When it comes to travel, destinations are usually associated with the seasons – beaches are for summer, for instance, while fall is for trips to the country. For those looking for something a little out of the ordinary this winter, a visit to California’s wine country is in order.
Traveling to the Golden State’s vineyards in these chilly months may strike some as unusual, but that’s only because they don’t yet know what they’re missing out on.
“It’s an insider’s secret that one of the best times to visit California wine country is in the winter months,” said Nancy Light, director of communications for Wine Institute.
Those visiting Napa Valley and Sonoma in winter for the first time will find life among the region’s vineyards and luxury real estate in a mood altogether different from that of summer.
“The scenery, with its tranquil winter beauty, is both breathtaking and soothing, the roads and tasting rooms are quiet and the pace is very relaxed,” Karen Ross, president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers, told the Wine Institute.
Wine country’s other face
Like Janus, ancient Roman god of beginnings and transitions, wine country offers visitors two faces – that which is well known, and that which is still waiting to be discovered.
In the treasured winter months, many of wine country’s inns and spas offer lower rates. Visitors used to being rebuffed by waiting lists long enough to trip over at some of the best restaurants will find them much more accessible and accommodating.
“The world-renowned restaurants of our valley are less crowded and reservations are easier to secure,” Linda Reiff, Napa Valley Vintners’ executive director, told Wine Institute. “Plus, most places will have a warm and inviting fire burning in the hearth, so meals are cozy and relaxed.”
The country’s quiet, more settled atmosphere gives visitors the opportunity to meet and connect with their favorite chefs and winemakers, forging relationships that can be rekindled with every visit. As relaxed as things can be this time of year, those seeking a more active trip shouldn’t worry. There’s more than enough going on to fill their schedules.
Plenty to do
January and February’s cooler temperatures don’t dampen the region’s activity. From blending seminars to art and wine festivals, there is a wide range of events going on this winter.
Those interested in exploring off the beaten path will find cellar door weekends – like the one being offered from Feb. 14 to 15 at Amador Vintners – and opportunities to peek behind the scenes of pruning and winemaking at different vineyards.
Of course, Valentine’s Day – it’s Feb. 14, gentlemen – will be a big event in wine country. Fresno Winery will hold a Wine and Chocolate Lovers Weekend, as will Lodi Wine Country, which was just named Wine Enthusiast magazine’s Region of the Year in 2015.
With so many events and chances to meet winemakers, growers and owners – not to mention tasting an incredible variety of wines – there’s every reason to visit California wine country this winter.