One Distinct AVA.
Located at the crossroads of two world-renowned wine regions, the Carneros AVA is unique in that it’s part of both Napa and Sonoma Valley. Carneros wineries lie in either wine region, so it’s possible to visit BOTH Napa and Sonoma on the same trip.
With winding roads, rolling hills, and vineyards that stretch on and on into the horizon, Carneros is one of my absolute favorite regions to recommend to wine travelers. It’s stunning! It’s also a great way to experience the best of what both regions have to offer, in one easy day trip.
Carneros is the southernmost AVA in Napa. Contrary to what’s typical in the northern hemisphere, that means it’s actually the coolest AVA — temperatures warm up drastically as you move up the valley. The San Pablo Bay, located immediately to the south, provides a cooling effect, allowing Carneros wineries the ability to produce both crisp, balanced sparkling wines and rich, earthy Merlots and Pinots.
The Best Carneros Wineries to Visit
Carneros is home to 8,000 vineyard acres and more than 20 wineries. Here, you’ll find family wineries and great hospitality. Check out my list of the best Carneros wineries to include on your next visit.
One of the most lovely off-the-beaten-path Carneros wineries, the Sangiacomo family has been growing vines for decades and selling their grapes to well-known producers across the valleys. The family also crafts their own wines from just 1% of their total harvest — and they’re absolutely delicious!
Sangiacomo’s tastings are held on their patio, which overlooks acres and acres of stunning vineyards that only end where mountains begin to rise. It’s breath-taking!
Domaine Carneros is absolutely iconic. Designed after a French Chateau and known for its delicious bubbly, it’s my favorite way to start out a day of wine tasting in Carneros! Behind the winery is a powerhouse team of remarkable women and a tradition of visionary female leadership.
Sip 100% estate-grown méthode traditionelle sparkling wine while taking in the beautiful Carneros views. Looking for something beyond memorable? Their team also offers several high-end experiences that are well worth the splurge, including the Ultimate Caviar Experience. This incredible tasting includes three tastes of Domaine Carneros sparkling wines paired with three ½ ounce portions of Tsar Nicoulai Caviar, accompanied with gourmet potato chips, toast points, and crème fraîche. SO delicious!
The perfect place to take your afternoon picnic, Bouchaine Vineyards is a relaxing, beautiful destination with outstanding wines. Bouchaine is also the oldest continuously operating Carneros winery, which makes it a must-visit for wine nerds (like myself!)
Relax at their picnic tables, indoor tasting room, or one of the many fire pits that line their patio.
Hyde Vineyards was the first actual vineyard (not winery) that I knew by name, thanks to a certain bottle I discovered and fell in love with.
Larry Hyde has been growing world-class fruit since 1972 and selling to winemakers around the area. It wasn’t until recently, in 2009, that he started saving some of the best grapes for his own small-production wines. The tasting room is fairly new and incredibly cute inside, with sprawling views of vineyards all around.
Donum means ‘gift of the land’ and as such they focus on producing only single-vineyard, estate wines from their vineyards.
The Donum Estate tasting experience is beyond INCREDIBLE — be sure to book something with a tour of their sculpture gardens. Dotting the landscape around their sprawling 200-acre vineyards, modern art intertwines “art, nature, and the human hand” with a world-class collection of contemporary sculptures. Truly a one-of-a-kind place and a must-visit Carneros winery.
Looking to shake things up a little? Consider stopping at Hanson Distillery! Family owned and operated, this vodka is organic, grape-based, gluten-free, and non-GMO. The embodiment of Sonoma.
Here you can enjoy a flavored vodka flight (all flavors are 100% from real & organic ingredients, such as oranges, habanero peppers, and cucumbers!), sip a handcrafted cocktail, or enjoy some delicious wood-fired pizza.
The Best Carneros Restaurants
The Carneros region is home to more than just great wineries. Here, you’ll find delicious restaurants with farm-to-table dishes.
Boon Fly Cafe
Boon Fly Café is a local’s favorite brunch spot. This modern, yet rustic contemporary roadhost is a must-visit on your Carneros trip. Be sure to try their signature Boon Fly donuts! I also enjoyed a big chopped salad with fried chicken on top, which was absolutely delicious.
Farm at the Carneros Resort
A stylish and modern take on the Napa farmhouse, FARM is a luxurious, yet casual spot to stop to dine. The restaurant’s menu is heavily inspired by the natural abundance of Napa Valley and features locally sourced produce, including ingredients from the restaurant’s own 1,300-square-foot organic raised-bed garden. The atmosphere here is lovely and one of my favorite spots.