California is internationally recognized for its Wine Country region in the northern Bay Area, famously home to Napa Valley and Sonoma. But the state also boasts a variety of lesser-known wine regions, many of which lay claim to must-visit vineyards that produce delicious wines and offer unique customer experiences.
Are you ready to plan a sip trip to The Golden State? You’ve come to the right place. We’ve scoured the options and narrowed down five of the best California vineyards outside of Wine Country. You’ll find each vineyard in a different wine region across the state, guaranteeing variety in both wine samplings and sceneries.
Pack your bags, grab your ID and enjoy!
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Situated in Philo – part of northern California’s Anderson Valley in coastal Mendocino, one of the state’s most scenic areas – Navarro Vineyards is a small but mighty operation making wines you’re unlikely to find in stores.
The family-owned vineyard features a free tasting room with dozens of wines. Their selection includes award-winning varieties like the 2017 Chardonnay Mendocino and 2018 Sauvignon Blanc Cuvée 128, along with non-alcoholic grape juices that add to the destination’s family-friendly appeal. Visitors can enjoy gorgeous views of the California countryside (complete with Navarro’s babydoll sheep herd) while sipping the winery’s selections. The vineyard also offers tours by appointment.
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Windwalker Vineyard and Winery
Windwalker Vineyard and Winery, one of the oldest vineyards in El Dorado County, is part of the Sierra Foothills – a region known for its Zinfandels, according to Wine Enthusiast Magazine, as well as varieties like Viogniers, Tempranillos and Barberas.
Owned by husband-and-wife team Jim and Alanna Taff, Windwalker Vineyard and Winery offers top-notch wines such as the 2016 Grand Chardonnay, produced entirely with estate-grown grapes, or the 2014 Barbera, which is especially popular during the summertime as it pairs well with grilled meats.
Looking to stay awhile? This vineyard offers a tasting room and a picnic area. It also hosts wine dinners featuring six gourmet dishes, each paired with a different Windwalker wine.
Still Waters Vineyards and Winery
Nestled in the Paso Robles wine region, – considered the wild west of the wine industry due to its wineries’ innovation, diversity and willingness to break the “rules” – Still Waters Vineyards and Winery offers an unforgettable experience with beautiful views, estate-grown wines and more.
Still Waters’ 60-acre vineyard on California’s Central Coast helps yield 14 different varieties of wine, plus olive oil made from the property’s 130-year-old olive trees. Owned by Paul Hoover, winner of the 2019 Wine Grape Grower of the Year award at the California Mid-State Fair, Still Waters is a favorite spot for entertainment, hosting happy hour events and concerts throughout the year.
Bien Nacido Vineyards
Located in the Santa Maria Valley, one of the coolest wine-growing climates in the state, Bien Nacido Vineyards produces an array of excellent wines, including California’s first cool-climate Syrah. This Santa Barbara County vineyard – named “well born” in Spanish for the passion and dedication that brothers Bob and Steve Miller put into planting it in 1973 – features nearly 900 acres of wine grapes.
Bien Nacido’s popularity in the viticulture sector is undeniable; Wine & Spirits magazine named it one of the Top 25 Vineyards in the World, and it’s been lauded by Wine Enthusiast magazine, The Wall Street Journal and many other reputable publications in recent years.
Note: To sample Bien Nacido wines, visit the Bien Nacido & Solomon Hills Estates Tasting Room in Los Olivos.
Chapin Family Vineyards
The southernmost spot on our list, Chapin Family Vineyards is part of the Temecula Valley, a wine region that celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018 and is currently home to more than 40 licensed wineries.
This boutique, family-owned vineyard, founded and operated by Southern California native Steve Chapin, specializes in Old World winemaking. Visitors can typically sample 15 different Chapin Family wines in the on-site tasting room or relax on the spacious (and dog-friendly) patio overlooking the vines, the perfect spot to sit back, sip and enjoy the scenic views.