that coming soon!

Brassfield Estate Winery

Though we didn’t have time to visit, a representative from Brassfield Estate Winery joined us for dinner so we were able to taste a few of the wines from another Lake County winery.

Bottle of red wine with glass and more bottles in the background.

Brassfield Winery is known for their handcrafted wines and sustainable farming. What was once a 1600-acre cattle ranch is now a vineyard.

Did you know the bottom part of the valley (called the valley floor) is perfect for growing grapes because it’s more fertile? Vines growing on mountains are more exposed and struggle, not able to produce as much as those in the valley.

That certainly doesn’t mean one is better than the other. With the mountainside grapes, the struggle produces less but what it does produce is more concentrated. This results in wines with bolder flavors. That’s your wine lesson for the day!

View of vineyard in Northern California.

Brassfield has vineyards on the high valley floor as well as the volcanic ridges, producing a wide variety of grapes. I wish we’d had time to visit, but we were able to taste the Serenity Rosé of Pinot Noir and the 2022 Pinot Gris, which I loved.

We also tasted the 2019 Syrah and the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, both paired well with the lamb lollipops I was eating.

They also offer tasting fees waived with the purchase of two bottles, so head out and order the charcuterie board to pair with one bottle and take the other one home. A bottle of good wine and a charcuterie board is heaven for me!

Check out the website and plan to visit when you’re in Lake County.

Six Sigma Ranch & Winery

If you recognize the name and are wondering what the relationship is, Kaj Ahlmann had a long successful career in asset management, often using the Six Sigma methodology in his business strategy. Today, he uses the Six Sigma methods in the growing of grapes and winemaking.

Man seated in front of a fire pit holding a glass of red wine.

We had so much fun at Six Sigma Ranch & Winery, partly because there is so much to do, but also because the family is just so darn nice! This family-owned winery was one of our favorite stops while in Lake County.

Hand holding a glass of rosé wine in front of a vineyard.

As soon as we arrived, we jumped into a Pinzgauer, which is like a Hummer on steroids!

Woman stepping down from big military truck.

The ride was so much fun, and we stopped to have a tasting of their Wildflower Picnics Rosé while Christian Ahlmann, Kaj’s son and President of Six Sigma Winery, told us about the vineyards while we enjoyed the breathtaking scenery.

This is a wine tasting experience anyone can do on Saturdays, so give them a call and set it up. It’s only $25 per person and a wine tasting is included. Meeting with the grape growers is not something you can do everywhere.

The Stage Coach Stop Tasting Room was actually a stagecoach stop in the 1800s, and you really should go in and browse the wine, food, and gift items you can take home. You’ll also see books about Topper the Pig, who you can meet and feed acorns. He’s pretty cute!

Pig peeking through fence.

We enjoyed a tasting of their 2021 Marianne’s Rosé, 2019 Diamond Mine Red Blend, 2018 Cuvée Annette, and the 2019 Reserve Tempranillo. The Tempranillo was my personal favorite.

Six Sigma Ranch has activities all month long, like Paella night on the first Wednesday, weekly guided hikes, Ranch Table Dinners, and barrel tastings. Check the website or Facebook page for the schedule.

Wild Diamond Vineyards

The views from Wild Diamond Vineyards are spectacular as it sits at a 2,200-foot elevation. With 9,000+ acres of vineyards, this property seems to go on forever. Did I mention those views?

Blue Adirondack chairs on patio with view of vineyard and mountains.

The red volcanic soils, combined with warm days and cool nights, are perfect for grape-growing.

Tastings are available Thursday through Sunday from 10:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. with extended hours until 6 beginning in May. You can walk in, but reservations are encouraged.

I’d recommend you try one of their Rhone varietals under the label Dumb Luck. We enjoyed the 2016 Grenache, with flavors of citrus, berries, and spicy cinnamon.

Bottle of red wine next to a glass of wine with food in background.

We also really liked the Wild Diamond 2016 Cabernet Franc, which received a score of 90 from Wine Enthusiast. I thought this was a great wine and it would pair well with my husband’s amazing grilled steaks with mushrooms.

Bottles of red wine on wood table with food in background.

Take a walk and explore. See if you can find a Lake County diamond, also referred to as Moon Tears. You’ll only find these gemstones here in Lake County, near Mt. Konocti. This really was a wonderful experience and the perfect setting for relaxing with friends and enjoying amazing wines.

Napa Valley

Our final destination was Napa Valley, with more than 400 wineries and 90 tasting rooms open to the public. It’s not surprising Napa has been called the Tasting Room Capital of the World.

One of the reasons Napa Valley is so popular is that there’s so much to do besides wine tasting, like cycling the Silverado Trail, eating at the French Laundry, and shopping.

Though all those things are on our list for next time, we were nearing the end of our Northern California wineries trip, with five wineries left to visit.

Raymond Vineyards

Raymond Vineyards in St Helena has a plethora of tours and tastings, like release events, upscale private Library Tastings, the seasonal Tasting in the Grove, and so much more. There is always something fun going on at Raymond Vineyards.

Experiencing Raymond Vineyards Winemaker for a Day was a special treat for my birthday. After a quick tour, you’ll head to the lab and don your lab coat.

A woman in a silver jacket at a stainless counter with wineglasses and wine in the background.

Your host will explain the process of combining wines to find your perfect Napa Valley Bordeaux-style red blend while a fun playlist blares in the background.

Papers and pen on stainless counter with wine glasses on sides.

I learned so much about blending through trial and error. It was an absolute blast!

Two women pointing with wine glasses in the foreground.

After you craft your wine, you’ll follow your host to another room to fill your bottle, cork it, capsule it, and put on your custom label. You can take the one bottle or buy a case of your blend for gifts for family and friends. How cool is that?

HALL Wines

My husband and I have loved HALL Wines for many years but have never had the chance to visit. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen we’ve worked together a couple of times.

HALL offers quite a few tasting opportunities, like the HALLmark Tour and Tasting, the Art of Cabernet Tasting, the Platinum Experience, and the Cabernet Collector Tasting, which we did.

Wall with neon letters and table with bottles of wine.

We had tasted some of these offerings before, but it was fun to experience it there. Before we went inside, we tasted one of our favorites, the 2019 Kathryn Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Glass of red wine next to bottle of red wine on wood table.

Once we were seated in the tasting room, we enjoyed experiencing the 2013 Bergfeld Cabernet Sauvignon, 2018 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon, 2019 HALL Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2018 Montagna Cabernet Sauvignon.

Four bottles of red wine on table between chairs.

We always have 3 or 4 bottles of HALL wines on hand. They all pair so well with food and friends.

Clif Family Winery & Farm Tasting Room

If you’re wondering if the Clif Family is the same company that created the Clif Bar, the answer is yes. However, the Clif Bar portion of their business has been sold so they can focus on the winery.

We sat in the Clif Family Winery Tasting Room and enjoyed the 2022 Rosé of Grenache, 2022 Grenache, 2021 Proprietary Red Wine blend, and the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Glass of red wine next to bottle on wood table.

This was our first introduction to Clif wines, and we enjoyed them all. I’m usually a bigger fan of reds, but I really loved the Rosé of Grenache with the small food pairing.

Glass of white wine in front of food pairing.

We also had lunch from the Clif Bruschetteria food truck, which was amazing. I’ll be working on recreating that flatbread with squash!

Squash flatbread with cheese in front of a fried chicken sandwich and other dish.

Just like with the Clif Bar products, owners Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford are still passionate about sustainability and quality and practice organic farming in their vineyards.

The owners are still adventurers, and you’ll see all kinds of cycling events including group rides and cycling charity events.

V. Sattui

The last winery we visited before heading to SFO was V. Sattui Winery, another new one for us. Established in 1885 by Vittorio Sattui, you’d think it would be the oldest winery in Napa, but it’s not. Surprisingly, you’ll find many wineries in Napa that are over 100 years old!

V. Sattui has to be one of the loveliest wineries in Napa, with a gorgeous Reserve Tower Tasting room where I experienced a handful of their delicious wines while munching on a charcuterie board. This is such a beautiful tasting room!

Wine tasting room with bar and leather chairs.

This winery focuses on traditional wine-making methods, consistently receiving top honors for their wines. In fact, at the 2023 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, they received 31 awards including the highest honor.

I tasted the 2022 Dry Riesling, which was crisp and vibrant. If you don’t like Riesling, try this one with an open mind. Next I tasted the Howell Mountain Zinfandel, which I really enjoyed.

A glass of red wine next to a bottle on a marble bar.

You won’t find V. Sattui wines in stores. You can only get them at the winery or online directly from them. Their wines are crafted in small lots, but they offer a lot of different varietals.

Be sure to check out the wine cellar and store. There is a picnic area in the back on the outdoor patio with stunning views. Take a picnic lunch or a few small bites and sit outside to enjoy the California sunshine!

Counter in store with meat hanging above and cheeses in the case.

V. Sattui also has quite a few events, like dinners with Michelin-starred chefs. Check the website for their schedule.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Wine Club?

Joining a wine club is a way to explore more of the wines from a particular winery, often with great savings. There is no membership fee per se, but you commit to receiving a certain number of bottles, usually quarterly, from the wine club you join. You’ll also get extra perks, like free tastings, invitations to special events, as well as being the first to taste new releases.

What is the Attire for Wine Tasting?

Every winery we visited was casual within reason. Jeans, nice shorts, and casual dresses are all fine. You wouldn’t wear gym shorts and a tank top. If you’re taking a tour of the vineyard or going anywhere behind the scenes, wear closed-toe shoes.

Are Wine Tastings Free?

You may find some small wineries that still allow free tastings, but most charge a small fee. We have always found it was worth every penny to pay for a tasting.

Tips for Visiting Northern California Wineries

Make a Reservation

Not all wineries require a reservation, but if you know you’re going, why not try to make a reservation?

Many wineries have a lot of tasting options, from basic tasting to reserve tasting, and some include wine tours and food pairings. Are you more interested in the intimate experience of a private tasting, or are you okay in a group? It’s good to know which one you’d like to do before you go.

Some wineries also have indoor and outdoor seating, and if it’s a busy time of year and the weather is good, you may have trouble getting a table outside. Call ahead or check the website for reservations.

Check the Website for Events

It’s always good to see if there is a special event during the time you’re visiting. Some wineries have events with live music or food, like the Paella nights at Six Sigma. I wish I’d known about that one! Most also have harvest season events. I would love to go back then as I bet the weather is gorgeous.

Think About What Kind of Wine You Enjoy

Think ahead about what kinds of wines you want to taste. If you love Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, look for a tasting that offers those wines.

Which Northern California wines are your favorites? I hope you’ll try some from this list!

Stay tuned for more about this trip, including where to stay on a vineyard in each location!

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