California Wine Country Tours from San Francisco. The California Wine Country is about an hour's drive away from San Francisco and it is one of the most beautiful and popular sightseeing destinations when visiting the San Francisco Bay Area. Almost 650 wineries are concentrated in Napa and Sonoma counties, so cancel all your other plans – we’re going to see them all! Okay, not all of them, but we DO offer a variety of exciting tours that make a pretty good start toward covering the basics and giving you a great Wine Country. We also offer private wine country tours for that special occasion or wine country charters to suit your group's needs. Finally, our most popular tour is a perfect day trip that combines a Wine Country Tour with a Muir Woods Tour to see the Redwood Sequoia trees, all in one great day!
Winery Tour Stops
Each of our tours is slightly different in the number and locations of wineries visited, and on some tours we can respond to your requests. In our thousands of trips to Wine Country, we have compiled a list of wineries that range from very to small to very large, from Mom and Pop, to conglomerates, from brand new up-and-comers to brands that were household names 50 years ago. California’s Wine Country is almost the whole state, and some perfectly good wineries are well outside of the radius that would make for a one day trip. We have come up with a list of wineries that are within a reasonable distance, have good wine, are friendly and do a good presentation, and have other attractions, such as nice scenery, interesting history, or other attractions. Our list of wineries might change slightly from time to time, as we discover new gems, or someone’s staff or business policy changes. At this time, here is our list of wineries that we have visited on a regular basis. Keep in mind we won’t visit all of these on a single tour. This is just to give you an idea where we MIGHT end up when you travel with us. These are our “friends”, so to speak.
View a list of California Wineries that are possible stops on our various tours.
The Golden Gate Bridge
During our Wine Country Tours we cross one of the most famous landmarks in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge. We found a less frequently visited viewpoint to get one of the most spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the City of San Francisco that makes for incredible photo opportunities.
California Wine Country
California has approximately 1400 wineries with almost every county represented, even San Francisco! Many great grapes are produced in other regions, like Mendocino, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, and the Central Valley. However, almost half of California’s wineries are concentrated in Napa and Sonoma counties, within 100 miles from San Francisco. Nature and history have blessed this region with a variety of soil types, terrains, micro-climates, and the influx of European winemaking talent to develop into a world-class wine-producing industry – not once but twice! Starting in 1857 in Sonoma, the region saw 50 years of growth and profit and a wave of tourist activity unrivaled almost anywhere in the U.S. at the time. The twin perils of the Great 1906 earthquake and Prohibition (of alcohol) from 1919 to 1933 put a majority of winemakers out of business and the industry into a depression from THE Great Depression until the 1970’s. The modern era began in 1976 (see Napa Valley) and the present day can be seen as the Second Golden Age of California Winemaking. There are about 650 wineries located in Napa and Sonoma counties, representing some of the most famous brands in the U.S., and even the world, and so constitute what many people call “THE Wine Country”. You can get great wines farther away from San Francisco, but it takes more time (and money) to get there. Our California Wine Tours give you the biggest bang for your travel bucks by giving you a great California Wine Country Experience in one great day.
Napa Valley was a few years behind its neighbor Sonoma Valley in the 1850’s and when the tourists started coming into the Wine Country in large numbers, they were in Sonoma, largely ignoring Napa Valley, which was just a place with a lot of vines. Both valleys became quiet and relatively empty from 1906 until the 1970’s. The roles became reversed and Napa Valley became a household name (in households where they read Wine Spectator, anyway) after a 1976 Bicentennial Contest between California and French wines, where the upstart Americans shocked everyone by winning 2 First Place ribbons – both from Napa Valley - and 14 out of the top 20 places. That notoriety jump-started a successful promotional campaign that soon overshadowed all other “neighborhoods” in the American wine business, and now the word “Napa” is synonymous with “Wine” in many people’s minds. It’s not that it is NOT true, but it is most certainly not the whole truth about wine in America, or specifically California. Some of the facts are that it is farther away from San Francisco and time spent on the road is time NOT spent tasting wine, the average price of a bottle or a tasting flight is higher, and the average nose behind the counter is also pointed a little higher, if you get my drift. Some of the most famous names in American Wine have their home addresses in the towns along the Napa Valley Highway, and it’s still a great place to go, but there are very few complimentary tasting rooms in Napa Valley, and when pressed for time, Sonoma is closer to San Francisco, and has lots of great wine to taste.
Sonoma County and Valley
Sonoma County is one of California's premier wine-making regions, yet it has remained relatively untouched by tourists compared to its more popular neighbor, Napa Valley (only 5-10 miles east). It is said that Sonoma Valley gets its name from the Miwok Native American Indians. The Miwok named it the valley of "many moons" - while walking through the Sonoma Valley and the Mayacamas Mountains, the moon was said to rise seven times.
In the 1850’s, it was Sonoma Valley residents who solved the imported vine disease problem by widely adopting the practice of grafting onto native (resistant) root stock. Hungarian immigrant Agoston Haraszthy basically invented large scale, industrial wine-making, and Sonoma became the epicenter for a huge new wine industry and therefore became a popular tourist destination for locals from San Francisco and visitors from around the world.
Sonoma Valley's currently more famous neighbor, Napa Valley, remained the “outback” for about 50 years. Both valleys became “ghost towns” after the Great Earthquake of 1906, followed by Prohibition (of alcohol!) from 1919 to 1933. You could say the Great Depression continued well into the 1970’s for this part of the world (see Napa Valley). Declared National Historic Landmarks, the downtown Sonoma Plaza and the San Francisco Solano de Sonoma Mission (1823) are at the heart of this renowned wine producing region. Sonoma Valley is located in the much larger Sonoma County, which also includes the equally renowned Healdsburg region, the Alexander Valley, Russian River, and other well-known Appellations.