Exploring California’s wine country: Sonoma and Napa Valley

I can confidently say that Napa Valley and Sonoma in California are my two most favourite places in USA. I love the laid back vibe, the wineries and the people there. The Napa and Sonoma Valleys are the second most visited attraction in California behind Disneyland so you need to plan out your day and often book in some tastings in advance.

Sonoma and Napa are neighbours and within one day we easily road-tripped and went to two wineries in Sonoma and two wineries in Napa (you can try attempt more but you’ll be stumbling out of the last winery!). We left at 10am and were home and drunkenly in bed by 8pm.

  • Napa Valley has just over 390 physical wineries that produce over 1,000 brands of wine
  • Sonoma has 450 wineries ranging from small wineries to big, top producers

Here’s the 4 wineries we visited (I would recommend all of them):

Ram’s Gate Winery – Sonoma


Located right at the entrance to Sonoma Valley is the beautiful Ram’s Gate Winery. You need to be dressed appropriately for this winery and book tastings in advance, it’s slightly pretentious but a must-do experience. To explain this a little further, we struggled to find a park among the helicopters and fancy cars.

The wine is expensive but it’s really delicious. Because we didn’t book a tasting in advance we were not able to sit inside (which was a bit weird) however we were able to buy bottles of wine and go and explore the property, the outside areas and the vineyards.

It’s the perfect winery if you are with a group of girlfriends on a special occasion like a birthday or bridal shower – just remember to book.

Buena Vista Winery – Sonoma


Founded in 1857, Buena Vista is California’s first premium winery. It’s really interesting to walk around here and read about all the history of the vines and the buildings.

Buena Vista Winery’s Historic Press House is open for tasting year-round – and you don’t need to book in advance.

This winery has some really great picnic areas on the grounds, we brought along our own cheese platters and sandwiches and it was fine to take them out and enjoy them on the grounds. It’s worth looking into the places that let you do this as the platters at these wineries can be really expensive!

Domaine Carneros – Napa Valley


Domaine Carneros is really beautiful however also really busy. You should try and book tastings and tables in advance here, especially if it is going to be a nice day. We were lucky to get a table and tasting without a booking however we had to wait around half an hour, which was fine as we were able to walk around the stunning gardens surrounding the tasting rooms.

Their speciality is sparkling wine and I understand why, they were SO good. The staff really knew their stuff about the grounds, the vines and the wines, it was pretty impressive.

Again, a perfect spot for a day out with your girlfriends for a special occasion, also great for a date-day.

Tognetti Family Winery – Napa Valley

Note: you need to contact the winery first for the exact address. 

Tognetti Family Winery is a small production winery located in Napa Valley. We were fortunate enough to have a drink with the vintner and proprietor named Jack who just turned 101!

You must book tastings at this location as it is a small family winery that has not yet launched a full tasting room. The experience however was our favourite, we were made to feel at home in the winery gardens and were treated to wines and platters all whilst hearing first hand from the Tognetti family the process of each wine.

I really look forward to coming back to Tognetti in a few years to see how the tasting room turns out, you can contact the Tognetti family here to arrange a time for tastings.

Shannon Clarke - Editor, The Wild Hideaway
Shannon Clarke - Editor, The Wild Hideaway

Shannon is a travel and lifestyle writer with a keen taste for global adventure – whether it be snorkeling in the waters of Fiji, or exploring the art and architecture of Barcelona. When Melbourne calls her back home, she spends most of her time exploring and planning weekend road trips. To fund all of her trips, Shannon is a freelance writer and marketer – she was named the Australian Young Marketer of the year in 2017!

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