Although the United States has a number of impressive wine regions, when we think of wine country, we normally think of northern California. Among the top vacation destinations in America, California's wine country is the chic choice for wine tours, honeymoons, anniversary celebrations, graduation trips and girlfriend getaways. But when should you go? Which time of year will provide you with the best possible experience?
Fortunately, there are few bad times of year to visit California's wine country, as each season provides unique scenery and activities.
In summer, the average daytime temperature is in the 90s, but the nights bring cooler air. Summer is the busy season for wine country tourism, and highways and wineries tend to be crowded. However, the vines are filled with grapes, which is a beautiful sight, and the region is lush. Also in the summer, wine country gardens are at their fullest blooms, and the colors are fabulous. Experts recommend viewing vineyards at sunrise or sunset for spectacular vistas.
Fall is harvest time, the most exciting time for wineries and, subsequently, for many visitors. Harvest festivals and celebrations provide lots of fun things to do (don't miss the grape-stomping competitions). The temperatures during the day drop to around 80 degrees, with cool -- sometimes even cold -- nights. The scenery is still stunning, as vines and trees exhibit a plethora of fall colors that you can see for miles.
Wine country tends to be far quieter in winter. The crowds are gone, as are the grapes. If you decide to go in December or January, be sure to call ahead, since some restaurants close for weeks at a time. By February, flora reawakens with wild mustard and wildflowers in bloom.
Springtime is the favorite of many, as the grape vines begin to bud, wildflowers bloom and many wine country gardens begin to flourish. With daytime temperatures averaging in the low 70s, the climate is superb. It's in the spring when tourist season kicks off once again.
What it comes down to in the end is preference: To see vines lush with grapes, pick the busier summer months. To avoid tourist season and still get amazing scenery, head to wine country in spring or fall.
For more great wine and travel articles, check out the links below.
- Fusion, Jennn. "The Best Time to Visit Wine Country." USA Today. (July 7, 2011) http://traveltips.usatoday.com/time-visit-wine-country-16532.html
- San Francisco Wine Country Tours. "Wine Country Information." (July 7, 2011) http://www.sanfranciscowinecountrytours.com/faq/index#55
- Welcome to California: The Land of Wine & Food. "When to Visit Wine Country." (July 5, 2011) http://www.landofwineandfood.com/featured.aspx?id=9182