The great thing about embarking on a wine tasting trip along the West Coast of the USA is that you can choose to start at the top or at the bottom. This guide to the ultimate wine tasting trip along the West Coast will start with wine tasting in California, but you can begin wherever you like!
If you’re looking for a summer road trip guide, then look no further as this itinerary has everything you could want from a wine tasting road trip and more! Consider getting an RV rental to save money on accommodation, or if that doesn’t suit you then find a cheap room from the amazing selection on Airbnb that line the West Coast.
The two most famous wine tasting regions in California are the Napa Valley and the Sonoma Valley. They’re both located only an hour’s drive north away from San Francisco, which means they’re easy to get to and with hundreds of wineries between them, you’ll be spoilt for choice!
If you want to choose one area to explore, then Napa Valley has much grander estates and it’s designed to handle more tourists, with bigger tasting rooms and upmarket accommodation to stay in. In contrast, Sonoma Valley is more intimate as wineries tend to be smaller and fewer tourists visit, making it a bit more peaceful in comparison.
They’re both good regions to visit whatever the season, spring is when the hills and vineyards look their best, summer brings events and good weather, autumn is harvest time and winter is cooler and quieter. Winter is the easiest time to book things as there is less demand for tasting and restaurants.
Paso Robles Wine Tasting and Activities
If you want to start your trip south of San Francisco, then head down to Paso Robles which is halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. There are over 200 wineries here and it’s a great place for adventure, with horseback riding, ziplining, and even underground tasting in caves! It’s well worth the 3-hour drive from San Francisco if you can fit it into your road trip schedule.
California Wine Tasting Tip
We all know it gets warm in California! If you are taking some wine back with you to drink later on in the evening then make sure to have an insulated tote on hand. This meori 2-Bottle Insulated Tote will keep your wine chilled so that you can enjoy it at your own pace after a busy day at the California wineries.
If you are traveling with a Beer Lover, you might also want to check out our blog post “Beer Tasting, Sacramento, CA.” on your travels!
Three of the most famous wine tasting regions in Oregon are the Willamette Valley, Columbia Gorge, and the urban wineries of the city of Portland in the north. It takes about 9 hours to drive from Napa Valley to Willamette Valley with some beautiful scenery to view on the way.
The Willamette Valley is known for producing great Pinot Noir so this is a haven for red wine lovers! The majority of Oregon’s wineries can be found here and it’s no surprise as the valley is 150 miles long. So long that you can hire a hot balloon to see it from above and admire the vineyards from an aerial perspective.
Wine tasting in Portland
The eclectic city of Portland is an hour’s drive from Willamette Valley and it goes without saying that there are some very cool urban wineries here that also provide wine tours! These wineries sell wines with fabulous-sounding names and you can easily walk between them so you can leave your vehicle at your accommodation.
To the east of Portland in the Columbia River Gorge area, which is not only beautiful, but it produces great wine too. Enjoy your wine with views of the river that acts as the divide for the states of Oregon and Washington. Some of the wineries are actually in Washington so you can start the last part of your West Coast wine tasting trip!
Oregon Wine Tasting Tip
If you want to be spontaneous and don’t want to make too much of a plan when in Oregon, then why not try putting ‘wineries near me’ or ‘wine tasting near me’ into your smartphone. This will work well to find undiscovered gems, especially in Portland where you can walk between urban wine tasting sessions. It’s also a really fun way to discover new wineries that you’ve never heard of before!
Apart from Washington’s section of the Columbia Gorge, another great wine region in this state is Woodinville in Seattle. It’s a four-hour trip to get from the Gorge to Seattle’s center.
Just like Portland, Seattle offers top wineries all offering something different and only a short distance from each other! Seattle really has something for everyone in terms of wine and it’s the perfect location to end your wine tasting road trip on a high.
Wine Tasting in Seattle
The area of Woodinville is wine country and is a great place to go for wine tasting in the city of Seattle. Whether it’s a boutique winery you’re interested in or a smaller family-owned business, you can find everything in Woodinville. Some places even offer cheese tastings or outdoor barbecues to compliment your tour or tasting experience.
If you can’t get enough of Washington’s wines, or you simply want to extend your trip, then head to Lake Chelan (4 hours from Seattle) or Yakima Valley (3 hours from Seattle) for even more wine tasting fun!
Washington Wine Tasting Tip
By this point you may have chosen quite a few wines to take home with you to enjoy with friends and family or to give as gifts. To stop them banging into each other in the trunk of your car, invest in a meori six or twelve bottle wine carrier to keep all your purchases safe and sound until you get home. If you have other treats that you’ve collected on the way then you can keep those safe with a trunk organizer with a shoulder strap to get it in and out, safely and easily.
Jennifer Sizeland is an assistant producer and writer. She has a sustainable travel and lifestyle blog called Land of Size.