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Wine Country is a region of Northern California in the United States, known world-wide as a premium wine-growing region since 1838. There are some 200 wineries in the area north of San Francisco, mostly located in the area's valleys, including Napa Valley in Napa County, and the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County.

Some of the region's major cities include Santa Rosa (the setting for many major films including Hitchcock thriller Shadow of a Doubt), Napa, Calistoga (famous for its hot springs), Geyserville (famous for its geysers), Bodega Bay (the setting for The Birds, another Hitchcock thriller), Healdsburg, historic Fort Ross and Ukiah.  Wine Country proper is generally thought to lie within Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties, but wine grapes grow well throughout much of northern California.

California’s worldwide reputation for wine is dominated by the Sonoma and Napa valleys, which account for the majority of the state’s wineries.  Despite this these two areas contribute only a minority of the state’s wine output.  Their reputation is built upon the quality of the produce, which wine experts consider greatly superior to the mass production of California’s Central Valley.

Both valleys are about a 2 hour drive from San Francisco and worth a visit, even if you are not a seasoned connoisseur. Overnight stays are also possible and should be considered if you are driving privately. Many of the best vineyards are located along these highways and backroads.  Any time from April to September are good for a visit, but if you want to catch the vineyards in full bloom then just before the autumn harvest is best.


Napa Valley is the more famous of the two wine valleys, but both offer refreshing exposure to views of wild flowers, rolling hills and green vineyards, and countless small rustic, family-owned vineyards and larger, commercial wineries.  Napa valley is larger, both in terms of size and number of wineries, but as a result tends to attract more visitors and be more crowded in peak season.  It has been said that this is at the root of a discernible difference in the characters of the two valleys.




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