American Roadtrip | California – Enjoying the Fruits of Wine Country

After leaving our friends in Oregon we headed south towards California, we had quite a lot planned for this state and our first stop was to enjoy some of their famous grapes.

Back in New Zealand I spent nearly ten years working in the wine industry, and both Logan and I appreciate a nice bottle of wine. So after 18 months in Asia, where wine is usually quite expensive and sometimes of dubious quality due to the heat and retail conditions, we were well and truly ready for some good wines. We had been to one winery while in Canada and had a nice introduction to some local American wines while staying with friends in Oregon, but we wanted to indulge in a few more. So what better place than the Napa Valley!!

This wine region was pretty new to us and with not knowing much, the researching was pretty overwhelming. There is so much more to the area than just the famous Napa Valley, and with over 500 wineries in that sub-region alone it was hard to narrow down which wineries we should visit. We had been given a few suggestions from our friends but soon discovered that the cost for tastings was pretty steep, some places were charging $20-$25 USD ($29-37 NZD) per person. As Logan was driving we wouldn’t both be doing full tasting and while the tasting cost is often taken off any purchases we were still pretty surprised at these costs. Perhaps we are just to accustomed to the minimal tasting prices (if any) at the wineries in New Zealand.

Wine Region Maps_North Coast_California_America
Source: California Wine Regions Map – Discover California Wine 
North Coast Wine Region Map – Wine Folly

From Oregon we drove a solid eight hours (790 kms/490 miles) and stayed the night at Willows in California. Why Willows?? Well because it had a Wyndham property (see our reviews here) and it got us close to the North Coast wine region of which Napa is located.

After breakfast we packed up and headed towards our first stop, driving around 90 minutes to Six Sigma Ranch and Winery in the Lake County. They opened at 11am and were setting up for a wine club event but they were friendly and welcoming. The boys were introduced to the winery pot belly pig while Logan and I tried a few of their wines and learnt more about their winery and the region. Besides wines they had a few tasty looking food items in their cellar door, but as this was the first stop of the day we controlled ourselves with just a wine purchase and then continued on our way.Six Sigma Ranch and Winery_Lake County_California_AmericaContinuing to head towards the coast we travelled around 80 minutes to Harvest Moon Estate and Winery in Santa Rosa. We had come to this location as I had found a deal on Groupon, a wine tastings and cheese platter for two for $24 USD/$35.50 NZD, and with Logan only having a small part of his tasting pours I managed to score a little bit extra. Harvest Moon Estate and Winery_Santa Rosa_California_AmericaThe sun was shining and while Logan and I sat outside under their pagoda and enjoyed the selections, the boys scooted around and one of the staff brought out some sidewalk chalk for them to use.

Harvest Moon Estate and Winery_Santa Rosa_California_America_1
Love a child friendly winery

It was a beautiful sunny spot and it was hard to tear ourselves away but we had to continue on. We found another Groupon deal and headed through Napa towards Vezer Family Vineyard in the Suisun Valley, right in the southeast corner of the North Coast region. The deal included two tastings at two of their locations but as we arrived at the first site we saw a sign saying they were closed for a private function. Their second location was nearby but that was also closed. So we headed towards our accommodation looking for another winery or tasting room on the way.Napa Valley_California_AmericaNot too far down the road we came across the tasting room of Mangels Vineyards and decided to give them a try. They had a nice modern space with a few people sitting outside. We looked over their list and decided to do a tasting of five wines of our choice. We tried a few whites and got talking with the owner; we soon found a connection as her daughter had spent a vintage in New Zealand, in the Hawkes Bay. She had fallen for a Kiwi and they married and returned to the family vineyard. They were lovely people and we were offered more wines to try than just our chosen five. We purchased a bottle and headed on our way, accommodation for the night was Super 8 by Wyndham Vallejo/Napa Valley. Mangels Vineyards_Suisun Valley_California_AmericaWe had an amazing day, it was beautiful and sunny, we had some tasty wines and driving along through the autumn vines had put a smile on our faces.

Logan and I would love to come back some time; probably without the worries of children and indulge in something like the Napa Valley Wine Train. It looks like a pretty luxurious way to visit more wineries, enjoy more of the stunning scenery and not worry about the need for a sober driver.

Average Daily Spend for 2 nights – $300.53 NZD ($13.03 over budget per day)

– Paula


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