Wine Tasting Itinerary: Carneros

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carneros.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

CARNEROS, CA - The Carneros American Viticultural Area (AVA) - also referred to as Los Carneros AVA - offers a cool microclimate ideally suited to Pinot Noir and sparkling wine production and a surprisingly mellow vibe when compared to Nor Cal's wine country's more highly trafficked areas. The only AVA to straddle both Napa and Sonoma counties, Carneros is cooled by marine breezes from the nearby San Pablo Bay and counts more than three dozen wineries among its bucolic rolling hills. And since it's an easy commute from San Francisco - travelers can be tasting within an hour of leaving the foggy city - Carneros is an ideal destination for day trippers.
The Early Bird Gets the...
Leave San Francisco by 9:30AM in order to arrive at Bouchaine Vineyards (; open daily) by 10:30, when the doors open. The oldest continually operating winery in Carneros, Bouchaine produces Burgundian-style wines from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. Proprietors Gerret and Tatiana Copeland pride themselves on creating a "home spun experience" at their tasting room - which offers sweeping views of the Copelands' 100-acre estate vineyard - and will waive the $5 tasting fee if you make a purchase.

Bubble Time
From Bouchaine hop back in your car for the six-minute ride to Domaine Carneros (; open daily), an architecturally impressive remake of an 18th-century French castle owned by the winery's founder, Champagne Taittinger. Stroll through the property's extensive European-style gardens before settling in to enjoy award-winning sparkling wines on the patio overlooking the rolling hills of Carneros. Feeling hungry? Stave off hunger pains with the optional caviar and artisan cheeses plate, or get back in the car and zip over to the country chic Carneros Inn ( for lunch.

When Hunger Calls
Just a two-minute ride away, Boon Fly Café at the Carneros Inn offers "modern rustic cuisine" in a quaint red barn that blends seamlessly with the agricultural theme of the landscape. Named for a Carneros pioneer who planted some of the first vineyards in the area in the mid 1800s, Boon Fly offers a good selection of updated classics made with local ingredients wherever possible. Favorites include the beer battered sweet onion rings, smoked trout BLT and Kobe beef burger. Make sure you wrap up by 2PM in order to make your way over to your next winery destination, Schug Estate (; open daily).

Touring & Tasting
Hop back onto Sonoma Highway for the 15 minute drive west towards Schug, the namesake winery of one of Napa's most legendary winemakers, Walter Schug (during the 1970s Schug produced California's first proprietary Bordeaux-style blend, the wildly popular Joseph Phelps' Insignia). Today Schug makes award-winning Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at his eponymous Carneros winery, along with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from warmer Sonoma appellations. Calling in advance (800-966-9365 ext 202) will net you a private tour of the caves and barrel room at the impressive Germanic-style winery, and don't miss the wow-worthy 3600 view of the Carneros appellation from the spot's vista point.

For other Napa Valley Itineraries Click Here:
Napa Valley Wine Tasting Itinerary
Yountville Itinerary
Stags Leap District Itinerary
Calistoga Itinerary
Merlot Lovers Tour

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