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Wine Trails

Comprehensive California winery and wine tasting guides

There are many wonderful famous as well as some not so well known areas in California Wine Country that are just right for an enjoyable day of wine tasting.'s Wine Trails are comprehensive illustrated guides to the wines, wineries and the beautiful scenery along these wine trails.
In California’s wine country, it’s always best to get off the beaten track and find the other gold that still exists in our beautiful State:
We include great little wineries and superb wines on back roads that many tourist bureaus and winery associations don’t even list.
In addition to a detailed verbal description of each wine trail, we also include a map and many photographs — both panoramas and single images — of the wineries, scenery and landmarks along each wine trail. A wine from each winery is featured with winemakers tasting notes and a photograph of the wine label.
Follow the links in the next column to the Wine Trails. The blue column links will take you to historic information and photographs of the California Wine Country including Napa Valley and Sonoma County and to San Francisco's unique neighborhoods. You can also view galleries of pictures and purchase custom archival prints of both wine country and San Francisco images. Scroll down to read our recommendations for wine touring and wine tasting.

Wine Trail Guides

Chalk Hill Road and Alexander Valley, Sonoma County
Wine tasting and winery guide to 13 wineries in 2 AVAs

Dry Creek Road, Sonoma County
Wine tasting and winery guide

Westside Road, Sonoma County
Tasting guide to eleven wineries
on a road less traveled

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Napa Valley and Sonoma County wine caves
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Wine Tasting

Wine tasting at wineries along California's wine trails is a great way to spend a day. For maximum enjoyment we've provided some recommendations in three areas:

Wine Tasting Safety
Wine Tasting Etiquette
The Art of Wine Tasting on Wine Trails

More good advice from Natalie Mclean on Winery Visits

Wine Tasting Safety

A safe and enjoyable wine trail wine tasting begins with a designated driver. The sometimes busy, frequently narrow and windy, country roads that make so many of these wine trails interesting have enough hazards without alcohol impaired drivers. The designated driver could be someone in your party or you could take advantage of one of the many limousine services or private tour guides.
Many wine trails, such as the Westside Road out of Healdsburg, have a variety of scenery, farm animals and picturesque picnic areas for the enjoyment of the whole family. If wine tasting is an added benefit of a family day in the country then taking turns with one parent driving this time and the other the next is a great way to share the load. Every winery wants us to make it clear that drinking wine is an adult pursuit in our country. You and your drinking guests must all be 21 years old or older to partake in these glorious wines.
Another option is to just not swallow. Practice the five S's; see, smell, sip, swirl and spit. It's perfectly acceptable and all wineries will have a receptacle available for this purpose.
Many of the wine trails we profile don't have any place for you to buy food along the way so you may want to bring a picnic lunch. Most wineries don't open until 10 or 11 AM so have a good breakfast and call to make sure their tasting room is open. Plan your itinerary so that at lunchtime you end up at a winery that has a picnic area — we include picnic area availability in our articles. Be aware that any wine consumed at a winery picnic area must have come from that winery. Alternately you could plan your trip so you end up in town to eat in a timely fashion.


Wine Tasting Etiquette

You, and your fellow wine tasters, will enjoy your wine tasting experience a lot more if you are aware of and follow a few simple recommendations.
Avoid wearing scent to a wine tasting, including cologne, after-shave, perfume or other scented grooming products. Don't smoke at a wine tasting or immediately before. You and the other wine tasters want to be able to evaluate the wine's aroma without competition.
Hold the wine glass by the stem. This avoids warming the wine with your body heat and keeps fingerprints off the bowl making it easier to evaluate the color and clarity of the wine.
If you are drinking the wine you are tasting (swallowing, not spitting) it's a good idea to drink an equal amount of water. Room temperature water will not negatively impact your taste buds. Don't forget to eat. Unsalted water crackers or unflavored french bread are both good ways to cleanse your palate between wines.

The Art of Wine Tasting on Wine Trails

Your ability to distinguish and enjoy the various nuances of wine will be enhanced if you adopt a strategy or technique and use it consistently. You'll want to follow the time tested method of evaluating the wine visually, then its aroma and finally tasting it of course. You can read more about the process and what your are looking for here.
One strategy while visiting wineries along a wine trail is to taste a particular varietal at each of the wineries. You might taste only Merlot at each winery, for instance. It's quite likely that a winery might be pouring more than one Merlot, from different years or different vineyards. This technique will allow you to discover which of the wineries you prefer and to gain a greater understanding of the particular varietal.
Another strategy would be to taste a variety of wines at each winery, but limit the number of wineries you visit. You may find that you prefer all or most of the wines at one winery over another.
You may want to take notes if you are serious about remembering what you've tasted. A simple form can be handy to remind you to record your impressions of the wine's color and clarity, aroma and taste. I've provided one here in PDF format (requires Adobe Acrobat) that can be printed two up on an 8 1/2" by 11" page.

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