When you’re in California, you have to go wine tasting. It’s not just because we have great wines here, it’s because there are wineries all up and down the state. No matter where you are, there will be some vines nearby. In the case of San Francisco, those vines are in the Sonoma and Napa Valleys. The closest of them are in Los Carneros.
My family has descended on San Francisco for the holidays, and we are all excited about our annual wine tasting trip. But this holiday season is different from the previous ones in that we have a baby among us. My nephew, who was born in March, is adorable and lovable, but he doesn’t have as much patience for long car rides as the rest of us do.
Our solution is to find the closest wineries to San Francisco. They happen to be in Los Carneros, an American Viticultural Area (AVA) that spans the southern parts of the Sonoma and Napa Valleys. We choose to visit the ones in Sonoma Valley, as they are slightly closer, and just 30 miles north of the city we find ourselves at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards.
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because the Jacuzzi family, which emigrated to California from the Friuli region of Italy in the early 20th century, is the same family that is known for the hot tub of the same name. Its members also invented airplane propellers and all kinds of other technologies, but today we are celebrating their achievements in the oenological realm.
Their stone wintery is big and relatively new, and during our complimentary tasting—they are one of the few wineries that still offer free wine tastings in Sonoma Valley—we work our way through a number of varietals, both Italian and otherwise. Los Carneros is known for its cool-climate Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, and sparkling wines, but I fall in love with a particularly pretty Barbera from Mendocino County. Jacuzzi’s wines are only available for purchase at the winery, so I pick up a bottle before exploring the pretty grounds and giant cellar.
Leaving Jacuzzi, we head north on Highway 121 and make our way to Anaba, one of the newer wineries in Los Carneros. But while the tasting room has only been open for six years, the farmhouse that it is located in has been around for 110 years.
We settle in at the counter and work our way through a number of Rhone varietals as well as the area’s traditional Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. My favorite is a Pinot from Gap’s Crown Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. I add a bottle to my collection and we pile back into the car for a final winery visit.
This time we want bubbles, so we head straight for Gloria Ferrer, which is famous for its sparkling wines. We sit out on the terrace overlooking the vineyard below, and while my nephew works on his walking skills, the rest of us enjoy a glass of sparkling rose. Gloria Ferrer is known for having one of the prettiest vineyards in the Sonoma Valley, and even in January—when the vines are devoid of leaves—it is a beautiful place.
Sipping champagne on a sunny afternoon in the middle of winter is the perfect end to a day of wine tasting in Los Carneros. Better yet, the drive home is so quick that even the little one can handle it. There may be vineyards all over California, but I’m glad the closest wineries to San Francisco are some of the best.