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California Wine Country Tour
Visiting Vineyards in the Northern Wine Region
Explore the Golden State's well-known vineyards and wineries in Napa, Calistoga, and Santa Rosa – plus historic sites and museums in Petaluma, Clearlake, and Sacramento.
Day 1: Ukiah
Mendocino County Historical Society, 603 W. Perkins, (707) 462-6969, is where you learn about Ukiah’s history. The society offers guided tours of other historic buildings in this town settled by farmers in 1856. The Moore Flour Mill on South State Street has one hundred-year-old water-powered grindstones. See the Grace Hudson Museum and Sun House, 431 S. Main, (707) 462-3370, featuring her original paintings of the Pomo Indians and her husband’s rare Native American and Pomo basketry collection. Fourteen miles northwest on Orr Springs Road is the incredible redwoods of the Montgomery Woods State Reserve.
The restored historical Vichy Springs, 2605 Vichy Springs Road, (707) 462-9515, features carbonated champagne spring waters for drinking and bathing. Visit the Parducci Wine Cellars, 501 Parducci Road, (707) 462-3828, with tours and tastings and Weibel Champagne Cellars, in Redwood Valley, (707) 485-0321.
Depart on US 101 south to junction of 253 and follow it west through Anderson Valley to Boonville, a unique and intriguing rural community with its own “Boontling” language. Several wineries are north of town, close to Hendy Woods State Park of virgin redwoods.From Boonville, take Mountain View Road to Manchester and Highway 1. Visit Point Arena Lighthouse & Museum for a picture of life in the 1870s when the area had the busiest port between San Francisco and Eureka. The point was discovered by Captain George Vancouver in 1792.
Head south on Highway 1 through Gualala, “meeting place of the waters,” to Salt Point State Park and the Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve, a 317-acre natural growth of 30 foot high rhododendrons. Best seen April through June. Continue south for Ft. Ross State Historical Park, (707) 847-3437, the eastern-most settlement of Imperial Russia established in 1812. The outpost’s residents were to hunt sea otters for their pelts and provide food for Russian villages in Alaska. The fort functioned for nearly 40 years until a series of economic failures forced Russian departure. The commandant’s house is original.
At Jenner, take 116 inland along the Russian River to Guerneville, founded as a sawmill town in 1865, it marks the western boundary of California’s “Wine Country.” A Visitor Information Center is at 14034 Armstrong Woods Road. Korbel Champagne Cellars, built in 1886, (707) 887-2294, is east on River Road. Continue on 116 south to Sebastopol, Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park. Sebastopol has Sonoma county’s largest antique collective, Antique Society, at 2661 Gravenstein Highway South, (707) 829-1733. Wine Country Carriages, 3375 Highway 116 North, (800) 500-7083 or (707) 823-7083, between Forestville and Sebastopol, offer private horse-drawn wine tasting adventures or gourmet picnics.
Day 2: Santa Rosa / Petaluma / Sausalito
Visit Sonoma County Wine & Visitors Center, 5000 Roberts Lake Road (off US 101 at Country Club exit), (707) 586-3795, in Rohnert Park for a great overview of the winemaking industry in the area. In Santa Rosa, visit the Luther Burbank Home & Memorial Gardens, Santa Rosa Avenue and Sonoma Avenue, (707) 524-5445, loaded with varieties of shasta daisies, calla lilies and the Santa Rosa plum.
Across from the gardens is the Church of One Tree and Ripley Memorial Museum, 492 Sonoma Avenue, (707) 524-5233, built in downtown Santa Rosa from lumber of a single, 275 foot redwood tree cut in 1875 near Guerneville. Charles Schultz’s Snoopy Museum is on Steele Lane, next to the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, (707) 546-3385. Schultz lived in Santa Rosa. The historic Railroad Square and Park is west of US 101 at 3rd and 5th streets. The depot survived the 1906 earthquake. Take US 101 south to Petaluma. Known at one time as the “World’s Egg Basket” for shipping 600 million eggs in one year.
The old Great Petaluma Mill, 6 Petaluma Blvd., (707) 762-1149, once the area’s largest feed mill, is now a unique shopping complex. Historic downtown features 19th century cast iron architecture that can be enjoyed on a walking tour. (Maps at Chamber of Commerce, 215 Howard Street.) Visit the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park, 3225 E. Adobe Road, off 116 east, (707) 762-4871, former headquarters of Mexican commander Mariano Vallejo’s 100 square mile Rancho Petaluma in 1834.
Take Highway 101 south to Novato, “Gateway to the Wine Country,” to the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Marin County Civic Center. Area information available from the Marin County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 1013 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur, 94939, (415) 499-5000. Continue south to the charming bayside community of Sausalito and visit its fine restaurants, boutiques, street-side cafes and galleries.
Day 3: Sonoma / Napa
Take 37 east, then 121 north to Sonoma, site of San Francisco Solano Mission, 20 Spain Street East, (707) 938-1578. Last of the 21 missions established by the Spanish in 1823, it provided defense against possible Russian invasion from nearby Ft. Ross. The padres’ quarters, built in 1825, is the area’s oldest building. The other structures were burned during a Native uprising in 1826 and were reconstructed of adobe. The buildings were restored in 1913 and now are part of the Sonoma State Historic Park. Blue Wing Inn, the first hotel built north of San Francisco in 1840, is across Spain street.
The Sonoma Barracks housed Mexican troops assigned to guard the mission in 1841 and was also the headquarters for the infamous “Bear Flaggers” under the “leadership” of General John C. Fremont during the Bear Flag Revolt. Details of the incident are at the mission. The whole area is an easy walking tour. Agoston Haraszthy, father of the California wine industry, founded Buena Vista Winery, 18000 Old Winery Road, (707) 252-7117, in 1857. It is the oldest in Sonoma County. Winemaking stopped in 1979, but the wine cellars and press house are worth seeing.
Take 12 north to Glen Ellen and visit the Jack London State Historic Park, 2400 London Park Road, (707) 938-5216. Named “Beauty Ranch” by the early 20th century adventure writer, it was an anchor for his life. Sonoma Cattle Company, (707) 996-8566, offers a variety of group horseback rides through the park.
Day 4: Napa / Calistoga
Take 121/12 east to Napa. Stop at the Napa Valley Conference and Visitors Bureau, 1310 Napa Town Center, (707) 226-7459 for information and maps. Take the Napa Valley Wine Train for a memorable three hour, 36-mile ride from downtown to St. Helena and return. The options onboard the restored luxury lounge and dining cars range from wine tasting, to brunch, lunch and dinner. The depot, (800) 427-4124 or (707) 253-2111, is downtown at 1275 McKinstry Street. Call for schedule since it varies with season.
Stop at the Chamber of Commerce, 1556 First Street for walking tour map of historic downtown area and Victorian neighborhoods. Visit the Hess Collection Winery, a combination winery and fine art gallery, 4411 Redwood Road, (707) 255-1144, north of town off 29- take Redwood/Trancas exit, then west for six miles to Mt. Veeder. Try a balloon ride over the valley with Napa Valley Balloons, Yountville, (800) 253-2224 or (707) 944-0228.
The best driving tour of the area’s select wineries is on the Silverado Trail north through St. Helena to Calistoga. In St. Helena, visit the Robert Louis Stevenson collection in the Silverado Museum, 1490 Library Lane, (707) 963-3757. Stop at the Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park, 3801 St. Helena Highway in Calistoga, (707) 963-2236, to see the restored 1846 grist mill with its 36 foot wooden waterwheel.
Wineries to visit in area: Sterling, 1111 Dunaweal, (707) 942-3300, Clos Pegase, 1060 Dunaweal, (707) 942-4981, and Schramsberg, the valley’s first hillside winery. Tours by appointment only. North of Calistoga is the Old Faithful Geyser of California, (707) 942-6463. Stop at the Petrified Forest, 4100 Petrified Forest Road, (707) 942-6667, then back to 29, south through St. Helena to Napa. Along the way are the Christian Bros./Greystone, Beringer, Inglenook, Robert Mondavi and Domaine Chandon Wineries. St. Supéry Wine Discovery Center & Winery, 8440 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford, (707) 963-4507 is a great place to visit.
Day 5: Fairfield / Vacaville
Depart for Sacramento on 29 to 12 to I-80 east. At Fairfield, see the vintage aircraft collection at Travis Air Museum, Bldg. #80, Travis Air Force Base, (707) 424-5605. Tour the famous Herman Goelitz (Jelly Bean) Candy Company, 2400 North Watney Way, (707) 428-2800, and the Anheuser- Busch Brewery, 3101 Busch Drive, (707) 429-7595 in Fairfield.
Solano County history is featured at the Vacaville Museum, (707) 447-4513. Factory Stores at Nut Tree are located at junction of I-505 and I-80 in Vacaville. Continue to Sacramento and check with your Best Western host for current evening activities ranging from NBA basketball and ice hockey to professional theater and concerts.
Day 6: Sacramento
California’s capitol city has a colorful and interesting history that can still be seen by a visit to Old Town Sacramento stretched along the Sacramento River, between Tower and 1st Street Bridges. A self-guided walking tour brochure is available at visitor center on Front and K Street. California State Railroad Museum, 125 I Street, (916) 445-7387, the largest interpretive museum of its kind at 100,000 square feet is nearby. It houses 21 restored locomotives, rail cars and exhibits about the Transcontinental and Sacramento Valley railroads.
Other historical attractions to visit are: the Sacramento History Museum, 191 I Street, (916) 264-7057, that exhibits articles from everyday life of area residents; Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, 27th and L Streets, (916) 445-4422, the early domain of founder John Sutter, who in 1839 began construction of his adobe walled compound; B. F. Hastings & Co. Building, 2nd Street at J, (916) 445-7387, home to companies such as Wells Fargo and the final station for the Pony Express and the first transcontinental telegraph line; and the California State Indian Museum, 2618 K Street, (916) 324-0971, with its excellent collection of Native Americans historical artifacts. The Blue Diamond Growers Visitors Center, 1701 C Street, (916) 446-8439, is the largest almond processing plant in the world. Tours available.
See the Towe Ford Museum, 2200 Front Street, (916) 442-6802, with its extensive collection of antique Ford automobiles and trucks, and the Crocker Art Museum, 2nd & O Streets, (916) 808-7000, the first public art museum in the West opened in 1872. Take a tour of the Governor’s Mansion, 16th and H, (916) 323-3047, built in 1877 and housed 13 of the state’s chief executives. Visit the Leland Stanford Mansion, 8th and N, (916) 324-0575, built in 1857 for the former Governor and Transcontinental railroad magnate. The California Military Museum, 1119 Second Street, Old Sacramento, (916) 442-2883, provides exhibits and artifacts connected to the state’s militia and military history. Make time for a paddlewheel boat tour of the Sacramento River aboard Channel Star Excursions “Spirit of Sacramento” or “Matthew McKinley,” L Street Landing, (916) 552-2933 or (800) 443-0263.
Optional trips include sightseeing, happy hour, dinner and dinner theater. Capital City Cruises, (916) 921-1111, uses the Elizabeth Louise, the only steamer west of the Mississippi, and River City Queen for its cruises. In keeping with the city’s railroad history, Sacramento Southern Railroad, (916) 445-7387, runs south to Hood and back with a steam-powered engine. Ask your Best Western host about the many other attractions in the city.
Day 7: Roseville / Yuba City
Take I-80 east to Roseville. Stop at Denio’s Farmers Market & Auction, 1551 Vineyard Road, (916) 782-2704, for a unique buying experience of fresh farm produce, and a continuing garage sale including new merchandise. Head north on 65 to Marysville/Yuba City. Yuba City was laid out to be a gold-rush development. Today it is an agricultural center.
Marysville, named after one of the Donner Party surviving members, was a primary trading center for the northern mines. Chinese come for the Bok-Kai Festival, centered around the Bok Kai Temple. Sutter is where grapes were introduced in 1872 to California. Besides being the Prune Capital of the World, there is a large Sikh community in the area.
The families immigrated at the turn-of-the-century from Punjab region of India. There is a Punjab Bazaar, 624 Plumas, (916) 673-4503, with everything from exotic silks to herbs. Proceed west on 20 through Williams to the Lake Country and Clearlake. This highway is part of the Tahoe-Pacific Heritage Corridor, a route used by emigrants in the 1840s extending from the mountains west of Lake Tahoe to the Mendocino Coast in less than 300 miles.
Day 8: Clear Lake / Lakeport
This Basin was home to humans dating back 10,000 years. Native Pomo clans were living well here, given the abundance of wild game and fish, when Russian fur-trappers appeared in 1811. The area is noted for bass fishing and all water sports. Lillie Langtry, the well-known British actress of the early 20th century, raised horses and wine on her ranch here. She once owned the Guenoc Winery & Vineyards, east of Middletown, (707) 987-2385. Stop in for tasting and tour.
Clear Lake State Park, near Kelseyville, (707) 279-4293 has an Indian Nature Trail that includes information on the Pomos’ use of plants for medicine. Visit the Lake County Museum in Lakeport, part of the 1871 County Courthouse. The Lake County’s Visitor Information Center in Lakeport, 875 Lakeport Blvd., (707) 263-9544 and Clearlake Chamber, (707) 994-3600, have helpful materials on the area. Visit Kendall-Jackson Winery, 700 Matthews Road, (707) 263-9333, south of Lakeport. From Clearlake, take 53 south through Anderson Marsh State Historic Park, (707) 994-0688, where 10,000 years of Native American history is interpreted and the historic buildings of Anderson Ranch, dating to 1870, are on display.
At Lower Lake, take 29 north through Kelseyville, the "Bartlett Pear Capital of The World” and home to several wineries. Continue to Lakeport and rejoin 20 at Upper Lake. Follow it to US 101, then north to Willits and Fort Bragg. Plan to take the 1885 Skunk Train, (707) 964-6371, that runs 40 miles through the scenic redwoods between Fort Bragg and Willits. In Willits, the Mendocino County Museum has an outstanding collection of Pomo and Yuki Indian baskets. Take 175 west from 29, between Kelseyville and Lakeport, to Hopland on US 101, then north to Ukiah.