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"The discovery of a good wine is increasingly better for mankind than the discovery of a new star," said Italian renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci.
Go on your very own wine-discovery journey by taking a trip to California's wine regions, widely regarded as some of the world's best. Here, wine connoisseurs and tourists alike can delight over a myriad of vineyards, cellar doors and tasting rooms for sampling different varieties of vino.
What makes Californian wine so special?
The sunny climate allows for a lusciously long grape growing season, resulting in fruity and spicy blends. Discover California Wines notes that the magic of making wine in this region is down to the landscape - otherwise known as the 'terroir', the collective term for the conditions in which wine grapes grow.
With a coastline stretching 1,300 kilometres, the emerald green vineyards dotted along the shores face natural 'air conditioning' in the form of cool breezes and fog. Even inner-terrain is graced by lakes, deltas and rivers, so valley vineyards are just as indulgent. The result of these conditions? Crystal-clear, cool climate varieties of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Fancy a glass of Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon? Fret not, as the vines lacing their way through hillsides are sun-kissed and cooled, providing the optimum conditions for creating quality tasting wines.
Best of all, as any passionate vintner will attest to, the soils in this region are so diverse that unique hints of minerals and earthy tones add an aromatic quality to the wines. The secret is in the soil: Granite, clay, loam, sand, loam, volcanic ash, seabed soil, river-run gravel - each of these adds their own flavour to produce a taste-bud party in your mouth.
Perhaps the most famous wine region in the Sunshine State, Napa Valley is a must-visit on a wine wonderland trip. The signature blend here is the smooth, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon, so be sure to try a glass or two. Having said that, there are more than 400 wineries here, showcasing Zinfandel, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot to name a few - so you're spoiled for choice.
The Wine Institute calls Lodi a "hidden jewel in California wine country". Lodi's charm comes from farmyard vineyards, as most of the wineries are nestled on farmland with cafes serving hearty meals to boot. The quaint main street is lined with several boutique and antique shops, and of course, bistro's owned by local winemakers so you can strike up a conversation with them about their specific bottles.
If you like the feel of unique, family-grown wines, head to Amador County. Tucked into the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, this area has 35 small family wineries. As you sip the wine, you can also drink in the beautiful scenery of the mountains and go for a spot of historic sightseeing at Gold Rush-era attractions.
With over 26,000 acres of vineyards, Paso Robles has 170 wineries boasting exotic wines such as Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne and Zinfandel. The Pacific Ocean is only 30 minutes drive from this region, and if you're lucky you might even spot some elephant seals sunbathing on the sandy shores.
Not only is Sonoma County replete with vineyards, there are also golf courses and an opportunity to cruise over the jewel-like green hills in a hot air balloon. Gaze down upon the vines growing as you soak in the sun.
Santa Barbara Wine Country
Just a quick dash out from the city centre of Santa Barbara, the town of Los Olivos is the site of both red and white vineyards. If you'd like to spend some time in the sun before quenching your thirst, go for a hike along the trails in the nearby Figueroa Mountain Recreation area.
There are around 50 wineries here, including some built-in heritage historic sites, so hop from one to the other. Pack a picnic lunch to eat on the grass in between wine tastings, making the most of the revered Cali sunshine.
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