Caves aren’t often thought of as romantic retreats, but California’s wine caves can be surprisingly appealing. In a growing number of the state’s wine regions, naturally cool subterranean caverns have been created to store barrels of wine as they age. Many wineries now open their caves for guided tours or special events, such as seasonal barrel tastings and elegant wine-pairing dinners (reservations required, so call ahead), and even rent them out for private parties and weddings.
Sonoma Wine Country has several wineries with caves open to the public. In the Dry Creek Valley, family-run Bella Vineyards has some 7,000 square feet of caves hidden beneath its hilly Lily Hill vineyard. While there’s plenty of room for wine barrels, the maze also includes a tasting room and elegantly decorated entertainment spaces that beg for a candlelit dinner. The wine caves at Sonoma’s Buena Vista Winery, opened in 1857, are officially designated as historical landmarks; step inside to join educational barrel tastings (reservations required). Enjoy lavish presentations pairing food and assorted wines—including signature bubbles—in the caves at Gloria Ferrer, in the town of Sonoma.
Along Napa Valley’s celebrated Silverado Trail, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, once the site of a fashionable country resort, offers reservation-only tours that visit wine caves, as well as the original 1892 stone manor house. Another one of the region’s most historic wineries, Inglenook, open since 1879 and now owned by filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, includes a visit to its Infinity wine caves as part of its reserve-ahead tours.
East of San Francisco, the Livermore Valley wine region has several wineries with wine caves, such as the impressive sandstone caverns at Wente Vineyards. And in the Temecula Valley in Southern California, about an hour’s drive north of San Diego, step inside the region’s first wine cave at Oak Mountain Winery.