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A woman enjoying a California Wine Country road trip

Both Sonoma County and Napa Valley in Northern California are the perfect destinations to visit for anyone who loves amazing wine, great food and breathtaking views all around. Overall, California Wine Country has established itself as America’s most renowned wine producing region and it is totally worth visiting and exploring through a fun road trip!

During late June 2021, I did a memorable California road trip for my 30th birthday. I first started my road trip with Ashley from World to Wander where we spent two days exploring Palm Springs and the surrounding areas. From there, we proceeded with a stunning coastal road trip from Santa Barbara to San Francisco.

A mother and daughter doing a California Wine Country road trip

After spending two nights exploring San Francisco, my mom met me on my actual birthday and we enjoyed a wonderful time tasting wine and adventuring on a road trip around California Wine Country.

We spent six days and five nights in California Wine Country and we split half of our time in Sonoma County and the second part in Napa Valley and Winters. In this blog post, discover the best things to do on a California Wine Country Road Trip.

**Please note that this blog post uses affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase via my affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote and talk about products and services that I have used and like. During my time in Wine Country, Hotel Winters hosted me for three nights.The George Napa also hosted me for a brunch during my time in Wine Country and Carboni’s Ristorante hosted me for a dinner. In addition, GetYourGuide sponsored me on a Hot Air Balloon ride over Napa Valley.


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California Wine Country road trip

Traveling to California Wine Country:

Castello di Amarosa in Calistoga

Since I was already on a road trip when I arrived in California Wine Country, I just ended up getting my mom at San Francisco International Airport and drove to Sonoma County from there. On our way home, we flew back to Newark Airport from Sacramento International Airport with a layover in Seattle.

(Since I started my California road trip in Palm Springs, I flew from Newark to Palm Springs International Airport with a layover in Phoenix.) You can find affordable flights through Skyscanner.

St. Francis Winery & Vineyards

Getting around California Wine Country could be done through both public and private tours, the Napa Valley Wine Trolley and the Napa Valley Wine Train, I still recommend renting a car so that you can get around freely to all of the beautiful National Parks nearby as well as other scenic spots and restaurants.

*During your road trip in California Wine Country, please drink responsibly and DO NOT drink and drive! You must be 21 years or older to consume alcohol in the United States.

(Click here if you are planning to road trip around the United States and want to rent an RV.)

Where to Stay in California Wine Country:

A woman drinking wine and enjoying an evening at Hotel Winters

On my California Wine Country road trip, I spent two nights at AC Hotel by Marriott Santa Rosa Downtown, which is in Sonoma County, and three nights at Hotel Winters in Winters, California, which is in between Napa Valley and Sacramento. In fact, Winters is considered the gateway to California Wine Country!

Staying at Hotel Winters:

A woman at Hotel Winters in Winters, California

When I visited Wine Country in June 2021, it had been only two years since Hotel Winters first opened, so it was still brand new. Hotel Winters includes a stunning lobby to relax in, an on-site restaurant with incredible food and drinks, a rejuvenating spa, a rooftop lounge to enjoy some wine at, a beautiful patio with a dipping pool, a fitness center to workout at and so much more! Hotel Winters welcomed me with a bottle of local red wine and there were so many spots around the hotel to enjoy it at.

What is also great about staying at Hotel Winters is that it is in the heart of downtown Winters where there are a lot of great restaurants, saloons, boutiques, galleries, tasting rooms and more.

Rooms at Hotel Winters:
A woman having champagne at Hotel Winters during a California Wine Country road trip

During my three nights at Hotel Winters, my mom and I stayed in the Studio Suite, which is a spacious room that includes a comfortable king-sized bed, living room, beautiful en-suite bathroom with a walk-in shower and rainfall shower head as well as a stunning, old-fashioned clawfoot bathtub.

Our suite also included a 50-inch UltraHD television that also offered Netflix as well as a refrigerator, Keurig, an executive desk and a walkout balcony with a seating area. It was amazing and cozy!

The Studio Suite at Hotel Winters

In addition to the Studio Suite, you can also choose a Classic King room; Courtyard King room that overlooks Hotel Winters’ courtyard; Winters King room; Winters Double Queen room; Winters One-Bedroom suite; Winters Signature Suite and a Bridal Suite.

Eating at Carboni’s Ristorante Bar & Marketplace:
A woman enjoying an Aperol Spritz during dinner at Carboni's Ristorante on a California Wine Country road trip

Located inside of Hotel Winters is Carboni’s Ristorante Bar & Marketplace. It is an Italian restaurant and full bar that serves fresh homemade pizza and pasta dishes as well as farm-to-fork fish, meat and vegetarian plates.

My mom and I ate at Carboni’s two evenings during our stay at Hotel Winters and the food did not disappoint whatsoever! During our first evening, I savored the Pollo al Mattone, which was free range chicken with pan fried polenta, smoked bacon lardons and summer pole beans with chicken jus. My mom had the Filleto di Halibut, which was a pan rosted Alaskan halibut with herbed marble potatoes, fennel, squash and citrus vinaigrette.

A chicken dinner from Carboni's Ristorante in Winters, California
A halibut dish from Carboni's in Winters

On our last evening, we went all out and truly enjoyed the pizza that Carboni’s offers to diners. First, we savored the delicious bread with fresh olive oil and my mom got the Caprese con Pesca salad, which consisted of grilled stone fruit, heirloom tomato, whipped burrata, pistachio with white balsamic vinaigrette.

I had the Margherita pizza, which did not disappoint, and it included San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte and fresh basil. My mom savored the tre formaggi pie that also included San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte, scamorza, grana Padano and garlic. Both pies, which are sized as personal pizzas, were incredible!

A Caprese salad from Carboni's in Hotel Winters
Pizza from Carboni's Ristorante in Winters, California

Carboni’s also has delicious homemade gelato, ranging from a variety of different flavors, that you can enjoy after your meal. I had the delicious chocolate gelato and it did not disappoint. In addition, the drinks at Carboni’s are also great! My mom enjoyed the local wine that the bar offered and I had an Aperol spritz with my pizza. Carboni’s also offers craft beers and artisanal cocktails for you to choose from.

This wonderful restaurant also has a marketplace where you can get grab-and-go items such as salads, sandwiches/wraps, juices and more.

Overall, I had a great stay at Hotel Winters and I also had the opportunity to stay at the sister properties – Chamberlin Inn in Cody, WY and The Equus in Honolulu, HI.

California Wine Country Road Trip Itinerary:

A woman at Castello di Amarosa in Calistoga, California

Like I mention above, I spent six days and five nights in California’s Wine Country. During my California Wine Country road trip, I didn’t only go to wineries and vineyards, I also explored the National Parks and natural beauty the entire region boasts.

Below is my road trip itinerary:

Day 1: Wine Taste at St. Francis Winery and Have Dinner in Santa Rosa

A woman at St. Francis Winery during a California Wine Country road trip
St. Francis Winery & Vineyard:

I am a huge wine lover and the number one wine brand that I drink almost every night when I am home is St. Francis. (I love their cabernet sauvignon if you’re looking for a good everyday red wine to enjoy with your dinner.)

Since St. Francis Winery is located in Sonoma County, I just HAD to visit during my California Wine Country road trip! In fact, my mom and I visited St. Francis Winery & Vineyards on my actual birthday.

A woman at St. Francis Winery in California

Overall, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards are situated on a gorgeous property in Sonoma County, in Santa Rosa. The year that mom and I visited (2021), St. Francis was celebrating their 50 year anniversary.

It was a gorgeous day when we visited St. Francis and my mom and I did the Estate Pairing for my birthday that included both a food and wine pairing. To say everything exceeded our expectations is an understatement.

Wine tasting at St. Francis Winery in Santa Rosa

With the Estate Pairing, we had the winery’s 2020 rosé with a shrimp tostada that included shrimp, avocado, spring radishes and grapefruit. Next, we had the 2018 Pinot noir with crispy maitake mushrooms that included salsa Romesca, hazelnuts and extra virgin olive oil. We then had the 2016 Zinfandel with the sherry-soy glazed pork belly slider with pickled Fresno chilis and cabbage-carrot slaw. Lastly, we tasted the 2016 Port wine with sour cherry and pecan Florentine for dessert. Everything was delicious and even though I am not a big pork eater, I did truly enjoy the pork belly slider.

Food and wine pairing at St. Francis during a California Wine Country Road Trip

Overall, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards are ZAGAT-recommended Wine & Food Pairing and have earned global praise as being “#1 in America” in 2013 and 2015 by Open Table diners. The food being served at St. Francis is farm-to-table (there is a vegetable garden on the property) and each wine is award-winning.

Since we love St. Francis’ Cabernet Sauvignon wines, they allowed us to taste from two of their signature bottles and also try their Sauvignon Blanc, which was also delicious!

St. Francis Winery & Vineyard in Sonoma County

Located at the vineyard are fresh lavender to admire, pretty gardens, walking trails and more. St. Francis also does trolley tours and tastings as well as virtual wine tastings and tours. I’m so happy I got to ring in my 30th birthday at St. Francis.

*Please note that you will need to make a reservation in advance to visit St. Francis Winery & Vineyard.

Dinner in Santa Rosa:
Small plates from Willi's Wine Bar in Santa Rosa.

For dinner, later that evening, my mom and I went to Willi’s Wine Bar in Santa Rosa that not only features renowned wines, but they also boasts delicious small plates.

A flourless chocolate birthday cake.

Since we did a food and wine pairing earlier in the day, we just got three small plates and split everything between us. During our evening at Willi’s Wine Bar, my mom and I savored the Ahi tuna tartare, curried crab tacos and scallop dumplings. For dessert, we sang happy birthday with a warm flourless chocolate cake with salted peanuts, peanut butter mousse and vanilla bean ice cream.

Day 2: Brunch at The George, Hike Muir Woods National Monument, Visit Point Reyes National Seashore and Enjoy an Evening in Santa Rosa

A woman hiking in Muir Woods during a California Wine Country road trip.
Brunch at The George Napa:

The day after my birthday, The George in Napa invited my mom and I to enjoy a lovely birthday brunch at their bed and breakfast.

The George Napa

The George is a brand-new luxury boutique inn located in Napa, California. They have been a historic inn since the late 19th century, but was recently restored and renovated. (The older inn was destroyed by an earthquake that happened in Wine Country.) The George reopened in March 2021 and it is absolutely stunning and a cozy spot.

Overall, The George is part of the National Register of Historic Places and Subsequent National Parks Service Evaluation. The inn was first commissioned in 1891 by George E. Goodman Jr., who was the son of one of Napa’s most prominent businessmen.

Chef Alex Espinoza cooking at The George.

When we first arrived, we were introduced to renowned Chef Alex Espinoza who whipped us up a lovely breakfast that morning. Chef Alex also gave us a tour of the kitchen. He cooks delicious farm-to-table meals at the inn and everything Chef Alex makes is delicious!

Avocado toast from The George Napa.

Our wonderful brunch at The George consisted of coffee and mimosas and for our meals, I savored the delicious avocado toast with bacon and a poached egg. My mom had the eggs Benedict. We also both enjoyed the roasted potatoes and our plates were decorated with edible flowers right from Chef Alex’s home garden. The George also gets their breads from The Model Bakery in Napa, which is definitely well worth a visit during a California Wine Country road trip! The eggs Benedict dish comes with the infamous English muffin from The Model Bakery. It is considered Oprah’s favorite!

A mother and daughter enjoying brunch at The George in Napa during a California Wine Country road trip.

During our morning brunch at The George, we also got to hang out with Malia, who is the manager of the boutique inn. She was so sweet and accommodating to us.

Hiking Muir Woods National Monument:
Muir Woods outside of San Francisco.

On our California Wine Country road trip, my mom and I visited a winery/vineyard one day and enjoyed something adventurous the next day to break up the trip.

After brunch at The George, we made our way a little over an hour south of Napa to Muir Woods National Monument. (Muir Woods is closer to San Francisco.)

Because Muir Woods is so close to the city, it is a National Park that attracts a lot of visitors. Please note that prior to visiting Muir Woods, you will need to make reservations ahead of time to get into the park on a specific date. Click here to make your reservations today!

The redwood forest of Muir Woods in the Bay Area of California.

The parking reservations fee to get to Muir Woods costs $8.50 USD for standard vehicles and the regular entrance fee is $15 USD for anyone ages 16 and older. Muir Woods National Monument does take the annual America the Beautiful pass since it is part of the National Park system. If you’re on a road trip and plan to see a lot of National Parks along the way, I recommend getting the annual pass for $80 USD. You will save money that way because it usually costs $35 USD to get into most big USA National Parks.

Overall, Muir Woods National Monument isn’t too big, but there are hiking trails you can take further from the park’s main trailheads. Muir Woods is iconic for its old-growth redwood trees. This was the second time I walked through a redwood forest, I got to visit Redwoods National and State Parks during my Northern California and Oregon road trip in July 2020.

Hiking Muir Woods National Monument during a California Wine Country road trip.

Redwood trees fascinate me because they are the tallest trees on Earth. They are also strong as well! Reaching over 250 feet in height, Muir Woods’ trees are some of the last remaining ancient redwood trees in the Bay Area. Some of these trees are around 1,000 years old!

Even though Muir Woods draws a lot of visitors, it is the perfect spot for ALL to enjoy the great outdoors. That is right, most of the main trails at Muir Woods are ADA accessible and it’s also perfect for children and the elderly to enjoy.

The redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument.

Some of the best spots to check out are the Founders Grove with the Pinchot Tree, Cathedral Grove, Fern Creek Trail and Bohemian Grove. If you are looking for more of a challenge and less trafficked trail, hike the Hillside Trail or Canopy View Trail. If you want to catch stunning views, enjoy the Ben Johnson Trail and the Dipsea Trail.

Visit Point Reyes National Seashore:

Located over an hour from both San Francisco and Muir Woods is Point Reyes National Seashore. Part of the National Park system, Point Reyes is a vast expanse of protected coastline that is breathtaking!

I will admit that my visit to Point Reyes was quite disappointing because even though it was a beautiful sunny day in the Bay Area, the entire National Seashore was covered in a huge fog. There is a plethora of stunning viewpoints, but unfortunately, we didn’t get to experience any of them.

A woman at Cyrpress Tree Tunnel at Point Reyes National Seashore

My mom and I did get to see the iconic Cypress Tree Tunnel, which is so beautiful and makes for a great photo opportunity! Other awesome spots to check out at Point Reyes National Seashore are the S.S. Point Reyes Shipwreck, South Beach Overlook, Point Reyes Lighthouse and Elephant Seal Overlook.

During your time at Point Reyes National Seashore, also drive the epic Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, which features jaw dropping views and hike the Laguna Coast Trail Loop and the Chimney Rock Trail.

The views at Point Reyes National Seashore.

Even though my mom and I didn’t experience the best of this National Seashore, we couldn’t help the weather situation. It is still a wonderful spot to visit during a California Wine Country road trip.

*Please note that both Muir Woods National Monument and Point Reyes National Seashore DO NOT have any cellular service, so it is important to download all maps, tickets, etc. ahead of time so that they are already saved on your phone for easy access.

Evening in Santa Rosa, California:
A woman enjoying an evening in Santa Rosa during a California Wine Country road trip.

After our adventurous day, we were hungry for a delicious meal. When we arrived back in Santa Rosa, my mom and I enjoyed a lovely Italian dinner at LoCoco’s Cucina Rustica. (Definitely try to make your way here during your California Wine Country road trip!)

Voted as “North Bay’s Best Italian Restaurant 12 Years Straight”, LoCoco’s is in the heart of downtown Santa Rosa and we can attest that the food is incredible! (I recommend making a reservation because the restaurant does get crowded, even on weeknights.)

Both my mom and I had a local Sonoma County Pinot Noir. For my main meal, I had linguine and clams in a white wine sauce and my mom had the veal parm with penne pasta. Both dishes were mouthwatering! Even the bread with olive oil was great.

Linguine and clams from LoCoco's in Santa Rosa, California.

Once you’re finished with dinner, I highly recommend walking around downtown Santa Rosa and enjoying all of the fun vibes. There are a lot of great shops, galleries, live music, wine bars and tasting rooms as well as ice cream shops. In fact, right near LoCoco’s is Nimble & Finn’s, which is known to have incredible homemade ice cream with numerous flavors.

In addition to Santa Rosa, another wonderful town to visit in Sonoma County that is filled with great restaurants, tasting rooms and more is Healdsburg. Discover where to eat in downtown Healdsburg.

Day 3: Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride over Napa Valley, Wine Taste at Domaine Carneros and Check into Hotel Winters

Hot air balloons in Napa Valley, California
Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Napa Valley:

After spending two days in the Sonoma County area, my mom and I made our way to Napa. We first started our time in the Napa Valley area by taking a hot air balloon ride over the vineyards. It was magical and my mom and I did our hot air balloon ride experience with GetYourGuide! Since we went hot air ballooning two days after my birthday, it still made for a wonderful present!

A woman enjoying the views on a hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley.

Overall, doing a California Wine Country road trip had been a major bucket list goal for me over the years that being able to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like this during my time there was such a dream! I loved all the stunning views of the vineyards, mountains and breathtaking scenery all around.

For the hot air balloon ride, my mom and I had to wake up early to be in Yountville, CA by 5:30am. Once we met in Yountville, we were split up into groups and took vans to the site where we would take off in our hot air balloons. (The ride was around 45 minutes.)

A woman ready to go on a hot air balloon ride in Napa Valley

Once we got to the site, we saw the balloons being blown up and getting ready to take off. It was so cool seeing them up close. (It was my very first time going ballooning!) Fire is what keeps the balloons up in the air and at a high altitude.

When we finally got up in the sky, it was magical seeing all of the balloon’s float in the air as well as admiring all of the breathtaking vineyards, mountains and scenery within Napa Valley.

Enjoying a hot air balloon ride during a California Wine Country road trip

We spent around an hour up in the air on our balloon before we descended and headed back to Yountville. One thing to note about doing a hot air balloon ride in Napa is that all the balloons will descend at different times and land in different spots. (Our balloon was up in the air the longest.) Once the balloon lands, your guide will call the van and they will pick you and your group up and take everyone back to Yountville.

Brunch and Morning in Napa:

After our memorable balloon ride, my mom and I headed to downtown Napa where we enjoyed a nice brunch at Grace’s Table. It is a charming eatery that offers a globally-inspired menu with great, brunch, lunch and dinner options.

Pancakes from Grace's Table in Napa, California

My mom and I both had mimosas with coffee and for our main dishes, we each got the pancakes with fresh fruit. Everything was delicious!

When we finished our meal, we walked it off by strolling around Napa and enjoying some shopping. My mom and I also headed down by the Riverfront Promenade and watched the canoes, kayaks and gondolas go by, which you can also do as well in Napa.

Wine Taste at Domaine Carneros:
A woman enjoying a California Wine Country road trip in Napa

Later in the afternoon, my mom and I did another wonderful wine tasting at Domaine Carneros in Napa. This beautiful winery specializes in sparkling wines and it has a French-inspired château with formal gardens on its property! It brought me back to the Champagne region in France.

Domaine Carneros was founded by the noble family behind Champagne Taittinger, who wanted a U.S. counterpart. It is totally worth a stop during a California Wine Country road trip.

A woman wine tasting at Domaine Carneros in Napa

During a visit to Domaine Carneros in Napa, you can admire the château, walk through the gardens and vineyards and obviously taste a variety of wines from traditional sparkling wines to Pinot noir and estate wines.

My mom and I did a daily tasting of the blanc noir, which was a sparkling white wine; brut rosé that was a sparkling rosé; Pinot noir and the estate Pinor noir. We also savored a charcuterie board, which was amazing!

Enjoying a charcuterie board at Domaine Carneros during a California Wine Country road trip

Overall, we had a wonderful time wine tasting at Domaine Carneros and feeling like we were in France. Please note that you will need to make a reservation in advance to visit Domaine Carneros.

Check into Hotel Winters:
The lobby inside of Hotel Winters in California

After wine tasting at Domaine Carneros in Napa, we drove around an hour east to Hotel Winters in Winters, California where we stayed for the remaining three nights of our California Wine Country road trip.

Day 4: Day Trip to Yosemite National Park

Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park in California

On our fourth day of our California Wine Country road trip, my mom and I did a great day trip to Yosemite National Park, which is located over three and a half hours east of Winters, closer to the Nevada border.

Before we took off for the day, we grabbed coffee and muffins/pastries at Steady Eddy’s Coffee House in Winters. It is a charming, local coffee shop that sells comforting morning beverages and light food.

Steady Eddy's Coffeehouse in Winters, California

The drive from Winters to Yosemite is long, but it is easy. Once you reach the entrance to the park, it will take you around another 45 minutes or so to get to all the iconic spots. When my mom and I visited Yosemite, it was a hot day, so if you travel to this iconic park in the warmer months, make sure to bring plenty of water to stay hydrated. (I also recommend bringing snacks for the road. Thankfully, Hotel Winters provided them for us.)

With only one day in Yosemite National Park, try to fit in these amazing spots:

A woman hiking in Yosemite National Park
  • Enjoy the breathtaking overlook at Tunnel View: It is the most popular viewpoint in Yosemite and you can enjoy the sights of the famous natural landmarks within the full Yosemite Valley such as El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls. It is an epic spot! You can either hike to Tunnel View or drive. Since it was around 100 degrees Fahrenheit during our day trip to Yosemite, we just drove to Tunnel View, otherwise we would’ve hiked it.
  • Hike Mirror Lake: Known as a 2.6-mile, heavily trafficked loop trail, Mirror Lake trail is easily accessible and great for all to enjoy. Since my mom and I went to Yosemite on an extremely hot day, we stuck to this hike, which was nice, but due to the dry California weather, the water from the lake had dried up. Usually, Mirror Lake offers breathtaking views of the iconic Half Dome in Yosemite.
  • Hike Lower Yosemite Falls: Recognized as another popular trail in Yosemite, Lower Yosemite Falls trail is a 0.5-mile hike from the trailhead and it allows you to see the stunning waterfalls in the park. You can even see views of Upper Yosemite Falls during parts of this trail!
  • Hike Half Dome Summit: One of the most strenuous hikes in Yosemite National Park is Half Dome. Please note that this specific hike takes a full day, so I recommend doing it if you’re staying a few days in the park or if you’re dedicating the entire day to this trek. There are numerous routes to take and it can be anywhere from 14 to over 16 miles roundtrip.
A day trip to Yosemite National Park during a California Wine Country road trip

*If you plan to hike in Yosemite, ensure you download the AllTrails app when you have cellular service so that you have everything at the tip of your fingers when you don’t have signal.

If you have time, other cool spots to check out in Yosemite National Park are below:

Hiking in Yosemite National Park in Northern California
  • Visit Mariposa Grove: A fun fact about the big trees of California are that redwoods are famous for being near the coast in the northern part of the state and sequoias are iconic to the eastern part of the Golden State. Since Yosemite is located just north of Sequoia National Park, you bet that you can find sequoia trees in Mariposa Grove. Overall, this area in Yosemite is home to over 500 sequoia trees and there are different hiking trails to enjoy.
  • Admire the views at Glacier Point: Just like Tunnel View, another epic viewing point within Yosemite National Park is Glacier Point. You can drive to Glacier Point and there is a short and easy trail that leads you to the overlook. From there, you can enjoy incredible views of Half Dome, Nevada Falls, Vernal Falls and the entire Yosemite Valley.

(You will definitely need more than one day to see all of the iconic spots Yosemite boasts, but I was happy my mom and I got to see a lot during our day trip there.)

After an awesome day enjoying everything Yosemite National Park has to offer, my mom and I drove back west to Winters. On the way back, we stopped to grab dinner at Tasty Pot in Stockton, California, which boasts delicious Taiwanese hot pot meals.

Taiwanese seafood hot pot

I absolutely LOVE hot pot and hadn’t savored it since my trip to Vietnam back in February 2020. I had the seafood hot pot and my mom got the veggie one. Everything exceeded our expectations!

Day 5: Explore Winters and Visit the Tuscany of Napa – Castello di Amarosa and V. Sattui Winery

A woman enjoying a beautiful day at Castello di Amarosa in Napa
Explore Winters, California:

Like I mention above, Winters, California is in between Napa Valley and Sacaremento and it is a center for agriculture and passenger rail service. It was founded in 1875 and it maintains its historic charm and rural beauty and lifestyle.

Winters, California during a Wine Country road trip

The town of Winters is fairly small, but it offers tasting rooms to enjoy, featuring renowned local wine; a town saloon; cafés; a BBQ restaurant; a taqueria; a brewery; pizzerias; ice cream shops and more! I highly recommend taking the time to stroll around and see what this lovely town has to offer.

Breakfast at Putah Creek Cafe in Winters, California

Before we went wine tasting on our fifth day of our California Wine Country road trip, my mom and I enjoyed a lovely breakfast at Putah Creek Café. This family-owned restaurant not only has a great breakfast menu, but they also serves delicious brick oven pizzas, local wine and more. My mom and I enjoyed the French toast for breakfast.

Sunflower fields in Winters, California

Winters is also known for its endless fields of sunflowers. When you travel to the Sacramento area during the summer, you cannot miss out on visiting a beautiful sunflower field in Winters. They are great for photos, engagement proposals, sunflower picking (if it’s allowed) and more!

Visit the Tuscany of Napa Valley – Castello di Amarosa and V. Sattui Winery:
Castello di Amarosa in Calistoga, California during a Wine Country road trip

On our final day of our California Wine Country road trip, my mom and I visited Castello di Amarosain Calistoga, California and its sister winery, V. Sattui in St. Helena.

Castello di Amarosa is a winery and vineyard located in a 13th– Century Italian castle. The one thing to know though is that Castello di Amarosa isn’t a real castle! 4th generation winemaker Dario Sattui built a Tuscan castle winery in Calistoga in honor of his Italian heritage, deep love for medieval architecture and, of course, wine!

A woman at Castello di Amarosa during a California Wine Country road trip

Overall, Castello di Amarosa is open for tastings and tours. They do not sell food and they do not host events, like weddings, because they try to keep the castle as authentic as possible. It is known as one of the most beautiful wineries in Napa Valley.

My mom and I did our tasting in the wine cellars of the castle. We both got to choose between six different wines (red, white, rosé and a dessert wine) and we even did a chocolate pairing with it. (The chocolate was amazing!)

Wine tasting in Castello di Amarosa's cellars

After your wine tasting, I recommend walking around the castle’s property, seeing the vineyards and checking out the farm animals. During the previous year, Napa Valley was hit with a bad wildfire and the back part of Castello di Amarosa was burnt. Thankfully, all the animals ran away from the fire and returned right back to the property when everything was better! (Animals are so smart.)

Later in the afternoon, we drove around 15 minutes over to the sister winery of Castello di Amarosa called V. Sattui Winery where you can have food and host events. It is also a beautiful property that attracts more people, since you don’t need a reservation to go there, and it includes a marketplace where you can get bottles of wine, cheeses and cured meats to pick on as well as fresh fruit, bread/crackers, salads, paninis, pastas, pizzas and more.

At V. Sattui Winery, you can also do a tasting, enjoy live music, have a picnic and so much more.

V. Sattui Winery during a California Wine Country road trip

Day 6: Fly Home

During our last day of our time in Wine Country, my mom and I headed back to the airport to fly home from Sacramento.


A woman enjoying wine at Hotel Winters in California

I hope you all enjoyed discovering the best California Wine Country road trip itinerary and reading about my experience staying at Hotel Winters. If you have any questions, please email me at [email protected]

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Currency: United States Dollar, Capital: Washington D.C., CA State Capital: Sacramento, Time Zone: Pacific Standard Time

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6 Comments

  1. Francesca on August 3, 2021 at 2:50 pm

    Looks like you had the best trip! I love California wine country. I really need to get up to Santa Rosa and Point Reyes. Muir Woods is one of my favorites as is Yosemite.

    • Taylor Deer on August 3, 2021 at 6:10 pm

      Thank you Francesca and I definitely did! Santa Rosa was a beautiful town and I wish I stayed longer in Sonoma County and visited more wineries there. 🙂

  2. Kim Deer on August 3, 2021 at 7:42 pm

    This was such a wonderful, packed with a lot of fun activities trip ~ so glad to spend your 30th birthday with you in breathtaking wine country. It was so much fun visiting the 3 wineries, Yosemite national park and Muir Redwoods ~ loved staying at Hotel Winters and enjoyed eating at their restaurant. Also, enjoyed the breakfast at the George ~ but my favorite activity was flying on the hot air balloon over stunning Napa Valley vineyards ~ what a wonderful experience ~ this was a fabulous trip! Thanks for writing this amazing blog to bring back all the great memories we made there! Your photos bring this trip back to life ~ I really enjoyed this blog! Awesome job ~ love you, mom 👩xoxo ♥️

    • Taylor Deer on August 3, 2021 at 9:22 pm

      Yes, it really was a great trip! I want to go back! Thank you mom again for meeting me there and helping me celebrate my milestone birthday. Love you! <3

  3. Cosette on August 4, 2021 at 4:47 pm

    What a fantastic California wine country road trip. Some iconic things you did like hot air ballooning, Muir Woods. So bad you had lots of fog at Point Reyes.

    • Taylor Deer on August 4, 2021 at 7:12 pm

      Thank you Cosette! It truly was a great trip. 🙂

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A woman enjoying a California Wine Country road trip

Both Sonoma County and Napa Valley in Northern California are the perfect destinations to visit for anyone who loves amazing wine, great food and breathtaking views all around. Overall, California Wine Country has established itself as America’s most renowned wine producing region and it is totally worth visiting and exploring through a fun road trip!

During late June 2021, I did a memorable California road trip for my 30th birthday. I first started my road trip with Ashley from World to Wander where we spent two days exploring Palm Springs and the surrounding areas. From there, we proceeded with a stunning coastal road trip from Santa Barbara to San Francisco.

A mother and daughter doing a California Wine Country road trip

After spending two nights exploring San Francisco, my mom met me on my actual birthday and we enjoyed a wonderful time tasting wine and adventuring on a road trip around California Wine Country.

We spent six days and five nights in California Wine Country and we split half of our time in Sonoma County and the second part in Napa Valley and Winters. In this blog post, discover the best things to do on a California Wine Country Road Trip.

**Please note that this blog post uses affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase via my affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote and talk about products and services that I have used and like. During my time in Wine Country, Hotel Winters hosted me for three nights.The George Napa also hosted me for a brunch during my time in Wine Country and Carboni’s Ristorante hosted me for a dinner. In addition, GetYourGuide sponsored me on a Hot Air Balloon ride over Napa Valley.


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California Wine Country road trip

Traveling to California Wine Country:

Castello di Amarosa in Calistoga

Since I was already on a road trip when I arrived in California Wine Country, I just ended up getting my mom at San Francisco International Airport and drove to Sonoma County from there. On our way home, we flew back to Newark Airport from Sacramento International Airport with a layover in Seattle.

(Since I started my California road trip in Palm Springs, I flew from Newark to Palm Springs International Airport with a layover in Phoenix.) You can find affordable flights through Skyscanner.

St. Francis Winery & Vineyards

Getting around California Wine Country could be done through both public and private tours, the Napa Valley Wine Trolley and the Napa Valley Wine Train, I still recommend renting a car so that you can get around freely to all of the beautiful National Parks nearby as well as other scenic spots and restaurants.

*During your road trip in California Wine Country, please drink responsibly and DO NOT drink and drive! You must be 21 years or older to consume alcohol in the United States.

(Click here if you are planning to road trip around the United States and want to rent an RV.)

Where to Stay in California Wine Country:

A woman drinking wine and enjoying an evening at Hotel Winters

On my California Wine Country road trip, I spent two nights at AC Hotel by Marriott Santa Rosa Downtown, which is in Sonoma County, and three nights at Hotel Winters in Winters, California, which is in between Napa Valley and Sacramento. In fact, Winters is considered the gateway to California Wine Country!

Staying at Hotel Winters:

A woman at Hotel Winters in Winters, California

When I visited Wine Country in June 2021, it had been only two years since Hotel Winters first opened, so it was still brand new. Hotel Winters includes a stunning lobby to relax in, an on-site restaurant with incredible food and drinks, a rejuvenating spa, a rooftop lounge to enjoy some wine at, a beautiful patio with a dipping pool, a fitness center to workout at and so much more! Hotel Winters welcomed me with a bottle of local red wine and there were so many spots around the hotel to enjoy it at.

What is also great about staying at Hotel Winters is that it is in the heart of downtown Winters where there are a lot of great restaurants, saloons, boutiques, galleries, tasting rooms and more.

Rooms at Hotel Winters:
A woman having champagne at Hotel Winters during a California Wine Country road trip

During my three nights at Hotel Winters, my mom and I stayed in the Studio Suite, which is a spacious room that includes a comfortable king-sized bed, living room, beautiful en-suite bathroom with a walk-in shower and rainfall shower head as well as a stunning, old-fashioned clawfoot bathtub.

Our suite also included a 50-inch UltraHD television that also offered Netflix as well as a refrigerator, Keurig, an executive desk and a walkout balcony with a seating area. It was amazing and cozy!

The Studio Suite at Hotel Winters

In addition to the Studio Suite, you can also choose a Classic King room; Courtyard King room that overlooks Hotel Winters’ courtyard; Winters King room; Winters Double Queen room; Winters One-Bedroom suite; Winters Signature Suite and a Bridal Suite.

Eating at Carboni’s Ristorante Bar & Marketplace:
A woman enjoying an Aperol Spritz during dinner at Carboni's Ristorante on a California Wine Country road trip

Located inside of Hotel Winters is Carboni’s Ristorante Bar & Marketplace. It is an Italian restaurant and full bar that serves fresh homemade pizza and pasta dishes as well as farm-to-fork fish, meat and vegetarian plates.

My mom and I ate at Carboni’s two evenings during our stay at Hotel Winters and the food did not disappoint whatsoever! During our first evening, I savored the Pollo al Mattone, which was free range chicken with pan fried polenta, smoked bacon lardons and summer pole beans with chicken jus. My mom had the Filleto di Halibut, which was a pan rosted Alaskan halibut with herbed marble potatoes, fennel, squash and citrus vinaigrette.

A chicken dinner from Carboni's Ristorante in Winters, California
A halibut dish from Carboni's in Winters

On our last evening, we went all out and truly enjoyed the pizza that Carboni’s offers to diners. First, we savored the delicious bread with fresh olive oil and my mom got the Caprese con Pesca salad, which consisted of grilled stone fruit, heirloom tomato, whipped burrata, pistachio with white balsamic vinaigrette.

I had the Margherita pizza, which did not disappoint, and it included San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte and fresh basil. My mom savored the tre formaggi pie that also included San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte, scamorza, grana Padano and garlic. Both pies, which are sized as personal pizzas, were incredible!

A Caprese salad from Carboni's in Hotel Winters
Pizza from Carboni's Ristorante in Winters, California

Carboni’s also has delicious homemade gelato, ranging from a variety of different flavors, that you can enjoy after your meal. I had the delicious chocolate gelato and it did not disappoint. In addition, the drinks at Carboni’s are also great! My mom enjoyed the local wine that the bar offered and I had an Aperol spritz with my pizza. Carboni’s also offers craft beers and artisanal cocktails for you to choose from.

This wonderful restaurant also has a marketplace where you can get grab-and-go items such as salads, sandwiches/wraps, juices and more.

Overall, I had a great stay at Hotel Winters and I also had the opportunity to stay at the sister properties – Chamberlin Inn in Cody, WY and The Equus in Honolulu, HI.

California Wine Country Road Trip Itinerary:

A woman at Castello di Amarosa in Calistoga, California

Like I mention above, I spent six days and five nights in California’s Wine Country. During my California Wine Country road trip, I didn’t only go to wineries and vineyards, I also explored the National Parks and natural beauty the entire region boasts.

Below is my road trip itinerary:

Day 1: Wine Taste at St. Francis Winery and Have Dinner in Santa Rosa

A woman at St. Francis Winery during a California Wine Country road trip
St. Francis Winery & Vineyard:

I am a huge wine lover and the number one wine brand that I drink almost every night when I am home is St. Francis. (I love their cabernet sauvignon if you’re looking for a good everyday red wine to enjoy with your dinner.)

Since St. Francis Winery is located in Sonoma County, I just HAD to visit during my California Wine Country road trip! In fact, my mom and I visited St. Francis Winery & Vineyards on my actual birthday.

A woman at St. Francis Winery in California

Overall, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards are situated on a gorgeous property in Sonoma County, in Santa Rosa. The year that mom and I visited (2021), St. Francis was celebrating their 50 year anniversary.

It was a gorgeous day when we visited St. Francis and my mom and I did the Estate Pairing for my birthday that included both a food and wine pairing. To say everything exceeded our expectations is an understatement.

Wine tasting at St. Francis Winery in Santa Rosa

With the Estate Pairing, we had the winery’s 2020 rosé with a shrimp tostada that included shrimp, avocado, spring radishes and grapefruit. Next, we had the 2018 Pinot noir with crispy maitake mushrooms that included salsa Romesca, hazelnuts and extra virgin olive oil. We then had the 2016 Zinfandel with the sherry-soy glazed pork belly slider with pickled Fresno chilis and cabbage-carrot slaw. Lastly, we tasted the 2016 Port wine with sour cherry and pecan Florentine for dessert. Everything was delicious and even though I am not a big pork eater, I did truly enjoy the pork belly slider.

Food and wine pairing at St. Francis during a California Wine Country Road Trip

Overall, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards are ZAGAT-recommended Wine & Food Pairing and have earned global praise as being “#1 in America” in 2013 and 2015 by Open Table diners. The food being served at St. Francis is farm-to-table (there is a vegetable garden on the property) and each wine is award-winning.

Since we love St. Francis’ Cabernet Sauvignon wines, they allowed us to taste from two of their signature bottles and also try their Sauvignon Blanc, which was also delicious!

St. Francis Winery & Vineyard in Sonoma County

Located at the vineyard are fresh lavender to admire, pretty gardens, walking trails and more. St. Francis also does trolley tours and tastings as well as virtual wine tastings and tours. I’m so happy I got to ring in my 30th birthday at St. Francis.

*Please note that you will need to make a reservation in advance to visit St. Francis Winery & Vineyard.

Dinner in Santa Rosa:
Small plates from Willi's Wine Bar in Santa Rosa.

For dinner, later that evening, my mom and I went to Willi’s Wine Bar in Santa Rosa that not only features renowned wines, but they also boasts delicious small plates.

A flourless chocolate birthday cake.

Since we did a food and wine pairing earlier in the day, we just got three small plates and split everything between us. During our evening at Willi’s Wine Bar, my mom and I savored the Ahi tuna tartare, curried crab tacos and scallop dumplings. For dessert, we sang happy birthday with a warm flourless chocolate cake with salted peanuts, peanut butter mousse and vanilla bean ice cream.

Day 2: Brunch at The George, Hike Muir Woods National Monument, Visit Point Reyes National Seashore and Enjoy an Evening in Santa Rosa

A woman hiking in Muir Woods during a California Wine Country road trip.
Brunch at The George Napa:

The day after my birthday, The George in Napa invited my mom and I to enjoy a lovely birthday brunch at their bed and breakfast.

The George Napa

The George is a brand-new luxury boutique inn located in Napa, California. They have been a historic inn since the late 19th century, but was recently restored and renovated. (The older inn was destroyed by an earthquake that happened in Wine Country.) The George reopened in March 2021 and it is absolutely stunning and a cozy spot.

Overall, The George is part of the National Register of Historic Places and Subsequent National Parks Service Evaluation. The inn was first commissioned in 1891 by George E. Goodman Jr., who was the son of one of Napa’s most prominent businessmen.

Chef Alex Espinoza cooking at The George.

When we first arrived, we were introduced to renowned Chef Alex Espinoza who whipped us up a lovely breakfast that morning. Chef Alex also gave us a tour of the kitchen. He cooks delicious farm-to-table meals at the inn and everything Chef Alex makes is delicious!

Avocado toast from The George Napa.

Our wonderful brunch at The George consisted of coffee and mimosas and for our meals, I savored the delicious avocado toast with bacon and a poached egg. My mom had the eggs Benedict. We also both enjoyed the roasted potatoes and our plates were decorated with edible flowers right from Chef Alex’s home garden. The George also gets their breads from The Model Bakery in Napa, which is definitely well worth a visit during a California Wine Country road trip! The eggs Benedict dish comes with the infamous English muffin from The Model Bakery. It is considered Oprah’s favorite!

A mother and daughter enjoying brunch at The George in Napa during a California Wine Country road trip.

During our morning brunch at The George, we also got to hang out with Malia, who is the manager of the boutique inn. She was so sweet and accommodating to us.

Hiking Muir Woods National Monument:
Muir Woods outside of San Francisco.

On our California Wine Country road trip, my mom and I visited a winery/vineyard one day and enjoyed something adventurous the next day to break up the trip.

After brunch at The George, we made our way a little over an hour south of Napa to Muir Woods National Monument. (Muir Woods is closer to San Francisco.)

Because Muir Woods is so close to the city, it is a National Park that attracts a lot of visitors. Please note that prior to visiting Muir Woods, you will need to make reservations ahead of time to get into the park on a specific date. Click here to make your reservations today!

The redwood forest of Muir Woods in the Bay Area of California.

The parking reservations fee to get to Muir Woods costs $8.50 USD for standard vehicles and the regular entrance fee is $15 USD for anyone ages 16 and older. Muir Woods National Monument does take the annual America the Beautiful pass since it is part of the National Park system. If you’re on a road trip and plan to see a lot of National Parks along the way, I recommend getting the annual pass for $80 USD. You will save money that way because it usually costs $35 USD to get into most big USA National Parks.

Overall, Muir Woods National Monument isn’t too big, but there are hiking trails you can take further from the park’s main trailheads. Muir Woods is iconic for its old-growth redwood trees. This was the second time I walked through a redwood forest, I got to visit Redwoods National and State Parks during my Northern California and Oregon road trip in July 2020.

Hiking Muir Woods National Monument during a California Wine Country road trip.

Redwood trees fascinate me because they are the tallest trees on Earth. They are also strong as well! Reaching over 250 feet in height, Muir Woods’ trees are some of the last remaining ancient redwood trees in the Bay Area. Some of these trees are around 1,000 years old!

Even though Muir Woods draws a lot of visitors, it is the perfect spot for ALL to enjoy the great outdoors. That is right, most of the main trails at Muir Woods are ADA accessible and it’s also perfect for children and the elderly to enjoy.

The redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument.

Some of the best spots to check out are the Founders Grove with the Pinchot Tree, Cathedral Grove, Fern Creek Trail and Bohemian Grove. If you are looking for more of a challenge and less trafficked trail, hike the Hillside Trail or Canopy View Trail. If you want to catch stunning views, enjoy the Ben Johnson Trail and the Dipsea Trail.

Visit Point Reyes National Seashore:

Located over an hour from both San Francisco and Muir Woods is Point Reyes National Seashore. Part of the National Park system, Point Reyes is a vast expanse of protected coastline that is breathtaking!

I will admit that my visit to Point Reyes was quite disappointing because even though it was a beautiful sunny day in the Bay Area, the entire National Seashore was covered in a huge fog. There is a plethora of stunning viewpoints, but unfortunately, we didn’t get to experience any of them.

A woman at Cyrpress Tree Tunnel at Point Reyes National Seashore

My mom and I did get to see the iconic Cypress Tree Tunnel, which is so beautiful and makes for a great photo opportunity! Other awesome spots to check out at Point Reyes National Seashore are the S.S. Point Reyes Shipwreck, South Beach Overlook, Point Reyes Lighthouse and Elephant Seal Overlook.

During your time at Point Reyes National Seashore, also drive the epic Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, which features jaw dropping views and hike the Laguna Coast Trail Loop and the Chimney Rock Trail.

The views at Point Reyes National Seashore.

Even though my mom and I didn’t experience the best of this National Seashore, we couldn’t help the weather situation. It is still a wonderful spot to visit during a California Wine Country road trip.

*Please note that both Muir Woods National Monument and Point Reyes National Seashore DO NOT have any cellular service, so it is important to download all maps, tickets, etc. ahead of time so that they are already saved on your phone for easy access.

Evening in Santa Rosa, California:
A woman enjoying an evening in Santa Rosa during a California Wine Country road trip.

After our adventurous day, we were hungry for a delicious meal. When we arrived back in Santa Rosa, my mom and I enjoyed a lovely Italian dinner at LoCoco’s Cucina Rustica. (Definitely try to make your way here during your California Wine Country road trip!)

Voted as “North Bay’s Best Italian Restaurant 12 Years Straight”, LoCoco’s is in the heart of downtown Santa Rosa and we can attest that the food is incredible! (I recommend making a reservation because the restaurant does get crowded, even on weeknights.)

Both my mom and I had a local Sonoma County Pinot Noir. For my main meal, I had linguine and clams in a white wine sauce and my mom had the veal parm with penne pasta. Both dishes were mouthwatering! Even the bread with olive oil was great.

Linguine and clams from LoCoco's in Santa Rosa, California.

Once you’re finished with dinner, I highly recommend walking around downtown Santa Rosa and enjoying all of the fun vibes. There are a lot of great shops, galleries, live music, wine bars and tasting rooms as well as ice cream shops. In fact, right near LoCoco’s is Nimble & Finn’s, which is known to have incredible homemade ice cream with numerous flavors.

In addition to Santa Rosa, another wonderful town to visit in Sonoma County that is filled with great restaurants, tasting rooms and more is Healdsburg. Discover where to eat in downtown Healdsburg.

Day 3: Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride over Napa Valley, Wine Taste at Domaine Carneros and Check into Hotel Winters

Hot air balloons in Napa Valley, California
Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Napa Valley:

After spending two days in the Sonoma County area, my mom and I made our way to Napa. We first started our time in the Napa Valley area by taking a hot air balloon ride over the vineyards. It was magical and my mom and I did our hot air balloon ride experience with GetYourGuide! Since we went hot air ballooning two days after my birthday, it still made for a wonderful present!

A woman enjoying the views on a hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley.

Overall, doing a California Wine Country road trip had been a major bucket list goal for me over the years that being able to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like this during my time there was such a dream! I loved all the stunning views of the vineyards, mountains and breathtaking scenery all around.

For the hot air balloon ride, my mom and I had to wake up early to be in Yountville, CA by 5:30am. Once we met in Yountville, we were split up into groups and took vans to the site where we would take off in our hot air balloons. (The ride was around 45 minutes.)

A woman ready to go on a hot air balloon ride in Napa Valley

Once we got to the site, we saw the balloons being blown up and getting ready to take off. It was so cool seeing them up close. (It was my very first time going ballooning!) Fire is what keeps the balloons up in the air and at a high altitude.

When we finally got up in the sky, it was magical seeing all of the balloon’s float in the air as well as admiring all of the breathtaking vineyards, mountains and scenery within Napa Valley.

Enjoying a hot air balloon ride during a California Wine Country road trip

We spent around an hour up in the air on our balloon before we descended and headed back to Yountville. One thing to note about doing a hot air balloon ride in Napa is that all the balloons will descend at different times and land in different spots. (Our balloon was up in the air the longest.) Once the balloon lands, your guide will call the van and they will pick you and your group up and take everyone back to Yountville.

Brunch and Morning in Napa:

After our memorable balloon ride, my mom and I headed to downtown Napa where we enjoyed a nice brunch at Grace’s Table. It is a charming eatery that offers a globally-inspired menu with great, brunch, lunch and dinner options.

Pancakes from Grace's Table in Napa, California

My mom and I both had mimosas with coffee and for our main dishes, we each got the pancakes with fresh fruit. Everything was delicious!

When we finished our meal, we walked it off by strolling around Napa and enjoying some shopping. My mom and I also headed down by the Riverfront Promenade and watched the canoes, kayaks and gondolas go by, which you can also do as well in Napa.

Wine Taste at Domaine Carneros:
A woman enjoying a California Wine Country road trip in Napa

Later in the afternoon, my mom and I did another wonderful wine tasting at Domaine Carneros in Napa. This beautiful winery specializes in sparkling wines and it has a French-inspired château with formal gardens on its property! It brought me back to the Champagne region in France.

Domaine Carneros was founded by the noble family behind Champagne Taittinger, who wanted a U.S. counterpart. It is totally worth a stop during a California Wine Country road trip.

A woman wine tasting at Domaine Carneros in Napa

During a visit to Domaine Carneros in Napa, you can admire the château, walk through the gardens and vineyards and obviously taste a variety of wines from traditional sparkling wines to Pinot noir and estate wines.

My mom and I did a daily tasting of the blanc noir, which was a sparkling white wine; brut rosé that was a sparkling rosé; Pinot noir and the estate Pinor noir. We also savored a charcuterie board, which was amazing!

Enjoying a charcuterie board at Domaine Carneros during a California Wine Country road trip

Overall, we had a wonderful time wine tasting at Domaine Carneros and feeling like we were in France. Please note that you will need to make a reservation in advance to visit Domaine Carneros.

Check into Hotel Winters:
The lobby inside of Hotel Winters in California

After wine tasting at Domaine Carneros in Napa, we drove around an hour east to Hotel Winters in Winters, California where we stayed for the remaining three nights of our California Wine Country road trip.

Day 4: Day Trip to Yosemite National Park

Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park in California

On our fourth day of our California Wine Country road trip, my mom and I did a great day trip to Yosemite National Park, which is located over three and a half hours east of Winters, closer to the Nevada border.

Before we took off for the day, we grabbed coffee and muffins/pastries at Steady Eddy’s Coffee House in Winters. It is a charming, local coffee shop that sells comforting morning beverages and light food.

Steady Eddy's Coffeehouse in Winters, California

The drive from Winters to Yosemite is long, but it is easy. Once you reach the entrance to the park, it will take you around another 45 minutes or so to get to all the iconic spots. When my mom and I visited Yosemite, it was a hot day, so if you travel to this iconic park in the warmer months, make sure to bring plenty of water to stay hydrated. (I also recommend bringing snacks for the road. Thankfully, Hotel Winters provided them for us.)

With only one day in Yosemite National Park, try to fit in these amazing spots:

A woman hiking in Yosemite National Park
  • Enjoy the breathtaking overlook at Tunnel View: It is the most popular viewpoint in Yosemite and you can enjoy the sights of the famous natural landmarks within the full Yosemite Valley such as El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls. It is an epic spot! You can either hike to Tunnel View or drive. Since it was around 100 degrees Fahrenheit during our day trip to Yosemite, we just drove to Tunnel View, otherwise we would’ve hiked it.
  • Hike Mirror Lake: Known as a 2.6-mile, heavily trafficked loop trail, Mirror Lake trail is easily accessible and great for all to enjoy. Since my mom and I went to Yosemite on an extremely hot day, we stuck to this hike, which was nice, but due to the dry California weather, the water from the lake had dried up. Usually, Mirror Lake offers breathtaking views of the iconic Half Dome in Yosemite.
  • Hike Lower Yosemite Falls: Recognized as another popular trail in Yosemite, Lower Yosemite Falls trail is a 0.5-mile hike from the trailhead and it allows you to see the stunning waterfalls in the park. You can even see views of Upper Yosemite Falls during parts of this trail!
  • Hike Half Dome Summit: One of the most strenuous hikes in Yosemite National Park is Half Dome. Please note that this specific hike takes a full day, so I recommend doing it if you’re staying a few days in the park or if you’re dedicating the entire day to this trek. There are numerous routes to take and it can be anywhere from 14 to over 16 miles roundtrip.
A day trip to Yosemite National Park during a California Wine Country road trip

*If you plan to hike in Yosemite, ensure you download the AllTrails app when you have cellular service so that you have everything at the tip of your fingers when you don’t have signal.

If you have time, other cool spots to check out in Yosemite National Park are below:

Hiking in Yosemite National Park in Northern California
  • Visit Mariposa Grove: A fun fact about the big trees of California are that redwoods are famous for being near the coast in the northern part of the state and sequoias are iconic to the eastern part of the Golden State. Since Yosemite is located just north of Sequoia National Park, you bet that you can find sequoia trees in Mariposa Grove. Overall, this area in Yosemite is home to over 500 sequoia trees and there are different hiking trails to enjoy.
  • Admire the views at Glacier Point: Just like Tunnel View, another epic viewing point within Yosemite National Park is Glacier Point. You can drive to Glacier Point and there is a short and easy trail that leads you to the overlook. From there, you can enjoy incredible views of Half Dome, Nevada Falls, Vernal Falls and the entire Yosemite Valley.

(You will definitely need more than one day to see all of the iconic spots Yosemite boasts, but I was happy my mom and I got to see a lot during our day trip there.)

After an awesome day enjoying everything Yosemite National Park has to offer, my mom and I drove back west to Winters. On the way back, we stopped to grab dinner at Tasty Pot in Stockton, California, which boasts delicious Taiwanese hot pot meals.

Taiwanese seafood hot pot

I absolutely LOVE hot pot and hadn’t savored it since my trip to Vietnam back in February 2020. I had the seafood hot pot and my mom got the veggie one. Everything exceeded our expectations!

Day 5: Explore Winters and Visit the Tuscany of Napa – Castello di Amarosa and V. Sattui Winery

A woman enjoying a beautiful day at Castello di Amarosa in Napa
Explore Winters, California:

Like I mention above, Winters, California is in between Napa Valley and Sacaremento and it is a center for agriculture and passenger rail service. It was founded in 1875 and it maintains its historic charm and rural beauty and lifestyle.

Winters, California during a Wine Country road trip

The town of Winters is fairly small, but it offers tasting rooms to enjoy, featuring renowned local wine; a town saloon; cafés; a BBQ restaurant; a taqueria; a brewery; pizzerias; ice cream shops and more! I highly recommend taking the time to stroll around and see what this lovely town has to offer.

Breakfast at Putah Creek Cafe in Winters, California

Before we went wine tasting on our fifth day of our California Wine Country road trip, my mom and I enjoyed a lovely breakfast at Putah Creek Café. This family-owned restaurant not only has a great breakfast menu, but they also serves delicious brick oven pizzas, local wine and more. My mom and I enjoyed the French toast for breakfast.

Sunflower fields in Winters, California

Winters is also known for its endless fields of sunflowers. When you travel to the Sacramento area during the summer, you cannot miss out on visiting a beautiful sunflower field in Winters. They are great for photos, engagement proposals, sunflower picking (if it’s allowed) and more!

Visit the Tuscany of Napa Valley – Castello di Amarosa and V. Sattui Winery:
Castello di Amarosa in Calistoga, California during a Wine Country road trip

On our final day of our California Wine Country road trip, my mom and I visited Castello di Amarosain Calistoga, California and its sister winery, V. Sattui in St. Helena.

Castello di Amarosa is a winery and vineyard located in a 13th– Century Italian castle. The one thing to know though is that Castello di Amarosa isn’t a real castle! 4th generation winemaker Dario Sattui built a Tuscan castle winery in Calistoga in honor of his Italian heritage, deep love for medieval architecture and, of course, wine!

A woman at Castello di Amarosa during a California Wine Country road trip

Overall, Castello di Amarosa is open for tastings and tours. They do not sell food and they do not host events, like weddings, because they try to keep the castle as authentic as possible. It is known as one of the most beautiful wineries in Napa Valley.

My mom and I did our tasting in the wine cellars of the castle. We both got to choose between six different wines (red, white, rosé and a dessert wine) and we even did a chocolate pairing with it. (The chocolate was amazing!)

Wine tasting in Castello di Amarosa's cellars

After your wine tasting, I recommend walking around the castle’s property, seeing the vineyards and checking out the farm animals. During the previous year, Napa Valley was hit with a bad wildfire and the back part of Castello di Amarosa was burnt. Thankfully, all the animals ran away from the fire and returned right back to the property when everything was better! (Animals are so smart.)

Later in the afternoon, we drove around 15 minutes over to the sister winery of Castello di Amarosa called V. Sattui Winery where you can have food and host events. It is also a beautiful property that attracts more people, since you don’t need a reservation to go there, and it includes a marketplace where you can get bottles of wine, cheeses and cured meats to pick on as well as fresh fruit, bread/crackers, salads, paninis, pastas, pizzas and more.

At V. Sattui Winery, you can also do a tasting, enjoy live music, have a picnic and so much more.

V. Sattui Winery during a California Wine Country road trip

Day 6: Fly Home

During our last day of our time in Wine Country, my mom and I headed back to the airport to fly home from Sacramento.


A woman enjoying wine at Hotel Winters in California

I hope you all enjoyed discovering the best California Wine Country road trip itinerary and reading about my experience staying at Hotel Winters. If you have any questions, please email me at [email protected]

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6 Comments

  1. Francesca on August 3, 2021 at 2:50 pm

    Looks like you had the best trip! I love California wine country. I really need to get up to Santa Rosa and Point Reyes. Muir Woods is one of my favorites as is Yosemite.

    • Taylor Deer on August 3, 2021 at 6:10 pm

      Thank you Francesca and I definitely did! Santa Rosa was a beautiful town and I wish I stayed longer in Sonoma County and visited more wineries there. 🙂

  2. Kim Deer on August 3, 2021 at 7:42 pm

    This was such a wonderful, packed with a lot of fun activities trip ~ so glad to spend your 30th birthday with you in breathtaking wine country. It was so much fun visiting the 3 wineries, Yosemite national park and Muir Redwoods ~ loved staying at Hotel Winters and enjoyed eating at their restaurant. Also, enjoyed the breakfast at the George ~ but my favorite activity was flying on the hot air balloon over stunning Napa Valley vineyards ~ what a wonderful experience ~ this was a fabulous trip! Thanks for writing this amazing blog to bring back all the great memories we made there! Your photos bring this trip back to life ~ I really enjoyed this blog! Awesome job ~ love you, mom 👩xoxo ♥️

    • Taylor Deer on August 3, 2021 at 9:22 pm

      Yes, it really was a great trip! I want to go back! Thank you mom again for meeting me there and helping me celebrate my milestone birthday. Love you! <3

  3. Cosette on August 4, 2021 at 4:47 pm

    What a fantastic California wine country road trip. Some iconic things you did like hot air ballooning, Muir Woods. So bad you had lots of fog at Point Reyes.

    • Taylor Deer on August 4, 2021 at 7:12 pm

      Thank you Cosette! It truly was a great trip. 🙂

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