California Wine Country Vacation Rentals: All You Need to Know
When you think of California Wine Country, you probably picture the Napa Valley and Sonoma. This is the world’s most densely concentrated winery region, with over 400 wineries in just a 30-mile stretch from Napa to Calistoga alone. In Sonoma County, which includes Healdsburg, there are 425.
With so many to choose from, it can be hard to know where to begin when planning your stay. We can give you a great head start with this guide that will tell you all you need to know about wine country vacation rentals and how to create your own ultimate escape among the vines.
The Wine Stay is the perfect place to start, not only offering idyllic wine country vacation rentals, but curated vacation experiences you may not have even considered. This is a great way to make the most out of your time in California’s most popular wine region. Sommelier led wine tours? Check. A 5-star chef and sommelier that come together to create the perfect meal in your vacation rental home? Check. Private wine and food tastings with an expert? Yes, that’s an option too.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Vacation Homes For Rent
- How To Choose The Right Vacation Rental
- California Wine Country Travel Tips
- Things To Do In California Wine Country
- Local Laws & Regulations
- History of California Wine Country
California Wine Country Vacation Homes For Rent
California wine country vacation rentals offer the opportunity to enjoy the comforts of home and often more, with everything from an art and wine estate to an upscale home tucked In the vineyards. Browse a selection of beautiful properties available, you’re sure to find something unique that meets your needs while providing amenities you didn’t know you wanted.
How To Choose The Right Wine Country Vacation Rental
Creating your ultimate California wine country vacation begins with booking the perfect place to stay. Once that’s accomplished you can complete the puzzle by adding special experiences, excursions and activities, determine how you’ll get around, must-try restaurants and so on. When you stay in a vacation home, it brings the opportunity to dine in or out, enjoy more space to stretch out, greater privacy and even cost savings too.
While there are plenty of hotel options available, an increasing number of visitors to California wine country and beyond are choosing vacation home rentals as they’re truly hard to beat on many levels from comfort to costs. But choosing the right place is obviously key. Considering each one of the following factors can help you make the best decision possible when searching for a California wine country vacation rental.
Think about the amenities you absolutely have to have as well as those you’d like but aren’t a necessity. Travelers to California wine country tend to look for the following, which can help you create your own list:
Private swimming pool
Hot tub and/or jacuzzi
Outdoor BBQ grill
Cable or satellite television and streaming services
Laundry facilities like a washer and dryer
Fireplace or wood-burning stove
Outdoor living and dining spaces
Location is one of the most important considerations when booking a California wine country vacation home. Do you stay in Napa, Calistoga, Healdsburg, or somewhere else? Once you’ve chosen the place, you’ll need to think about whether you’d prefer being farther away, out in the tranquil countryside or closer to restaurants, shops and attractions downtown. If you aren’t sure, you might want to create a list of your must-experiences and then look for a vacation home that’s closest to the majority of those.
When searching through those vacation home rentals, you’ll find some of the biggest clues as to whether properties will be a good fit from the photos. Each one should have high-quality photos that allow you to see both inside and outside the home, including any views. Check for red flags like incomplete photos, scrutinizing for signs of upkeep and cleanliness too.
If you’re still unsure as to the right location, reading reviews of multiple properties throughout California wine country might help you decide – they can reveal quite a bit not only about the vacation home, but the area around it. Either way, it’s important to carefully read through as many reviews as possible, considering the entire experience of the previous guests. Bear in mind that some may not be easily pleased while others may write overly glowing reviews. Consistency is what’s most important.
Extras can enhance any vacation, including concierge services like shopping and transportation. Special experiences like a professional massage and other spa services, a private chef and/or sommelier, may be enjoyed right from the comfort of your vacation home rental. The Wine Stay not only offers vacation home rentals but can arrange for private yoga sessions, customized wine pairings, private chefs, guided hiking and biking tours and hot-air balloon rides.
Hotel or Rental Home – Which Is Right for You?
Can’t decide whether you should book a hotel room or rent a vacation home? Our blog post, “Vacation Home Rental or Hotel — Which Is Better for You?” can help you make the best decision for your needs by comparing the advantages of these types of accommodation.
California Wine Country Travel Tips
Don’t fit too much into one day. With so many wineries, it can be tempting to try and visit as many as possible, but it’s best to limit yourself to no more than four or five. That way you’ll have time to truly enjoy them, tour the facilities and get to know their wines.
Hire a driver or join a tour. Wine tasting and driving obviously isn’t the best idea. By hiring a driver or joining a tour you’ll avoid endangering yourself and others while enjoying a worry-free wine experience. The Wine Stay can arrange this for you, checking one more to-do off your list.
Understand the weather. While Napa Valley may cover just a 30-mile stretch, the weather can vary due to the effects of San Francisco Bay. On a hotter day you might want to head to the south end as it tends to be cooler.
Book early. Hotel rooms and vacation rental homes can sell out months in advance for stays in the spring, summer or fall. If you plan to go anytime other than winter, book early or you’re likely to pay a higher price, or even worse, not be able to secure accommodation at all.
As noted, the weather can vary slightly depending on the specific location. Keep in mind that temperatures may be a bit cooler in the south end of the Napa Valley and in Sonoma County.
- Highs: upper 50s
- Lows: upper 30s
- Highs: low 60s
- Lows: low 40s
- Highs: upper 60s
- Lows: low 40s
- Highs: low 70s
- Lows: low 40s
- Highs: upper 70s
- Lows: upper 50s
- Highs: upper 80s
- Lows: low 50s
- Highs: low 90s
- Lows: mid 50s
- Highs: low 90s
- Lows: mid 50s
- Highs: mid 80s
- Lows: low 50s
- Highs: upper 70s
- Lows: mid 40s
- Highs: mid 60s
- Lows: low 40s
- Highs: upper 50s
- Lows: mid 30s
While most visitors to California wine country get around using their own vehicle, there are many options for car rentals throughout the region.
Calistoga/ North End of Napa Valley
Major car rental companies are available at the Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, just a 30-minute drive from Calistoga.
In Sonoma, cars can be rented from several rental car agencies, including Dollar Rent-A-Car and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Major car rental companies are also available at the Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, 29 miles northwest of the town of Sonoma and less than 10 miles southeast of Healdsburg.
We highly recommend hiring a personal driver, which can be arranged by The Wine Stay. You’ll be picked up at your arrival airport and you can also be driven around wine country so that you can enjoy all those tastings without worrying about who will have to drive. A personal driver can also provide insider tips and other insights to enhance the experience.
Ride Sharing and Shuttles
There are ride sharing and shuttle options available throughout California wine country.
The popular ride sharing apps, Uber and Lyft, are available for getting around Calistoga, and the town also provides on-demand shuttle service. For $1 you can get around town easily and visit more than 17 wineries in Calistoga. You can reach the Vine Shuttle by phone on +1 707-251-2800.
Uber and Lyft are also available for getting around Healdsburg. The city offers a free shuttle service which runs Monday through Saturday from approximately 9am to 4pm. The exact times and routes are available on the Sonoma County Transit website. When staying at a Healdsburg vacation home, visitors can easily hop on and hop off the bus as needed. Among many others, there are stops at the Safeway Shopping Center, Healdsburg Plaza, CVS and the Alliance Medical Center.
Visitors to Napa and the entire Napa Valley can take advantage of Uber and Lyft. Public transit services are available via The Vine throughout Napa Valley.
Things To Do In California Wine Country
Restaurants & Dining
California wine country boasts a thriving food scene with countless restaurants offering everything some casual eats to fine dining. Our favorites near some of our top wine country vacation rentals include:
Solbar at Solage Calistoga
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, enjoy al fresco dining on Michelin-star cuisine.
Sunflower Café, Sonoma
This historic landmark is a local favorite for breakfast and lunch. It has a local, organic menu featuring seasonal dishes as well as a full coffee and wine list.
Baci Café & Wine Bar, Healdsburg
Frequently named the No. 1 restaurant in Healdsburg, this farm-to-table eatery is a favorite among locals and visitors. Open at 5pm, it’s best-known for its house-made pastas and fantastic wine selection.
This Culinary Institute of America restaurant has an ever-changing menu popular for lunch, Sunday brunch and dinner, with fresh, innovative dishes served in a Napa Valley-casual atmosphere.
Wine Tasting and Tours
With hundreds of wineries in the Napa Valley and Sonoma, the best way to experience a good sampling is to join a wine tour. These are a few great options for wine tours in California’s most popular wine country region.
The Wine Stay Tours
The Wine Stay’s in-house sommelier offers customized wine tours that will allow you to focus on the types of wines and wineries you prefer, with the excursion curated just for you. You can even travel in a Maserati, if your party is four or less. For larger groups, a Mercedes luxury van will bring you around the region. Either way you’ll have your own private driver to take you to tastings and in between, you can listen to the sommelier via an audio recording who provides who interesting details about the region to enrich the wine-tasting experience. Each wine tour is personally customized and includes a picnic basket lunch along with other perks.
Wine Country Journeys
These small group tours can pick you up at your location, providing exclusive door-to-door service for touring the northern Sonoma wine regions, including the Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley.
California Wine Tours
This wine tasting tour of Napa and Sonoma wineries comes with a personal driver and car. It can be customized to your tastes and schedule.
California wine country is famous for its spas, the perfect way to complement a relaxing wine getaway. Some of our favorites include:
Indian Springs Resort Spa, Calistoga
Enjoy sipping local wines alongside a mineral pool fed by onsite geysers and indulging in treatments that include famous mud baths, massage, scrubs and facials.
Elements on the Plaza, Healdsburg
The highest-rated spa in Healdsburg, this day spa offers massage, facials, manicures and pedicures, waxing and more.
Willow Stream Spa, Sonoma
This spa draws visitors from across the globe to indulge in its indoor and outdoor pools bed by natural thermal waters. There are also herbal steam, dry sauna, and cool down showers along with a variety of signature treatments.
Hot Air Balloon Rides
The Napa Valley is one of the top destinations in the world for hot-air balloon rides, providing a spectacular bird’s-eye view of the endless vineyards and rolling hills along with a mild climate. There may be nothing better to enhance your luxurious private vacation home stay than floating above it.
The Wine Stay can arrange this adventure for you, whether you choose a California wine country vacation rental in Calistoga, Healdsburg or other destinations in Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Transportation to and from the site is optional.
When you visit California wine country, you’ll also have options for all sorts of outdoor activities, with everything from hiking and biking to golfing, horseback rides, kayaking and canoeing. Book a vacation home rental with the Wine Stay and this can all be organized for you, including a variety of guided tours.
Here are a few other ideas if you’d like to arrange your own.
Napa Valley Bike Tours and Rentals
This outfitter offers guided and self-guided bike tours that include a picnic lunch along with bike rentals that include custom maps and expert local advice. There are two locations, one in Yountville and the other in Napa.
Sonoma County Bird Watching
Bird enthusiasts can enjoy a bird watchers’ paradise, including a scenic view of Hudeman Slough, a wetland enhancement area and locals’ favorite. Bring your binoculars and see if you can spot common species like snowy egret, great egret, ruddy duck, mallard and American coot among many others.
Robert Louis Stevenson State Park
This park, named for the author of Treasure Island who honeymooned here in 1880, offers a variety of hikes for all levels, including the 2-mile round-trip Table Rock Trail with vast scenic views of the valley.
Local Laws & Regulations in California Wine Country
Nothing can ruin a perfect vacation easier than running afoul of the local laws. Here are a few tips to keep you informed while enjoying your California wine country vacation rental.
Legal Drinking Age
The legal drinking age in California is 21. Guests must also be 21 years of age or older to participate in wine tastings. Some wineries are more family friendly than others and may allow underage children to enter the winery but not participate in tastings. Contact the winery or your concierge for more details.
Alcohol Sales & Consumption
The legal age to purchase alcohol in California is 21. According to California state law, alcohol may be purchased between the hours of 6:00am to 2:00am any day of the week.
Napa County regulates the acceptable amount of noise on vacation rental properties to ensure a pleasant experience for residents and guests.
- Quiet hours must be observed between 10:00pm and 7:00am.
- Outdoor amplified sound is not allowed at any time.
- Continual nuisance barking from unattended pets is prohibited.
History of California Wine Country
There have been people living in California’s Wine Country for thousands of years, dating all the way back to about 8000 BC, when several Native American tribes resided here, including the Patwin, Coast Miwok and Wappo. Vineyards were introduced to the region with the earliest European settlers. The first vines were planted by George Yount between 1838 and 1845, and within a half-century they’d come to dominate the landscape. By 1886, there were an estimated 175 wineries here, but when phylloxera ravaged the vineyards, it wasn’t until the turn-of-the-century before replanting restored the industry. When the 18th Amendment was passed in 1919, forbidding the manufacture, transportation or sale of alcoholic beverages, the industry virtually died until Prohibition was repealed in 1933 by the 21st Amendment. The Second World War slowed the industry too, but by the late ‘60s the wine economy burgeoned, eventually developing to the hundreds of wineries here today.
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