Cloudless blue skies and endless days of sun and surf may be what comes to mind when you picture a Southern California stay, but this laidback region of west coast cool also boasts an impressive wine region.
Often overlooked when compared to the celebrated viticultures of Sonoma and Napa Valley, wineries in Southern California are slowly but surely being recognized for their nuance, sophistication, and complexity.
Whether you are partial to an oaky and earthy Chardonnay or favor a bold Sangiovese or Syrah, wine tasting in Southern California offers a grape variety of flavor and fun.
Read on to discover everything you need to know about the best wineries in Southern California.
Best Wine Regions in California
While winemaking in California may not have the traditional pedigree and acclaim of Old World Wine, it is privy to some pretty outstanding terroir.
A mild Mediterranean climate and centuries of practice make for some unbelievable bouquets. Also, lush grape varietals in the following areas:
- Livermore Valley (Northern California)
- Lodi (Northern California)
- Napa Valley (Northern California)
- Sonoma Valley (Northern California)
- Escondido (Southern California)
- Temecula Valley (Southern California)
- Tehachapi (Southern California)
Best Wineries in Southern California
Carter Estate Winery
Nothing sets the mood for a special occasion faster than a popped bottle of bubbly. During your visit, pour out some sparkling wine and get ready to celebrate at Carter Estate Winery.
This award-winning family-owned winery has produced both still and sparkling wines for over 25 years.
While true champagne may only come from France, the winemakers here implement the valley's only sparkling wine produced in the Méthode Champenoise.
Stroll around their 112 acres of carefully tended vines, and see the entire fermentation process in action through the glass wall that separates the tasting room from the production facility.
Savor some sips of Pinot Gris, Malbec, and Syrah as you contemplate spending the night in one of the onsite resort’s luxurious private bungalows.
Rosenthal - The Malibu Estate
Crank up that Miley Cyrus, and perhaps rent a convertible as you cruise on over to Malibu to enjoy a day of beach views and vino.
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Holding the distinction of being the only wine bar and tasting room on the Pacific Coast Highway, the Rosenthal - The Malibu Estate offers southern California wine tasting in a laid-back atmosphere.
Relish the Pacific Ocean views and searing sunsets when you stop by for a tasting flight or two.
Plan your visit for a weekend, and enjoy the accompanying live music and flavorful food truck scene while tasting their full-bodied cabernets and merlots.
Grape geeks will be thrilled to learn that in order for a bottle to be bestowed the Rosenthal moniker, it must be grown within its very own unique microclimate: 1,450 feet above sea level on the steep slopes of the Newton Canyon AVA.
The Temecula Valley is sizzling with southern California wine potential, and the lush rolling hills of the Ramona region are no exception.
Integrity is at the heart of every Milagro bottle, and they are proud to only produce 100% estate-grown grapes on their 110-acre vineyard.
Their chief winemaker here was actually trained in Bordeaux and is highly sought after for his expertise and commitment to working in harmony with the land.
Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from San Diego, their sprawling property features a fully functioning winery, organic farm and orchard, and tasting room.
Try their delectable rose or Ballena Rojo, and pack your own picnic to enjoy on-site.
Maurice Car'rie Vineyard
Intense, bold, and voluptuous are just a few words used to describe the extraordinary grapes grown at Maurice Car'rie Vineyard.
A staple of the Temecula Valley wine region, Ultimate Vineyards has produced award-winning wines for over 50 years.
Opting for a thoroughly organic approach, Ultimate’s utmost concern is to contribute to a healthy, flourishing vineyard ecosystem. As a result, they never use any pesticides, herbicides or fungicides on their soil.
Their verdant estate contains more than 70 acres of vines, and guests can soak in the rural country views as they sip their renowned Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer wines from the porch of their charming Victorian Style farmhouse.
Pro Tip: Feeling peckish? You must try their world-famous baked brie and sourdough bread.
History, zesty Zinfandels, and a relaxing country atmosphere come together to make this Cucamonga vineyard a must-stop on any wine-tasting Southern California tour.
Galleano Winery is the oldest Prohibition-era winery in the Cucamonga Valley, still owned by the Galleano family at its original location.
History inclined vino fiends will love the fact that Galleano is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, as well as their award-winning Zinfandel Port and 90th-anniversary cream sherry.
Pay a visit to their rustic country-style tasting room. Also, sample a plethora of premium:
- Rhone Varietals
- Dessert wines
Meanwhile, learn about the vineyard's monumental contribution to Southern California winemaking.
Robert Renzoni Vineyards
A romantic Tuscany trip may not be in the cards. However, you can whisk yourself away for a day of Italian reds (and medal-earning roses) during your visit to Robert Renzoni Vineyards in Temecula.
Crushing the grape game since 1886, Robert Renzoni Vineyards has a long-standing legacy of family, heritage, and tradition. It was back in the old country that Robert’s great grandfather, Federico worked in a small vineyard on the shores of the Adriatic Sea.
While you might not witness the azure crashing waves of the Adriatic in Temecula, the Tuscan villa-style tasting room and picture-perfect views of the Valley will have you swear you're in Italy.
Let the rich tannins of the Barbera, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah explode on your palate. Meanwhile, compliment your tasting with a brick oven pizza or Bruschetta al Prosciutto from their on-site Trattoria.
Charlie & Echo
Calling all city slickers! Not every California wine tour has to include a country commute.
During your wine tour, settle in for an afternoon of tasting flights right in San Diego when you visit the decidedly urban Charlie & Echo.
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Low intervention, natural wines made from locally sourced grapes are what's on tap here. Also, you can sample their craft sparkling wines guilt-free as they are a member of 1% for the planet.
As a climate-positive winery, Charlie and Echo offset the complete carbon footprint of every vintage. Meanwhile, they donate 1% of all sales back to environmental non-profits.
Wine Tasting Southern California
Temecula Wine & Vine Tour
Ready to put your vino culture knowledge and a discerning palate to work? Prepare yourself for barrels of Bacchus fun and some superior blends during your Temecula Wine & Vine Tour.
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This six-hour guided tour is the perfect primer for exploring the Temecula Valley wine region. In addition, it includes four different vineyard visits, tasting flights, and snacks.
Learn all about the terroir of this gem of Riverside County during your tour. Meanwhile, munch on your complimentary charcuterie plate. During the tour, you'll be offered varietals ranging from peppery and earthy to berry and sweet.
During your tour, cruise around the countryside in your chauffeured vehicle. In addition, soak in the picturesque Mediterranean style scenery as you make stops at:
- Downtown Temecula
- Robert Renzoni Vineyards
- Danza Del Sol Winery
- Sangio's Deli - Lunch Stop
- Callaway Vineyard & Winery
Wine may be ‘bottled poetry.' However, just like written words of passion and love, it takes special knowledge and vocabulary to understand.
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However, embarking on your very own wine journey doesn't have to be difficult or even require leaving the country.
California is the fourth-largest producer of wine globally, and Southern California, in particular, is just bursting with world-class vineyards.
Whether you are looking to soak in ocean views and Merlot in Malibu or discover different methods of Champenoise production in Temecula, wineries in SoCal bring body, balance, and creativity to the vino scene.
What Wineries in Southern California Did We Miss?
What are some of the best wineries in southern California that we overlooked? Share with us in the comments below!