California is one of America’s most popular states for travel and tourism largely due to the incredible weather, abundance of theme parks and adventuresome atmosphere. One of the many highlights of the sunshine state is that it is also America’s top wine producer (contributing 90% of all United States wines).
Closely following Spain, Italy and France, California is the 4th leading wine producer in the world and as of 2012, it has a total of 3,800 bonded wineries. Wine in California is big business for the economy but also for tourism to the state. In fact, tourism directly associated to the Sunshine state’s wine industry accounts for more than $2 billion annually and more than 21 million visitors. To provide some scope, in 2012 Disneyland accounted for nearly 16 million park guests.
Needless to say wine tourism is large in the state. One of the reasons why wine tourism is so popular is because of the atmosphere, history and elegance that surround the drink, the wineries and the vineyards. Each wine region in California is unique, providing a different experience per region as well as per vineyard. To help you discover which region to visit, we will discuss what to expect from each of the wine valley regions (Napa, Temecula, and Sonoma).
The Temecula Valley is home to over 35 wineries that sit on more than 35,000 acres of land. With gently rolling hills and methodical vineyards this valley is widely known as the 'jewel' of Riverside County and is centrally located a short hour’s drive from Palm Springs, San Diego and Orange County. Almost every vineyard in this region is family owned and display wines that are made with care to be served to locals, tourists and international visitors alike.
With majestic tasting rooms, fine wines and friendly staff, each of the Temecula vineyards provides guests with a world-class experience that is blended with the comfort of being among friends. Each winery is within close proximity of another, resulting in the ability to take several unique Temecula wine tours in a day or spend a weekend visiting what each vineyard has to offer. Many of these family owned establishments host tasting events, have top-notch restaurants and showcase local musicians through live musical concerts consistently throughout the year.
The Temecula valley was originally introduced to wine in 1820 when mission padres of the Mission San Juan Capistrano began making their own wine less than 20 miles from where the current vineyards are located. This religious beginning has lead to several of the Temecula wineries to feature Spanish mission styled architecture and showcase Spanish food pairing with their wines. For wine tasting and tours with gorgeous scenery, less crowds and a world-class Spanish influenced experience, Temecula is the California wine region to visit.
Known as the father of wine country, Napa is one of California’s most popular wine tasting destinations. Not only can visitors to Napa expect to explore upscale shopping and bistros but they also are invited to view the nearly 63,000 acres of vineyard that made the valley so famous. If a trip to European wineries is not in the stars, Napa wineries provide the next best thing with European styled tasting rooms, production buildings and more.
Napa has nearly 4.5 million visitors each year, most of which come to experience the valley’s exceptional food and wine. Napa was awarded "The World's Best Wine and Food Destination" by TripAdvisor in the 2010 Travelers' Choice Awards and is known as one of the best wine growing regions in the world as well as one of the oldest growing areas in America. With other activities such as musical concerts, horseback riding and more, Napa offers an atmosphere of sophistication, historical wine significance and fun.
If Napa is the father of Californian wines, Sonoma is the mother. This Grande Dame valley enjoys several estate gardens, sweeping vineyards and old-world sophisticated architecture. Sonoma is also home to modern wine growing trends as it is the forerunner in the organic, Biodynamic and sustainable farming movement that has so recently taken hold in the wine community.
Visitors to Sonoma wineries can expect to learn about the organic movement and how it affects wine making as well as the history of this renowned valley while tasting exquisite wines and enjoying tours of the vineyard. Unlike Temecula or Napa, Sonoma is known for producing the most wines in the nation and often creates wines of the Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot noir genres.
About the Author: Stacey Waldron is the Internet Marketing Director for Bel Vino Winery located in Temecula California. She enjoys gardening and playing with her two dogs, Banjo and Karly on hot summer days and always makes time for a good bottle of red wine shared amongst friends.
Photos, from top: Temecula Valley, Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley
Photos by CARY ORDWAY and courtesy the Temecula Convention and Visitors Bureau