Whet your palate at High Treason Wine Bar, which offers around 45 wines by the glass and serves an array of delicious small bites to fortify you for a few more vintages. Or push the boat out at Spruce, a farm-to-table restaurant with a truly exceptional wine list.
The most famous wine region in California is Napa Valley and some of the best vineyards are happy to welcome visitors, although it’s always best to book ahead. Shafer Vineyards have lovely wines and their Cabernets are world-renowned; while Spottswoode in St Helena offers a tour of the historic house and vineyards as well as a seated tasting For something a little different, Getaway Adventures organise a Calistoga Sip ‘n’ Cycle Tour, where you pedal between northern Napa wineries, admiring the fantastic scenery, with tastings and a picnic lunch along the way.
The Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley, a replica of the old San Francisco streetcars, stops for private tastings at a series of wineries and includes a picnic.
Next door to Napa is Sonoma County where the wines are excellent and still, in general, a little cheaper. Take a six-hour guided tour by old-fashioned tram – the Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley, a replica of the old San Francisco streetcars, stops for private tastings at a series of wineries and includes a picnic from the lovely Girl & the Fig bistro. It’s worth noting that the cost of the tour doesn’t include tasting fees.
Most of the ingredients served at Michelin-starred restaurant Spruce come from less than an hour’s drive away. Now, that’s eating local.£502 ppPlan a trip to San Francisco
Wine on wheels
Look out for The Girl & The Fig’s mobile food truck, the fig rig, serving gooey grilled cheeses and duck fat fries at various spots and events throughout Sonoma County. €380 ppExperience California
Book yourself in on one of Tablas Creek’s Vineyard tours, taking guests around the estate, grapevine nursery, and winery cellar twice daily. €387 ppCalifornia car hire
At Davis Family Vineyards in Healdsburg, a little farther north, you can take part in an organised pairing of cheeses with their beautiful wines or simply sip and stroll - the winery is right near the Russian River. Nearby is the family-owned Dry Creek Vineyard, the first winery established in the Dry Creek Valley after Prohibition ended in 1933. Expect excellent wines, a charming tasting room, bocce (Italian bowls) in the garden, and events including an annual concert in the grounds.
Everyone is welcome at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville – even children. There are two pools in the grounds (summer only), as well as both smart and informal restaurants. Owned by the academy award-winning film director Coppola himself, there's actually a film museum on site full of memorabilia from hisstellar career, including cameras from Apocalypse Now and a full-size vintage scarlet automobile from Coppola’s 1988 film Tucker: The Man and His Dream.
An energetic option is a ride with the Triple Creek Horse Outfit; they’ll put you on a horse and guide you through the Jack London State Historic Park in the Valley of the Moon – past vineyards, oak woodlands and groves of California’s famous redwoods - before taking you for a tasting at the renowned Benziger Family Winery. Riding out between the trees, feels just like being in the Wild West – but with none of the discomfort and much better wine.
Wine and shrine
Explore the Francis Ford Coppola Winery's ‘movie gallery’ – a movie mecca exhibiting Coppola’s filmmaking memorabilia, including several Academy Awards and props from The Godfather.€293 returnSan Francisco flights
Farther south towards LA is the scenic wine region of Paso Robles, an area where you can get a taste of France's Cote du Rhone, thanks to the Perrin family. The family moved some of their stock from France to replicate their amazing Châteauneuf du Pape at Tablas Creek, their Paso Robles vineyard. There’s a lovely tasting room and a shop, plus you can bring your own picnic and lunch on their patio. Don’t miss the River Oak Hot Springs Spa, where the vine-friendly soil gives way to the California earth’s other great gift – natural thermal springs. There are outdoor and indoor mineral springs, plus massages and other beauty treatments.
Midway between Paso Robles and Los Angeles is Stolpman Vineyards, which is definitely worth a stop – the Ruben’s Block Syrah is a particularly delicious example of what they do. They also organise occasional hikes through the stunning scenery of Ballard Canyon.
In LA, there are plenty of places to try any of the wines you’ve missed. Bar Covell on Hollywood Boulevard has most of them – about 150 wines by the glass, with well-known winemakers popping in for a tipple when they’re in town. Patina, in the Walt Disney Concert Hall, has a much-admired list and a three- six- or ten-course tasting menu. If, on the other hand, you’ve already bought more wine than you can carry home, have dinner at Mh Zh (pronounced mah zeh – it’s Hebrew for ‘What’s that?’), an Israeli café-style joint so hip they don’t have a working website, but where the local produce can be enhanced by one of your purchases – the restaurant is Bring Your Own.