Wine country travel always indexes big in the Sunset Annual Travel Awards, and in 2023 it was a banner year for hotels, restaurants, and tasting experiences in our favorite vinous California destinations.
Hotels and Resorts
From sprawling luxury resorts to your private manor, here’s where to book a room among the vines.
1 of 8 (Courtesy of Meadowood Napa Valley)
Meadowood Napa Valley
This iconic, exclusive resort of cottages nestled in wine country has literally risen from the ashes after the restaurant and other parts of the property were destroyed by the Glass Fire in 2020. And it’s better than ever, with Howard Backen–designed restaurant Forum (pictured above), expanded wellness and tennis programs, and revived Wine Center.
2 of 8 (Courtesy of Hotel Ynez)
This charming Santa Ynez escape is situated on two acres studded with live oak trees, gardens, and bonfire pits. With plush bedding, DIY BBQ kits delivered to your door, and vintage touches throughout, it’s the definitive spot to spend your time in wine country.
3 of 8 (The Genevieve)
Elegant and polished yet unstuffy, this Victorian-style boutique inn in Santa Ynez has an incredibly impressive whiskey library for those looking for a break from vino. The stay is first-class from the start, with Champagne at check-in, a candy station for noshing, and a gourmet restaurant with top-notch brekkie to fuel you for a day of tasting.
4 of 8 (Thomas J. Story)
Napa Valley’s latest luxe retreat improves upon the wine country resort with modern cabins surrounded by vines, multiple pools, a Scandi-meets-California-cuisine restaurant with a top-shelf bar, and an on-site vegetable garden. Add bespoke local outings and this property encapsulates all that we love about wine country.
5 of 8 (Dina Dwyer)
Imagine you had a private manor in the Napa Valley and you’re close to envisioning what Francis House in Calistoga is all about. This seven-room hotel offers luxury accommodations for travelers looking for a communal experience with daily shared meals, an on-site spa, and expansive grounds allowing for a serene, right-sized respite.
6 of 8 (Don Riddle)
Four Seasons Resort and Residences
Located on a working vineyard near Calistoga, the Four Seasons is a refined experience thanks to its suites, villas, and private residences that raise the bar on rustic luxury. And don’t forget the multiple restaurants, pools, and holistic spa treatments—this wine country retreat just gets more refined.
7 of 8 (David Tsay)
In Solvang, a town known for its throwback Danish heritage, Scandinavian modernism is alive and well at this boutique hotel. All the rooms are well appointed, but try to book a suite with a patio on the restaurant courtyard for a lovely indoor-outdoor experience.
8 of 8 (Courtesy Skyview Los Alamos)
Skyview Los Alamos
With views of the vineyards of the Santa Ynez Valley and the foodie town of Los Alamos, this revived hilltop motel offers private patios, a pool, and a restaurant featuring local produce and wines and craft cocktails. It’s the perfect balance of a groovy mid-century modern aesthetic and country charm.
Restaurants, Shops, and Tasting Rooms
These eating establishments, bakeries, wineries, and more prove that Western wine country is even more of a delicious destination than ever before.
1 of 12 (Thomas J. Story)
Bar Le Côte
With stylish design and a menu that marries the produce and seafood of the Central Coast, this is the coolest new restaurant to open in Los Olivos. The whole fish is a must-order, and the wine list always includes gems from wineries in the surrounding Santa Ynez Valley.
2 of 12 (Rob Stark)
Hitching Post 2
Fans of Sideways will recognize this famed Pinot purveyor, which serves up some of the best Santa Maria–style barbecue in the region. Grab a glass of Cork Dancer, a whole grilled artichoke, and a cut of the valley’s finest beef and enjoy the view.
3 of 12 (Courtesy of the Auberge Resorts Collection)
Inn at Mattei’s Tavern
A newcomer to Los Olivos, this upscale inn is also home to some of the Santa Ynez Valley’s most delightful dining experiences (all housed in a converted 1886 stagecoach stop): wood-fired meat and produce at the Tavern, classic cocktails at the cozy Bar, and craft coffee at Felix Feed & Coffee.
4 of 12 (Emma K. Morris)
Quail & Condor Bakery
Run by Michelin-pedigreed chefs Melissa Yanc and Sean McGaughey, this thrilling bakery serves goods made from naturally leavened dough, croissants, and unique desserts crafted from Northern California’s finest produce, dairy, and game.
5 of 12 (Emma K. Morris)
Troubadour Bread and Bistro
Just up the street from its sister bakery Quail & Condor is this one-stop culinary shop. You’ll find coffee and fresh baked bread in the morning, Francophile sandwiches for lunch, and a prix-fixe French bistro at night at this unassuming boulangerie. Don’t miss out on the perfectly done canelés, which will whisk you right back to France.
6 of 12 (Ali Beck)
Bob’s Well Bread
A hub of the Santa Ynez Valley, Bob’s bakes up the valley’s best boules each morning for its two indoor-outdoor cafés serving the area—the original in Los Alamos and a second in Ballard.
7 of 12 (Courtesy of Marin French Cheese)
Marin French Cheese Co.
The country’s oldest cheese company produces exceptional cheese but is also a community hub and destination in and of itself, with a property home to myriad farm animals, a vegetable garden, an elementary school, and a fire station.
8 of 12 (Courtesy of Atlas Imagery)
Alma Rosa Winery
Founded in 2005 by California industry pioneer Richard Sanford, the first vintner to plant Pinot Noir in the region, Alma Rosa is now known not only for its stunning Santa Rita wines but for its unique programming. This year, the winery launched two new hiking tours and tasting experiences for visitors at its historic El Jabali estate, the first certified-organic vineyard in the country.
9 of 12 (Courtesy of Heitz Cellar)
The Salon at Heitz Cellar
Located at the original St. Helena property that Joe and Alice Heitz purchased in 1961, the salon consists of a grand tasting room, a private tasting room, the Quartz Creek Garden, a veranda, and a chef’s larder designed by renowned architect Peter Fleming.
10 of 12 (Donald S. Hicks III)
To taste olive oil at this 550-acre, family-owned farm in Petaluma is to taste California food history. A pioneer in the olive oil industry, McEvoy invites visitors to experience the full range of award-winning oils while gazing out at the rolling hills of Marin County. Guests can also tour the property, including orchards and the olive oil mill, and visit the shop for wine and pantry essentials.
11 of 12 (Tubay Yabut)
Frank Family Vineyards
An old faithful in the Cabernet scene, the yellow Craftsman tasting room is one of Napa Valley’s most recognizable buildings. Adding to a storied reputation, this year they opened a new Howard Backen–designed space for tastings and food pairings, including a small-bites program by chef Christina Machamer.
12 of 12 (Trevor Gordon)
If nuanced, cold-climate Pinot Noir is your jam, this family-owned winery in the Santa Maria Valley is a must. For the quintessential bucolic-vineyard experience, pull off the 101 to their hilltop lounge, where you’ll nibble on mezze made from their on-site organic garden while tasting world-class wines.
This story was originally published on Sunset.com. You can read it here.