California’s Wine Country
is the perfect destination for hanging out with friends or enjoying a reunion weekend. There are world class spas, award winning restaurants, luxurious villas, and of course…wine. There's plenty of wine.
The beautiful setting, with rolling hills cloaked in vineyards, will make the perfect backdrop for your girls weekend getaway. Whether you're looking for a relaxing retreat or planning to party into early morning hours, this region really does have it all.
For groups hoping to stay together in one setting, vacation rentals, rental homes, and AirBnB’s
offer an affordable and fun option for the whole group. There are no shortage of villas, farmhouses, and swanky apartments to choose from throughout California's famed wine country.
But before you choose your home for the weekend, it's best to understand the region. Many people get confused by what Napa and Sonoma actually mean geographically. These names refer to both towns, counties, and valleys, and for many visitors the labeling can get confusing. Napa and Sonoma are also relatively far apart, and the trip between the two can take upwards of an hour or more to make. Make sure you understand the area before you choose which place best meets your needs. Below is a brief overview of what every area in wine country has to offer and how the geography is laid out.
Napa County includes nine cities and towns, including the town of Napa. There are 450 wineries with tasting rooms sprinkled throughout the county.
Napa Valley runs through the middle of the county for about 30 miles. It's 5 miles wide at its widest point. The valley is at the heart of Napa's wine region and it's where some of the world's most sought after wines are produced. Popular wine varieties coming out of Napa Valley include Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, but there are also Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Sauvignon Blanc produced there as well.
If you're looking for pampering and high end living during your girls weekend, then Napa Valley is likely your style. It has an upscale vibe with world class wineries, five star restaurants, and internationally recognized wine brands. The landscape is dotted with vineyards, and the castle like wineries of the area provide a sense of awe. Many of the wineries have tasting fees that are a bit more expensive than those in Sonoma Valley, but if you're a group looking for a high end experience, then Napa won't disappoint.
There are two main routes through Napa Valley. Highway 29
is a beautiful two lane road that wanders from north to south through the valley, passing through many of the region's most popular towns. This is a popular route that can get quite crowded during the busy times. Alternatively, the Silverado Trail
, often referred to as simply The Trail
is east of Highway 29 and passes by several popular wineries. There are several smaller roads that connect the Trail to Highway 29.
Along Highway 29 you'll find the towns of Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga.
The City of Napa
Although it was once overlooked by visitors to wine country, The City of Napa has really grown in popularity in recent years. The riverfront and downtown areas have come to life and these days you'll find the town filled with excellent restaurants, boutique shops, and friendly cafes. There are a number of tasting rooms worth experiencing and the Saturday farmers market offers a local flair with homegrown specialties. For groups that want to make the most of being outdoors, you can rent kayaks and head down the Napa River.
The City of Napa has a number of apartments and condos which you can see here
. For larger groups, villas can be found a bit further away from downtown. Many villas have their own pool or hot tubs, which are perfect for groups who want to lounge in the sun with a glass of wine. Vacation rentals and AirBnB’s range in price from $150 to $500 a night and options include rustic cottage homes, swanky apartments, and everything in between.
A few of our absolute favorites places to stay around the town of Napa:
For starters, we love this spectacular house overlooking the vineyards with a pool
. With 5 bedrooms, your group will have plenty of space to relax and explore the wines of the region, glass by glass.
And also, check out this terrific traditional farmhouse
right in the heart of town. Not only is it super cute, but it also has 3 bedrooms and outdoor seating.
This house is nicely appointed
and has a great outdoor patio area with a fireplace. With 3 bedrooms and an outdoor fireplace, it’s quite relaxing.
Yountville offers visitors small town charm with high end amenities. Swanky award winning restaurants abound in this quaint town, but plan ahead and make reservations. You'll also enjoy the art galleries and boutique shops around town.
For those looking to splurge, there are high end villas near Yountville, or there are more basic guesthouses, farmhouses, and townhouses. See AirBnB’s here
One of our favorite places is this amazing farmhouse right on the vinyards
. It has room for a large group, plus all of the amenities you’ll need.
St. Helena is one of the more popular towns in Napa Valley. It has a number of impressive art galleries, boutique shops, and downtown bistros that are fun gathering places for groups. For chocolate lovers, there is Woodhouse Chocolate which is not to be missed. Olivier is another popular spot for sampling olive oil.
For groups who want to avoid driving, St. Helena makes a great base. You can easily walk around town, sample wine, and enjoy delicious meals, all without the hassle of organizing your group into cars or worry about a designated driver.
St Helena has a wide range of accommodation options (AirBnB’s here
). Groups usually prefer the villas, farmhouses, and other property rentals in the area. Properties range from more simple to quite luxurious, and prices can vary accordingly. You can find options for groups starting around $500 and climbing to well over $1000 a night.
One of our favorites is this ranch house
perfectly located close to everything in town.
At the northern edge of Napa Valley, Calistoga is a laid back town that manages to avoid the large tourism crowds found elsewhere in wine country. It sits at the base of Mount Saint Helena and is famous for its many spas and hot springs. If your group is looking for a relaxing retreat, then this is the place.
Volcanic, mineral filled waters make the hot springs and spas a healing and tranquil experience. Depending on your style and budget, you'll find spas that range from casual to high end. Visitors can choose between hot soaks, saunas, massages, and the not to be missed mud baths.
For early risers, a morning hot air balloon ride
is the perfect way to see wine country. You'll see the sun rise above the horizon just in time to burn off the morning mist and then enjoy a glass of wine once you're down on solid ground.
Despite it's more authentic, less touristy vibe, Calistoga still has a number of nice places to stay. There are luxurious hotels, cottage style bungalows, and impressive farmhouses that are charming and chic. Prices range from $200 to more than $1000 a night.
We love this luxurious and spacious 4BR house
with a gorgeous pool and vineyard views. It’s hard to beat!
And check out this cute cottage
which has 3 bedrooms but space for up to 10 of your friends. It’s within walking distance to the center of town so that you can go out and have a good time without worrying about driving around.
The Silverado Trail
This two lane road wanders through Napa Valley, passing by world class wineries and picturesque landscapes. It's a popular bike route and there are plenty of places where you can rent bikes in the area. The route covers about 30 miles and is a slower paced, more relaxed version of Highway 29, which runs parallel. Favorite wineries along the trail include Joseph Phelps, ZD Wines, and Miner Family Winery.
Spanish style villas, farmhouses, and hotels dot the Silverado Trail. Prices for houses typically start around $500 a night and go up from there.
Sonoma County is much more spread out than Napa. There are over 30 cities and towns in the county along with 425 wineries with tasting rooms. The county also borders the Pacific Ocean, and the beautiful 55 mile stretch of coastline is rugged and dramatic.
Sonoma Valley is located in the southeastern part of the county. The valley has a rich history of winemaking and the most popular wine variety in the area is Zinfandel. Sonoma Valley is known for its rustic farm to table restaurants, and smaller, family owned vineyards. Because wineries in Sonoma are usually smaller, you'll find a wide diversity of wines and wineries here. It's the perfect option for a group with diverse interests and tastes. The wineries may not have the recognizable names that you find in Napa Valley, but the local experience, laid back vibe, and slightly more affordable price tag make Sonoma a great option for groups who really want to make the most of spending time together.
The City of Sonoma
The City of Sonoma, in the heart of Sonoma Valley, is a pleasant town with a beautiful main square. It's the perfect place to wander around, explore tasting rooms, and relax with a great meal and good company. If your group is interested in wine country history, then this town offers traditional architecture and historical homes. You can visit the museum at Bartholomew Memorial Park, which offers details about the area's wine making history. There are also historical tours of the city which pass by many of the town's landmarks.
Restaurants around town range from Portuguese tapas, to chic gourmet bistros. The culinary scene in Sonoma is second to none, and wherever you dine, you'll find a unique, world class menu.
Sonoma has a number of accommodation options for visitors (view AirBnB’s here
). There are farmhouses, cottages, and luxurious hotels that range in price from $100 to over $1000 a night. Prices are a bit lower than in Napa Valley, and some properties have pools or hot tubs.
If you’re looking for more space for a lot of people, then you should check out this farmhouse with a spa
that’s not far from the center of town. With 3 bedrooms and a fantastic renovated kitchen, it can sleep up to 8 people. You can spend your evenings on the huge back deck, too.
Or, check out this large, beautiful house with a pool
. It also has a modern layout with 4 bedrooms and vaulted ceilings, along with all of the amenities you could want. And it overlooks the vineyards, too.
Healdsburg offers a beautiful town square that is filled with tasting rooms, boutiques, and world class restaurants. If you're looking for a posh experience, then Healdsburg is everything you would expect. The town is famous for it's classy, upscale atmosphere, and the properties nearby won't disappoint.
For example, check out this gorgeous cottage
with 4 bedrooms and a great kitchen.
If your group wants to be pampered in style, then this town is a great option. There are award winning restaurants, or you can pick up some locally grown produce at the twice weekly farmers market in town. Grab some artisan cheese from the Oakville Grocery and you're set for a great picnic in Sonoma Valley's famed wine country.
Accommodation in Healdsburg is as luxurious and pampered as the town itself (see AirBnB’s here
). If you choose to rent a home, you'll likely be impressed with the large porches and well maintained outdoor spaces. Many properties have hot tubs or even pools. There are also villas and luxurious hotels and inns to choose from. Prices are a bit higher than elsewhere in Sonoma Valley and you can expect to pay at least $300 a night up to almost $1000 a night.
A few more of our favorites include these houses:
This large and luxurious house
with a pool near the vineyards. It has 4 bedrooms and is only minutes from the middle of town.
This amazing tree-house-like cottage
in the forest with a modern kitchen, plenty of outdoor living space, a hot tub, an area of the creek to wade in, and room for everyone. Check out the photos!
Located in what is technically the Russian River Valley, Guerneville is located in a natural setting amid the redwoods, Guerneville offers a more rustic vibe than many of the other towns in wine country and if your group is looking for an outdoor experience without the formalities found in other parts of wine country, then this is the place for you. You can take in the fresh air and listen to the flowing waters of the nearby river.
Guerneville is known for its laid back California style. It's also become a popular destination as a gay vacation resort. Accommodation options range from simple cabins to comfortable resorts, and campgrounds (see AirBnB’s here
). Nearby amenities include cafes, food stands, and bohemian style restaurants. There are also more than 50 different wineries within a 20 minute drive.
Visitors not only appreciate the laid back side of California's wine country, but also enjoy the outdoor activities like canoeing, kayaking, or swimming in the river. You can also take a stroll through the beautiful Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, which is just a couple miles away.
Many properties in Guerneville have the same rustic charm as the surrounding community. They utilize the outdoor beauty of the area and many boast a riverfront view. Prices are lower than in many parts of wine country and you can expect to pay between $130 and $400 a night.
One of the best houses in town is this large and modern home
near the central part of town. It has a large pool in the back, plus plenty of outdoor living space. With 2 bedrooms and extra space for more people, it can hold up to 6 people. The kitchen is modern, it has a washer and dryer, and a hot tub, too.