Wine Regions to Visit Outside Napa Valley, California

Sonoma County is home to more than 100 wineries
Sonoma County is home to more than 100 wineries | © Anthony Brown / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Sage Curtis
27 August 2020

Napa Valley, in California, is well known for its wine, food and beautiful landscape, but northern Californians know it’s also famous for its crowds and high prices. Luckily, good grapes don’t just grow near Highway 29. Check out these six other Bay Area wine regions.

Treasure Island

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Home to six wineries, Treasure Island offers a full day of wine tasting just a short drive across the Bay Bridge. The former naval base has been converted into a hideaway for locals to enjoy flea markets, music festivals, galleries and, of course, wine. There is a winery for every palate on the island, but it’s really a red lover’s dream. Using grapes from all over California, these tasting rooms often offer free tastings of their Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Pinot Noir. Three places to visit include the Winery SF, Kendric Vineyards and Sottomarino Winery.

Alameda

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Just west of Jack London Square, Alameda is the quieter, quainter sister to Oakland’s trendy food and beer scene. Home to just three wineries, it’s worth the trip through the tunnel for the funky wines from Rock Wall Wine Company, R&B Cellars and Building 43. True to Alameda’s naval history, these tasting rooms offer experiences like great views of the bay, tasting right in the winemaker’s Victorian home or vintage-inspired bars. If three stops isn’t enough, there are also a few options just back through the tunnel.

Livermore

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As far east as you can go and still be considered Bay Area, Livermore is a not-so-hidden gem for those in the (wine) know. Vintners around the world flock to the tri-valley wine country for the acres of vineyards and the diverse selection of wines. Home to more than 40 different wineries, there truly is something for everyone, and it is nearly impossible to try them all. For a newly added touch, you can reserve a spot on the Livermore Wine Trolley and roll from tasting room to tasting room without having to worry about operating a vehicle.

Santa Cruz Mountains

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Tucked into the mountains seemingly worlds away from the crowded beaches of Santa Cruz is a culture of wine, food and redwoods. While this spot is a little more precarious to navigate than some other areas, it’s worth it to crown a sober driver and experience not only the delicious wines but also the picturesque landscape. The Santa Cruz Mountain Winegrowers Association has more than 850sq mi (2,201sq km) on the California coast, so choose a few neighboring wineries and tackle it one adventure at a time. Wineries to note include Cinnabar Winery, Silver Mountain Vineyards and Rexford Winery.

Monterey County

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A little farther south, Monterey Wine Country seemingly infuses ocean views and vibes into its wines. Comprised of Monterey, Carmel, Salinas and Big Sur, this region is also one that takes more than one day to explore. The Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association recommends following its Three Perfect Days model, which gives wine drinkers a plan to navigate the area. While checking out Pessagno Winery, Boekenoogen Winery and Chateau Sinnet, be sure to also drink in the fantastic views of the cliffs along the way.

Sonoma Valley

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If you are looking for an experience like Napa but without all the crowds, look just west to the Sonoma Valley. Spread between Sonoma, Glen Ellen and Kenwood are more than 100 wineries, all with that Northern California wine-country charm. Like the Livermore area, Sonoma is home to some big name wineries but has excellent less well-known names to try as well. Divide your day by town, or just hit a few, such as Cline Cellars, Homewood Winery and Kamen Estate Wines, while you coast down State Route 12.

These recommendations were updated on August 27, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.