From quiet vineyards bounded by lush redwood forests along the Mendocino Coast, to the sun-drenched rolling hills of rugged Lake County, the North Coast has about as varied a wine country as you can get. Start near the Pacific, where summer fog and wet winters make for some of the coolest wine-growing climate in California. Organic, sustainable farming techniques are the norm in this tucked-away corner of the state; You can chat about grapes and grape-growing with local winemakers, who are often the ones pouring the wines in relaxed, unpretentious tasting rooms.
"You can chat about grapes and grape-growing with local winemakers, who are often the ones pouring the wines in relaxed, unpretentious tasting rooms."
On the county’s west side, Anderson Valley, cooled by ocean fog, produces sublime Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer, while warmer Redwood Valley showcases hearty reds, especially Zinfandel. Further inland, take in the wide vistas from country roads winding through sunny Lake County, known for impressive Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Clear Lake, the state’s largest freshwater lake wholly within the state, makes for a striking backdrop as you drive through the vineyards.
Romance finds a home in this idyllic coastal region, where ocean fog rolls in from the ocean to blanket hushed redwood forests, and whales spout offshore. Along the coast, artists set up their easels to paint scenes of crashing surf and whitewashed cottages wrapped in rose-filled gardens.
Each year, December through May, look to the sea to witness roughly 15,000 gray whales swimming south for the summer.
It’s also a place where a new generation of farmers and winemakers focus on preserving the land as well as producing amazing food and wine. Favorite escapes include the romantic hamlet of Mendocino, roughly a 3-hour drive up the coast from San Francisco, and Eureka, a former logging town 2 hours further north, and the gateway to breathtaking Redwoods National and State Parks.
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