Come for the wine. Stay for the food. Live the wine country life. That's the allure of Napa Valley in a nutshell. No matter what you might think about America's most famous winegrowing region—critics claim that it's too crowded, too expensive or too ostentatious—this is still a fantasyland for wine lovers.
Wine is your best compass for navigating Sonoma County, but it shouldn't be your only guide. There are just too many other worthwhile diversions, from shopping and fine restaurants to the untamed outdoors. Whatever your inclination, you'll find that each of the four regions profiled in this tour—Sonoma Valley, Northern Sonoma, Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast—has a distinct personality.
Anderson Valley and the Mendocino coast are located about a two-and-a-half-hour drive north from San Francisco. On the long and winding road to get there even grown men ask, “Are we there yet?” California wine country doesn’t get farther from the beaten path. There’s a stubborn, undomesticated beauty here, from the high rocky bluffs of the coast to the charismatically rustic landscape of the valley.
Striking scenery is just one reason to visit the Monterey Coast. Few destinations in California have such wide appeal and diversity, offering history, outdoor adventures and wine country, while the city of Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Carmel Valley and Big Sur offer fine dining and lodging opportunities more often found in large cities.
A spectacular region, encompassing some of the state's most impressive terrain, where past and present stand shoulder to shoulder. Visitors ought to pack a sense of adventure. It's a huge swath of land, more or less the middle third of coastal California. But for all the region's immensity, many of the finest wine producers are grouped in small areas, amenable to exploration by the enterprising wine lover.
California’s Central Coast found the spotlight thanks to the hit movie Sideways. But while visitors are flocking to its Santa Barbara locations, don’t overlook the laid-back charm of nearby San Luis Obispo County, less than 50 miles to the north. It’s home to two wine regions, Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande, scenic coastal communities such as Pismo Beach and Morro Bay, and the lively college enclave of San Luis Obispo.
Thanks to innovative chefs and pioneering restaurateurs, San Francisco has emerged as a top food-and-wine destination. From lavish restaurants to cozy bistros, the city's eclectic dining options suit every style, taste and budget. But with so many options, it's tough to decide where to go. Editor at large Harvey Steiman helps solve this dilemma by reviewing two dozen notable restaurants. We also report on fine wine bars and top hotels. Pack your bags—it's time for a culinary escape.
Just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from San Francisco, the Gold Country is off the beaten path, and that's just part of its appeal. California's Gold Rush swept through the Sierra Nevada foothills a century and a half ago, but today adventurous winemakers and restaurateurs are staking their claims in these hills. In addition to the natural beauty of the rolling landscape and pine and oak forests, there's an unpretentiousness here—not unlike Napa Valley 30 years ago.