A Toast to California


A Toast to California

by Amy Lignor


For those who are unaware, September is California Wine Month. And what better way to celebrate that fact than to stop worrying about what to plan for that “perfect fall vacation” and simply head to the Golden State on a journey to see the most beautiful wineries in the world. With hundreds to choose from, we are narrowing it down to the top five so you can witness the diversity California offers: the “best of the best” to visit in order to have one of the most relaxing and fun trips you’ve ever taken.

We begin at Duckhorn Vineyards in Napa. This is a location that literally takes you back in time. The estate house located at Duckhorn is Colonial-style, offering an intimate setting that literally makes you feel at home. And seeing as that you are in a State that boasts a great deal of sunshine, you will also love sitting on the wicker furnishings that decorate the wraparound porch. It’s been since 1976 that Duckhorn Vineyards has been crafting classic Napa Valley wines. With their first release of their vintage Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in 1978, Duckhorn has gone on to boast a long life of creating quality wines.


If you wish to see one of the most impressive modern art collections while enjoying glasses of some of the best wines in the biz, head to St. Helena and visit Hall Winery. Hall’s estate vineyards include ancient riverbeds on the valley floor and forest green hilltops basking in the sunshine, covering approximately 150 acres of classic Bordeaux varietals. Strategically chosen for its elevation and soil types, Hall Winery employs the method of small-vine farming in order to produce low-yield, highly concentrated fruit. Each block of the vineyard is managed uniquely with farming practices adjusted continuously. With all this focus on nature, it is no wonder that Hall Winery is also eco-friendly. If you wish to taste what comes from some of the best grapes available, Hall is the place to be.


A 28-acre vineyard that was first planted in 1990 by the Rice Family has brought about a memorable Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and the list goes on. The name is Sunstone Winery, and it literally looks like something that should be the center of a French postcard. Rustic French architecture, guest villas surrounded by gardens inundated with lavender, Sunstone has everything. You will even be given the option of wine tasting in a tremendous renovated barn while staying at the vineyard. The farming methods are completely organic and bio-sustainable, meeting the highest organic farming standards in the realm of viticulture. Santa Barbara County is absolutely stunning, and to stay in the limestone villas at Sunstone staring out at this lush countryside makes the wine just an added gift.


If you are looking for some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, Alma Rosa Winery is a place you simply have to visit. Richard Sanford traveled to the Santa Ynez Valley over 40 years ago with one purpose: to find a cool-climate growing area suitable for Pinot Noir. He was the first to recognize the potential of the Santa Rita Hills and ultimately became the first to plant Pinot Noir vines there, earning this pioneer a reputation for excellence. Alma Rosa means the “Soul of the Rose,” and the beauty surrounding this winery is unforgettable. The land is actually a portion of Rancho Santa Rosa, an original California Mexican Land Grant, and their tasting room is one you will definitely enjoy.


If you like a serving of history along with a great wine, you will have a whole lot of fun at Tank Garage Winery. The winery and tasting room at Tank are the dream-turned-reality of two longtime pals. After spending decades farming and creating wines that became world-class, they decided to celebrate the soul of California culture using their creative genius. This small collection of uniquely-crafted wines is based on the notion that ideas are constant. And whether you are loving the present, looking forward to the future or celebrating the colorful past of this country, at Tank Garage Winery you will never have to do any of those three alone. Completely the opposite of all those rustic Napa winery designs, Tank is where a vintage gas station meets the color and fun of the Prohibition era. You will enjoy being inside this renovated 1930s gas station adorned with automotive collections from other eras. And you will have a ball with all the speak-easy features it includes, especially those hidden doors, as your delve into the Cabernet Sauvignon served in a mirrored chrome bottle.


Although this travel list focuses on only five, chances are you will have so much fun that you’ll be toasting California at a whole lot of wineries before heading home. Cheers!



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