Categories: CampingGuides & hacks

The Best Way to Wine Country

We’ve all imagined what spending a weekend in California wine country is like. Beautiful? Yes. Sun-soaked? Of course. Full of delicious wine? Duh. But what is the primary thing that probably comes to mind? “I’d absolutely love to do it, but can’t because it is completely, heartbreakingly, nevermind-that’s-an-absolutely-insane-price expensive”. Thankfully, there is another way to experience the valley in a way that doesn’t involve over-priced B&Bs (you can make your own darn breakfast, right?). You, my friend, are in luck, as we are about to show you a whole new world of exploring wine country on a dime, and give you a chance to spend some quality time outside in one of the most beautiful spots in California. The key? Not being afraid of a little dirt and sleeping under the stars (which we assume you are down with, because you are here!).

When it comes to camping in wine country, there are really two superstar parks that you are going to want to focus on: Bothe-Napa in (rather obviously) Napa Valley, and Sugarloaf in Sonoma County. Both offer some absolutely stunning landscapes, and, most importantly, proximity to some of the best wine in the US. So without further ado, here’s the breakdown on what’s going on at both parks, and how to make the most out of your trip!

1) Bothe-Napa

Where: St Helena Hwy, Calistoga, California

Why: Rolling hills, a badass swimming pool, hiking through coastal redwoods and, of course, great proximity to some of the world’s best wineries. Oh, and did we mention yurts? (!)

(A few of many) Wineries within walking distance:

  • Frank’s Family Vineyards, which was named the 2012 “Winery of the Year” by the Connoisseur’s Guide to California wine.
  • The epic and grandiose Castello di Amorosa, which, in addition to scoring a 92 Robert Parker rating, features Italian architecture and, delightfully, a small farm with goats, sheep and chickens.
  • The historical, 150-acre Larkmead Vineyards, nestled in the beautiful heart of the valley.

(A few of even more) Wineries within biking distance:

  • Tristant Vineyards, which features all organically-grown wine.
  • Benessere Vineyard, a charming, family-owned winery named after the Italian word for well-being.
  • Sterling Vineyards which, in addition to being a household name and having some delicious wines, also includes a pretty spectacular gondola ride with your tasting & tour ticket.

If you wind up camping out here, you should definitely look into getting a yurt. It’s a little bit more expensive (about $75 instead of the standard $35 for a site), but come on. Staying in a wine country yurt means you have massively upped your glamping game. With this in mind, we’ve included a few yurt hacks, which are as follows:

  • Site 6 is the best yurt spot
  • There is no electricity, so bring a lantern to keep up that ambiance
  • If you are the private type, bring an extra sheet to cover the window
  • Don’t forget your bedding!

If you are a dairy fan, grab some local cheese to go with that amazing bottle you snagged earlier. That, my friends, is living. Ready to book? Come on over, we’ve got all the details worked out, all you need to do is pick the time! Oh, and be sure to bring your ‘kini and trunks, because that pool is going to look AWESOME after your long bike ride.

2) Sugarloaf

Okay okay, so maybe you’ve been-there done-that with Napa and you are looking for a new experience. Or maybe you are looking for more of a wilderness-meets-wine-country mash up, heavy on the wilderness side. If this is the case, then Sugarloaf Ridge is definitely your answer.

Where: 2605 Adobe Canyon Rd, Kenwood, CA

Why: A breathtaking waterfall, 25 miles of awesome hikes, gorges, a view of the golden gate bridge from the top of Bald Mountain, oh, and it’s just a short bike ride away from some spectacular wine.

Wineries within biking distance:

  • How about Chateau St. Jean? Gorgeous mansion? Check. Beautiful grounds? Check. 2008 winemaker of the year? Oh, hell yes! (Check).
  • Kenwood Vineyards, devoted to sustainable, “small lot” wine, three of which are organic. Small lots means tons of variety but consistent quality.
  • You’ll probably be hungry, so why not enjoy dinner along with Robert Parker-certified delicious wine at St. Francis Winery?
  • Want to try a wide variety of wines in one spot? Try the’s Wine Studio and Tasting Lounge.

Ready to roll? You know we’ve got you covered! Wine country isn’t exclusively for drinking wine, however. If you are looking for a respite from the sniffing and swirling, you should absolutely check out some of the amazing parks in the area. Jack London’s home is actually located in Sonoma County, about 10 minutes away from Sugarloaf. The frontier comes to life at Bale Grist Mill in Napa, which was once the spot settlers gathered to have their corn and wheat ground into flour. And, of course, the respective downtowns of Sonoma and Napa have all the charm, delicious food and strollable streets that you would expect.

The moral of the story here is that you can absolutely have a spectacular vacation in wine country for, literally, 25% of the cost. Because at the end of the day, staring at the stars in a sleeping bag beats a fancy ceiling (disclaimer: they are all the same) any day.

PS: Since there are approximately a bazillion wineries that are nearby if you are traveling via automobile, we excluded that from our list. We did, however, find a few of the best in Napa and Sonoma, for your perusing pleasure. It goes without saying, but please please please drink responsibly!

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