Discover the Difference in Destinations

Discover California’s Wine Countries


June 12, 2018
Words by Courtney Kellar
Photos courtesy of

It’s day two of our Destination: California Wine Country week and today is all about exploring your options in terms of activities and packages. Once you’ve studied the resources in yesterday’s Destination: X post, California Wine Country Weddings, you can hunker down and plan the more exciting aspects of your wine country getaway! Below, we’re breaking down California’s many wine regions by varietal and what sets that particular destination apart. With so many options, it can be tough to know where to start or where is the best fit for you, your fiancé and your wedding group. We’re also sharing a fun venue and elopement package available to Napa Valley couples.

California’s Diverse Wine Country

California Wine Country is so much more than Sonoma and Napa. While these two heavy hitters are historic spots and worthy of their prestigious reputations, they are by no means your only options. Below, you’ll find a breakdown of all the different destinations within California to satisfy your taste for wine – no matter your preferred varietal. We used as our primary source. With more than 4,000 wineries statewide, here is some guidance to help you narrow down your search for the perfect setting.

  • Sonoma – Home to roughly 40 grape varieties and over 400 wineries. Signature varietals include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Viognier.
  • Napa – Signature varietals are Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and home to over 400 wineries.
  • Paso Robles – Has well over 200 wineries and 26,000 acres of vineyards.  Known for Bordeaux and its Rhône-style vintages.
  • Santa Ynez – One of the most diverse wine regions with over 42 varietals. Stay near the coast for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir or move inland for Bordeaux varieties like Cab Franc and Merlot. The charming cities of Los Olivos and Solvang are nearby and the movie “Sideways” was filmed here.
  • Mendocino – Boasts the most acreage of certified organic vineyards in the country. This region specializes in Gewürztramine and Pinot Noir.
  • Shenandoah Valley – a.k.a. Gold Country, known for its Zinfandel
  • Lodi – Known for their sustainable wine growing programs and more than 40% of the state’s Zinfandel’s is produced here.
  • Santa Barbara – “Pinot Noir paradise”
  • Temecula – A diverse wine growing region near the desert. Varietals range from cool weather Chardonnay to warm weather Syrah and Grenache. Home to roughly 30 wineries.
  • Santa Cruz – Known for its mineral-y soil and home to more than 70 wineries. Region is best known for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • San Luis Obispo – One of the state’s premier wine growing regions dating back to the 18th century and the time of the Spanish padres. While nearly two dozen varietals are grown here, SLO is most recognized for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. In recent years, however, Rhône varietals like Syrah and Viognier are also growing in popularity.

Discover the Napa Valley Wine Train

When you imagine a wine country wedding, a train most likely doesn’t come immediately to mind. However, the Napa Valley Wine Train is a truly unique option for the area. It’s one of the few active historic passenger railroads in the U.S. – making your special day that much more meaningful. The train can host pre- and post-wedding events, as well as your ceremony, reception or elopement. The train’s event planner is an expert in finding a car and set-up that works best for your group.

Aside from hosting an intimate event for up to 36 guests in the Private Reserve Train or a slightly larger event for up to 56 people in the Vista Dome Car, you can also charter the entire train to transport up to 300 guests! Imagine transporting your guests from your ceremony site to your reception via a historic train. The train also runs from San Francisco right into the heart of downtown Napa.

For couple looking to keep their wedding truly intimate, the Napa Valley Wine Train is currently running an Elopement Package. The package is available year-round and costs $2,800. This price includes all sales tax and gratuity, along with coordination by the train’s event planner. They will assist you in customizing the ceremony. The Elopement Package includes:

  • A ceremony aboard one of the luxury lounge cars
  • An officiant
  • A professional photographer
  • Post-ceremony, the train will depart and couple is treated to a bottle of sparkling wine for the three-hour journey in the signature Vista Dome Car.
  • Guests can accompany couple for an additional fee 

To book the Napa Valley Wine Train Elopement Package, contact Rebekah Weeman at 707-251-5215 or email

If you’re looking for an activity for your destination wedding guests, the Napa Valley Wine Train also offers its Quattro Vino Tours. The train takes you on a 36 mile round trip to St. Helena and back. Each tour starts at $322 USD per person. The Quattro Vino Tours include:

  • Sparkling wine tasting
  • Four course Napa Valley-style meal curated by the train’s executive chef
  • Tastings at three of Napa Valley’s iconic wineries
  • The Legacy Tour includes tastings and tours at Robert Mondavi, Charles Krug and V. Sattui
  • The Estate Tour includes tastings and tours at Domain Chandon, Hall and Inglenook
  • The Collective Tour includes tastings and tours at Raymond, Beringer and St. Supéry
  • The Famiglia Tour includes tastings and tours at Silverado Vineyards, Whitehall Lane and Grgich Hills.

Stay tuned the rest of this week for two real-life destination weddings in which you will get firsthand advice from couples who have come before you, and fashion inspiration to get the creative juices flowing.

Photos courtesy of (in order of appearance): Napa Valley Wine Train (1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th & 10th) and Chelsea Schroeder Photography (2nd, 8th & 9th)

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