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California Dreaming… The Alternative Wine Region

Last summer I was lucky enough to go on the holiday of a lifetime with my boyfriend, best friend and her fiancé to California where we drove the iconic Highway 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles.  The trip was incredible and over the three weeks we were away we made many memories that we will cherish for years to come.  One of the most memorable parts of the trip was an overnight stay in Sonoma, an area that until we began researching the trip I had never heard of.

California Dreaming… The Alternative Wine Region

When you think of the California wine region, you instantly think of Napa Valley, we have seen it in the movies and on TV and it’s the name that instantly springs to mind.  But after research and advice from other friends that had been to California, we decided to leave Napa Valley off of our itinerary and head to lesser known Sonoma, and that was one of the best decisions we made.


Sonoma is located around a 90 minute drive North of San Francisco and is a small town surrounded by some of the most beautiful vineyards.  After a short and scenic drive we arrived in Sonoma town square to be greeted by the friendliest locals in the information centre who advised us on a suitable motel (yes we went for the classic American Motel!) and vineyards to visit.  We dumped our bags in our motel and headed to our first vineyard of the day, Benziger Family Winery.

California Dreaming… The Alternative Wine Region

Benziger is a family run winery and a welcome alternative to the more commercial wineries that are typically found in the Napa Valley region.  Our visit to the vineyard started with a tour of the vines during which we learnt about the unique biodynamic and organic farming techniques used by the family, it was eye opening to see what goes in to making that very nice bottle of white that we only typically see as the finished article.  Following this we were given a tour of the wine caves where we saw barrels and barrels of wine (I would quite like a wine cave at home!) before heading in to the tasting room to enjoy the finished article.   The wine was absolutely wonderful, and after enjoying the 4 different tastings we decided to buy a few bottles to bring home to the UK, ignoring the fact we were on day four of our holiday and had no room in our cases, it was too good an opportunity to miss!


From Benziger we headed to Imagery, the sister winery to Benziger which was just a 15 minute drive away.  As time was tight (!) we decided to head straight to the tasting room where the wonderful staff allowed us to try a selection of delicious wines along with cheese and crackers given to us by fellow visitors, the Americans really are a friendly bunch!  Here we tasted the most fabulous Viognier which we couldn’t resist, buying another two bottles to bring back to the UK with us, if you had tasted this Viognier you would understand why we couldn’t leave without it!  And to add to the appeal, Imagery commission local artists to create unique labels for each of their wines meaning you aren’t just buying a bottle of wine but a beautiful work of art as well, I promise I’m not just saying this to justify our purchases…


From Imagery we headed back in to Sonoma Square and one last tasting room to round off the day.  We finished in Hawkes tasting room where we enjoyed a tasting of another four wines sitting outside in the Californis sun, bliss. And to top the day off I finally found a Chardonnay that I liked, something I didn’t think was possible, so of course we had to come away with a bottle of that as well.


I can’t recommend a visit to Sonoma enough.  If you are heading to California and want to experience the wine region then please do try Sonoma, the people, wine, scenery and food (now food is a whole other blog post!) won’t disappoint, I promise.


Now, if only I could get Benziger and Imagery to start shipping to the UK…

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