2021’s Best California Wine Counties

Planning a Grape Escape this Memorial Day? LawnStarter has ranked the Best California Wine Counties for visiting nearby wineries or sampling some primo vino wherever you live across the U.S.

To determine the Best Wine Counties in California, LawnStarter calculated the number of vineyards, wine producers, wine tours, and award-winning wines in each county. We also looked at wine tour reviews and the number and price ranges of hotels and B&Bs around the wineries.

Check out our ranking of wine counties in the Golden State below, followed by some highlights and lowlights.

Best California Wine Counties

1. Napa County
2. Stanislaus County
3. Sonoma County
4. San Joaquin County
5. Yolo County
6. Solano County
7. San Luis Obispo County
8. Alameda County
9. Sacramento County
10. Marin County

Highlights and Lowlights: Napa Wins by a Sommelier’s Nose: Napa County is — no surprise really — No. 1 overall on our list of California’s Best Wine Counties. Napa leads in the Access category of our rankings, meaning the number of wine producers, blenders, and AVAs, but it finishes No. 2 in the Accolades category. 

Why runner-up in Accolades? Lesser-known Stanislaus County bests Napa with more total award-winning wines produced by fewer wine producers. 

For fans of the reds, whites, and pinks, Napa — and neighboring Sonoma County, which finished No. 3 overall — have so many wine producers there’s a wine for every taste and price. And there are a lot of wine-related activities, too. Visit the wineries, tour the vineyards, or stay overnight where the grapes are pressed — for vinophiles, Napa and Sonoma will put you on cloud wine.

A Time of Wine and Rosés: Counties like Stanislaus (No. 2 overall), San Joaquin (No. 4), Yolo (No. 5), and Solano (No. 6) shine as hidden gems for wine aficionados. These counties are off the beaten path compared to Napa and Sonoma, meaning their wineries are less busy and nearby accommodations are more charming. 

Being off the beaten path makes for a cozy, romantic wine getaway — a time of wine and rosés — if you live near these counties in California. Lodging is more affordable than in the big wine meccas, too.

Bigger Isn’t Better for Wine Counties: Counties home to the Golden State’s biggest cities didn’t fare well in our ranking. San Diego County (at No. 16 overall) leads the big-city counties with San Francisco and Los Angeles finishing at Nos. 22 and 28, respectively.

Why aren’t California’s more urban areas among the Best California Wine Counties? Land costs, lodging expenses, restaurants — everything costs more in bigger cities, but there’s also so much more to do in metro areas. Savoring great wines often takes a backseat to visiting theme parks, movie studios, and natural wonders like redwoods.Our full ranking and analysis can be found here: https://www.lawnstarter.com/blog/studies/best-california-wine-counties/

Yes, 2020’s wildfires ravaged California’s wine country, and COVID-19 tested winery owners, but many are bouncing back better. 

Why LawnStarter and wines? With pandemic restrictions easing, wine will soon be consumed again at theater productions on park grounds, outdoor concerts, and on a blanket under a shade tree off the beaten path.