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One-of-a-Kind Wineries in California

September is California Wine Month, which means it’s a great time of the year to explore wine regions throughout the state. Below are just a few of the one-of-a-kind wineries that should be on your “tasting” list, with more information available at www.discovercaliforniawines.com/californiawinemonth and www.visitcalifornia.com/feature/12-wine-country-destinations.

CENTRAL COAST

Ancient Peaks Winery
Along with wine tasting, Ancient Peaks Winery offers adventure activities on its scenic 14,000-acre Santa Margarita Ranch. Visitors can enjoy vineyard ziplining, wildlife tours and guided horseback rides, making it a great option for nature-lovers and adventure-seekers. 

Cambria Winery
Located along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail in Santa Maria Valley, Cambria is owned by Barbara Banke and her daughters, Katie Jackson and Julia Jackson. Barbara imparts her knowledge and business sense, Katie shares her passion for sustainability and the land, and Julia adds a creative spirit and dedication to empowering her community.

Claiborne & Churchill Winery
This environmentally minded winery follows strict sustainability practices in growing and creating premier wine through European winemaking techniques. However, this philosophy extends beyond the wine to other aspects of operation. For instance, 16-inch walls made of rice straw provide such impeccable insulation to the permanent structure that the wine maintains a constant cellar temperature without the need for other cooling or heating.

Galante Vineyards and Dawn’s Dream Winery
Galante Vineyards and Dawn’s Dream Winery both have a unique tie to the seaside village of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Owner Jack Galante’s great grandfather, J.F. Devendorf, is one of the founders of Carmel. In 1983, the Galante family began growing premium grapes on their Carmel property with a special focus in Cabernet Sauvignon. In 1994, Jack Galante opened Galante Vineyards. Jack’s wife Dawn is the proprietor of Dawn’s Dream Winery. The winery is dedicated to creating dreams for others by donating to both local and global nonprofits, with a focus on helping women and children. A small percentage of all credit card purchases are automatically donated to Rising International, a local nonprofit helping women to rise out of extreme poverty.

Halter Ranch Winery
The winery’s Excursion Tour was awarded “Best Vineyard Experience” by Sunset magazine. The two-hour adventure includes a tour of the historic ranch in a restored 1984 Land Rover Defender 110, with view of the estate’s pond, wildlife corridors and 281 acres of vineyards. Each stop along the way features wine tasting. The winery also offers vineyard tours on horseback.  

Herzog Winer Cellars
Visitors travelling up the Central Coast are invited to stop by Oxnard for a wine adventure at Herzog Wine Cellars, an all-kosher winery filled with a wine tasting room, self-guided tours and a 28-Zagat rated restaurant, Tierra Sur. Visitors can also stop in at three wine tasting rooms – Rancho Ventavo Cellars in Heritage Square, Magnavino Cellars and Strey Cellars – which each have their own distinctive wines and personalities. 

Sanguis Wine
With no signage, a long string to ring the doorbell and almost speak-easy feel – lies one of Santa Barbara’s hidden gems. Sanguis Winery is German-born Matthias Pippig’s brainchild and is a highly acclaimed producer of Rhône varietal wines. The winery is an audiophile’s dream with a turntable and records constantly playing. Often when a new wine is released, Pippig (formerly a professional musician) suggests pairing it with a specific album. Wines are described with music analogies and many of the induvial barrels are named after musicians.

Sunstone Vineyards & Winery
Founded in 1990 as one of the first organic vineyard estates in Santa Barbara County, this winery is considered to be one of the most visually stunning winery estates in California. Named for the vineyard’s exposed sun-dappled shale and stones, Sunstone is a destination winery featuring inviting courtyards, expansive picnic grounds, and a gorgeous stone tasting room and barrel aging caves. Perched on the hillside above the winery is the Villa at Sunstone, an 8,500-square-foot architectural masterpiece made using reclaimed materials from France, reserved for private events and guest experiences. 

CENTRAL VALLEY

Harney Lane Winery
This Lodi winery features one of the region’s most beautiful gardens, which can be enjoyed from the open tasting room. The family has been farming vineyards on Harney Lane and the surrounding areas for over five generations.

Michael David Winery
Started in Lodi over 150 years ago as a fruit and vegetable stand, and still run by the same family, this winery is known for its sustainable practices and unconventional wines, such as their popular FreakShow brand of wines. They can be sipped on the beautiful patio. They still sell gourmet produce, but now offer a fun tour, expansive grounds, on-site cafe, award-winning bakery, wine education experiences, bocce ball and more. 

Oak Farm Vineyards
Located in the growing Lodi wine region, this beautiful property boasts 100-year-old oak trees and one of the most picturesque views in town for sipping wine on the patio. On cooler days, enjoy relaxing in the beautifully appointed tasting room.

GOLD COUNTRY

Avanguardia Wines
Nevada City is known for its tradition of counter-culture experimentation – which, applied to wine, is producing spectacularly innovative blends at family owned Avanguardia Wines. The blends at this winery are crafted from two to six mostly unusual grape varieties, such as Carmine, Melon de Bourgogne, Refosco and Rkatsiteli. These wines deliver balance, lower alcohol levels and higher acidity, with minimal oak treatment.

C.G. Di Arie Vineyard & Winery
This Sierra Foothills winery boasts a unique history. Chaim Gur Arieh used to invent food – including Hidden Valley Ranch and Captain Crunch. His wife Elisheva, used to be an incredible ballerina for the Oakland Repertoire. They now make exceptional wines using a unique dual compartment submerged cap fermentation tank that Chaim invented. Their main facility in El Dorado County offers majestic views, as well as an art gallery and a beautiful veranda, while their Amador County tasting facility features a picnic garden with a Koi pond and waterfall. 

Cantiga Wineworks
Located in El Dorado County, this winery goes old-school when it comes to winemaking. They are made through gentle, minimal intervention techniques and are fermented without malolactic to preserve the natural varietal character, acidity and balance. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the winery is Gothic-inspired and sits on a stunning hilltop overlooking estate vineyards. The tasting room, hung with Medieval tapestries, brings visitors back to an earlier age. 

INLAND EMPIRE

Briar Rose Winery
This unique winery was founded by a former Disney employee and is modeled after Snow White's cottage. The olive tree out front is one of the largest and oldest olive in Temecula, if not in the entire state. 

Fazeli Winery
Owner, BJ Fazeli, built this winery to reflect pride of his rich cultural heritage. The result is a unique combination of Modern Moorish architecture and ambiance that honors ancient Persian traditions, while paying tribute to the contemporary character of California as is reflected on the back label of all his wines. The building is Modern Moorish architecture includes a grand duel staircase representing two arms welcoming its guests. The winery also has a restaurant, Baba Joon’s Kitchen, that serves Persian influenced foods. Located in Old Town Temecula, the winery is part of the De Portola Trail.

LOS ANGELES COUNTY

Saddlerock Ranch
One of the coolest (and cutest!) experiences Conejo Valley has to offer is Malibu Wine Safaris. This is a totally new way to discover the beautiful wines of the Santa Monica Mountains while mingling with exotic animals (who just happen to be retired movie stars). These cuddly celebrities – including zebras, alpacas, camels and bison – are now relaxing at Saddlerock Ranch and Vineyard, home to Malibu Family Wines, after a busy career in the spotlight. Guests are in for a fun, memorable experience as open-air safari vehicles transport them across the picturesque 1,000-acre Saddlerock Ranch and Vineyard. The tour includes scenic stops with stunning vista views while sampling some of Malibu’s best boutique wines.

San Antonio Winery
Not typically thought of as a wine city, Los Angeles’ first winery actually opened in 1893, and San Antonio Winery east of Downtown L.A. is currently the oldest winery in the city with roots dating back to 1917. Still family owned, the property offers tastings and tours as well as the on-site Maddalena Restaurant which serves fine Italian cuisine.

NORTH COAST

Pacific Star Winery
On the Mendocino Coast, Pacific Star Winery sits perched on rugged cliffs and surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean. Apart from the magnificent setting and redwood tasting room, Pacific Star holds a secret. It lies atop the Pacific Star Fault, a portion of the mighty San Andreas Fault. The ocean waves crash into the sea caves that have formed in the cliffs under the cellar and naturally filter the wine from its sediment. The salt air deposits on the barrels, which accelerates osmosis while creating a distinctive wine profile. Pack a picnic and head to Pacific Star for a winery experience like no other.

ORANGE COUNTY

Newport Beach Vineyards & Winery
Nestled in the Upper Newport Bay, a unique property surrounded by vineyards and gardens offer a private experience to guests looking for a peaceful respite. Founded in 1998, Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery is known to be one of the best kept secrets in Orange County, exclusively host special events and occasions for groups of all types.

SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA

Napa Valley

Castello di Amorosa
Located in a 13th century Tuscan-inspired castle filled with antiques, art and even a torture dungeon, this winery is a sight to behold. Napa Valley has endless options to choose from, but this winery is a must for those searching for a truly unique experience as there’s nothing else like it in California. 

Palmaz Vineyards
Here, winemaking takes place in a maze of tunnels and domes carved into rock at the base of Napa’s Mount George. The winery is built into an 18-story cavern featuring a high-tech “fermentation dome”—a stunning circular room lined with shining fermentation tanks. 

Quixote Winery
This winery was designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the Viennese painter and architect; it is the only structure that he designed and built in all of the Americas. The design is colorful, whimsical and utterly unique — evoking the work of Gaudi in Barcelona. 

Sonoma County

Buena Vista Winery and Gundlach Bundschu Winery
Sonoma Valley is home to internationally renowned, award-winning wineries and is also home to the two earliest vineyards in the state. California's first wineries, Buena Vista Winery (1857) and Gundlach Bundschu (1858) are essential stops when exploring the region. Guests at Buena Vista Winery can visit the tasting room, a California historic landmark, and learn about founder Agoston Haraszthy, known as “The Count of Buena Vista.” Visitors to Gundlach Bundschu, California’s oldest continuously family-owned winery, can make reservations for a multitude of experiences like underground cave tastings, or tours of the hillside ranch on a 6-wheeled Pinzgauer – an Austrian military vehicle. 

Francis Ford Coppola Winery
This winery is home to a collection of fascinating movie memorabilia from Francis Coppola’s film career, including several Academy Awards and Don Corleone’s desk from “The Godfather.” The estate also includes a gorgeous pool where guests can swim and spend the day relaxing, and a restaurant overlooking the vineyards. 

Three Sticks Wines 
At Three Stick Wines, visitors can enjoy sit-down tastings held in the beautiful and historic Vallejo-Casteñada Adobe in downtown Sonoma. The Adobe is the longest-occupied residence in Sonoma and one of the town's few remaining buildings from California's Mexican Period. 

SAN DIEGO COUNTY

Beach House Winery
While San Diego may be best known for craft beer, many visitors are delighted to discover that the coastal region also produces some impressive wine. Nestled in the foothills overlooking the Pacific Ocean is Oceanside’s award-winning Beach House Winery. A true Southern California gem, BHW was the first “Vigna al Mare” (Vineyard at the Sea) and winery established in this beautiful seaside community. The winery produces all wines onsite in a time-honored traditional process and offers visitors a beautiful tasting room with ocean views.

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