Sipping wine amidst scenic California

As more wineries set up shop in cities and towns around the state, California is redefining the wine tasting experience. While there’s still nothing quite like driving wine country backroads to discover varietals at the source, the concentration of vintners in cities and along urban wine trails is a convenient way to discover the diversity of Golden State wines without having to travel far afield. In many cases, you can stroll between tasting rooms without a car while you discover boutique wineries. Here’s an introduction to California’s urban wine hubs, listed south to north.

Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail

With more than 30 wineries in downtown Santa Barbara, the city’s happening Funk Zone, and in such nearby communities as Summerland and Montecito, the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail is a great introduction to the diversity of county winemaking. You’ll find everything from the acclaimed Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays of celebrated winemaker Jim Clendenden’s Au Bon Climat to Cabernet Francs and Malbecs, varietals known for thriving in hot weather, at The Valley Project.

Carmel-by-the-Sea

Along with its storybook cottages and pristine white-sand beaches, Carmel has emerged as a walkable destination for oenophiles seeking the wines of Monterey County. Many of its tasting rooms are clustered within a few blocks of one another, along or near downtown’s 7th Avenue, and all have outdoor seating; a map of them is available at the Carmel Visitor Center.

San Francisco

Even though you won’t find acres of rolling vineyards in the city, San Francisco is definitely wine country, thanks to the numerous winemakers who operate here. Taking advantage of the outstanding grapes available from the nearby Napa, Sonoma, and Russian River valleys, the city’s vintners have revived a winemaking tradition that thrived in the city before the great earthquake and fire of 1906. There are even several wineries on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, including The Winery SF, where you can taste on a waterfront deck and patio.

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