Wine Break California

Anyone who has seen the movie Sideways will know that exploring California's wine regions will be a trip of a lifetime before you've even packed your bags. The Golden State not only has some of the most exciting pinot noirs on the planet, it is home to artisan towns, epic scenery, great wildlife, welcoming locals and, of course, fascinating wineries.

The area of northern California just above San Francisco is known as Wine Country for good reason - wine-making has been practised there since the mid-19th century and there are more than 900 wineries, mostly sourcing their grapes from the twin valleys of Napa and Sonoma and exporting it around the world. If you're on a road trip, this is a chance to get off the beaten track and among the tiny heritage towns that dot this lush region.

Discover glorious estates at the end of country roads and tiny wineries hidden within converted barns. here, handcrafted pinot noirs and chardonnays are farmed to world-beating perfection, while craft wineries offer everything from homemade olive oil to chocolate raspberry sauce to go with organic tipples.

Take a self-guided bicycle tour, trek by foot, select a designated driver, or be driven on bespoke tours through rolling hills and ancient forests, or start a dawn for a hot-air balloon ride across a sea of golden, sun-kissed countryside. However, you decide to see Wine Country, you won't be disappointed. Here's our guide on where to go ... 

NAPA VALLEY 

There's more to Napa valley than world-class wineries, legendary tasting bars Carpe Diem and Back Room Wines, and unforgettable restaurants such as Michelin-starred La Troque.

here is a land of 3 million-year-old petrified forests and glorious sites including Calistoga's Old Faithful Geyser. little wonder the area claims to be one of the world's most beauty-centric, eco-luxurious places. 

Hike the Bay Area Ridge Trail to Skyline Park or take the Stevenson Memorial Trail, an epic five-mile trail throughout Robert Louis Stevenson State Park taking you to the summit of Mount St Helena.

An hour's drive from San Francisco, Napa Valley has 400 wineries - 95 per cent of which are family-owned - and emerged as a rival to France on the wine scene in the 1970s. The region has year-round sunshine so is delightful to visit any time but late August to October is harvest time and the wineries bustle with workers and connoisseurs alike. 

Accommodation options are as varied as they are interesting. choose from luxurious spas, rugged ranches, historic colonial-era hotels and small rustic homesteads, which are the ideal base for exploring some of the region's lesser-known wineries.

Napa is the largest city in Napa Valley and the second-largest city in California's Wine Country after Santa Rosa, and has an enviable reputation for food and drink.

SONOMA COUNTY

you wouldn't guess Sonoma County is just a short drive from San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. it stands shoulder to shoulder with Napa Valley in terms of beauty, with ancient redwood forests, patchwork fields and a rugged Pacific coastline - and the quality of its 425 wineries.

Sonoma county brings all the best elements of northern California to one place, with exquisite farm-to-table dining experiences, fantastic wines from tiny estates and elaborate wine castles it also boasts boutique resorts, elegant spas and more than 50 state and regional parks. the historic town of Sonoma will take you back in time to its Mexican colonial past with its 19th-century mud brick buildings. it also has the largest town plaza in California, filled with 60 types of trees, and is an arts and cultures hub.

Along with the international Film Festival, the laid-back, time-warp town has a flourishing roster of events, alongside authentic bars and speakeasies that offer a lively music scene.  

BODEGA BAY

If you want to head to the Pacific Ocean, Bodega Bay should be your first port of call.  Around 40 miles north-west of San Francisco, it is the perfect hiking through redwood forests or relaxing in one of the many spas.  Bodega Bay even has a thriving art scene with a selection of small, intimate galleries.  And you may want to kick back with a picnic on Goat Rock Beach, Wright’s Beach or The Dunes, or stargaze at one of the overnight camping fire pits.