Vacation Ideas: Tips For Taking A Tour Of The California Wine Country

California produces most of the wine consumed in the United States. With vineyards from north of San Fransciso to south of Los Angeles, travelers can indulge in sampling different varieties for a half of a day or for days on end. Read more to find out the best ways to see and taste it all!

Wine grapes are not indigenous to California. It wasn't until 1769, when Father Juniperro Serra first planted vines descended from those brought from Spain by the Conquistadors, that grapes were introduced to California. These vines, planted at the San Diego Mission, mark the beginning of what is now a state-wide industry. Today, ninety-five per cent of the wine produced in the United States comes from California vineyards. Why not take a tour of a winery?

Since vineyards are scattered across the state from north of San Francisco to south of Los Angeles, you can plan a wine tour as just part of a vacation or as a vacation in itself. Napa County and Sonoma County are probably the most famous areas in California for wine production, but do not overlook wineries in Mendecino County, Monterey County, San Luis Obispo County, and Santa Barbara County. Temecula, in Riverside County, also has some well known vineyards.

What can you expect when you go to a wine tasting at a vineyard? Practices vary from winery to winery, but in general you can expect a mouthful or two of a particular variety for a nominal fee. Some vineyards offer a "package deal" so that you can sample several different wines. There will be bowls to spit out the wine if you choose not to drink it and water to cleanse your palate before your next tasting. Some vineyards also offer crackers in addition to water. In addition, check to see if the winery offers tours of its facility. These can be extremely interesting as each vineyard has different methods of turning grape juice into wine. Many vineyards offer picnic tables in restful settings so that you can take a break, enjoy the scenery, have a glass of wine, and eat some of that bread and cheese that you brought with you.

There are several ways to take a wine tour. There are standard tours in most wine areas where you can travel from vineyard to vineyard by bus. You can hire a limousine to take you on a custom tour. Or, you can drive your own car or drive a rental car and travel from winery to winery at your convenience. Go online to your favorite search engine and type in the county you are considering going to visit and "wine tour" to find local information and options available to you.

Rather than take a tour, check to see if there is a wine tasting event in the area that you are visiting. These events can take several forms. A vineyard might throw a barbeque along with a tasting of new wines coming out. A winery might have a gala catered affair with wines matched with individual courses. A vineyard might also host a tasting including other wineries from the area, restaurants from the area, and a silent auction. All of these events typically charge flat fees for entry.

Check to make sure that a winery that you are particularly interested in sampling is open before you visit, particularly if you are traveling during mid-week, as some tasting rooms are opened seasonally. Enjoy the scenery of the vineyards, the smell of the yeast, and the explosion of tastes that the different wines bring you. Remember to appoint a designated driver if needed, and do not forget to bring home a couple of bottles of those new favorites.

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