California is home to one of the most well-known wine regions in the world, but Napa isn’t the only wine hot spot. The lesser-known regions of Livermore Valley and the Santa Cruz Mountains offer delicious wines away from the crowds of Napa Valley.
Next time you’re in Northern California and in the mood for wine, check out these alternatives to Napa Valley. These regions have high-quality wine but tend to be less expensive and have a low-key vibe. At many of these wineries, you’ll also be treated to quiter tasting rooms and intimate settings.
Make your way to Livermore Valley and find yourself in the middle of more than 40 wineries within 50 square miles. Located only an hour from San Francisco, it’s easy to fit in a day of wine tasting. Almost every road you go down presents an opportunity to taste wines like cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot and sauvignon blanc, among many others. You’ll experience wines with deep and concentrated flavors due to the cooling coastal effects on the hot valley soils.
Livermore Valley is host to regional events like the Harvest Wine Celebration during Labor Day weekend, and individual wineries frequently host barbecues and winemaker dinners. For a night of music and wine, don’t miss the summer concert series at Wente Vineyards.
For a fun way to enjoy the wineries, think about booking a Livermore Wine and Cycle Tour. These tours are geared at people of all fitness levels and takes you on a bicycle tour of tasting rooms before you sit down for a gourmet lunch.
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Santa Cruz Mountains
Located along the Pacific coast, the unique climate of the Santa Cruz Mountains is perfect for pinot noir and chardonnay, but wineries here also produce excellent syrah, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and zinfandel. Tasting rooms in the mountains provide sweeping views of redwood-lined hills and vineyards, while urban tasting rooms make access easy within a downtown setting.
To sip at over a dozen Santa Cruz Mountain wineries at once, take a trip to Surf City Vintners, a collective of boutique wineries in a warehouse space just outside of downtown Santa Cruz. Wander from tasting room to tasting room without ever getting in your car.
Be sure to visit the area during the Santa Cruz Mountain Wineries Passport Day which occurs four times a year and gives you the opportunity to taste wine at many wineries that are not usually open to the public. Other food and wine events, like the Half Moon Bay Food and Wine Fare, showcase local vendors and wineries.