California Road Trip

Hello everyone,

I’ve looked for a similar topic but not found one…apologies if there is

We are coming back from Australia the long way round at end of Jan 2023.

Flying into LA and then back to the UK from San Francisco

Have around 5 days to do the drive between LA and SF

Looking for any tips/recommendations really….

Wineries/cellar doors…must dos, hidden gems. (Do enjoy the WS Californian classics like ABC, Once and Future, Ridge, Domaine de la Cote but also looking to branch out a bit as well as some of these…)

Any accommodation recommendations?

Must see sights/things to do on the trip

And any top tips for LA and SF from fellow wine lovers too!!!




Hi Alex.
We did something similar a few years ago; part of an 8 week trip up and down the west coast.

Because you are doing SF south I’m assuming you’re not going up to Napa ?

Also assuming you’ll be doing route 1 where possible ?

The two standout visits from that part of our journey was first, the no-brainer to Ridge in Cupertino. We needed to book ahead but the tasting flights were generous.

Then we had a couple of days in Paso Robles and have good memories of visiting Adelaida, Peachy Canyon, Halter Ranch and Grey Wolf.

(Tablas Creek and Justin were very busy and non wine-club members not welcomed very enthusiastically). I’d also look at Rotta as the oldest operator in the region for interest, not that the wines were especially memorable.

If it’s still in operation Bistro Laurent (BL restaurant) in Paso Robles is recommended, good for fish and excellent wine list, and sensible (ie not enormous) portions.

Hearst Castle is a must-see in my opinion. Amazing place.

There are so many wineries it’s hard to remember them. My favourite was Bonny Doon, nearer SF. It has changed ownership since then but is probably still producing pretty good wine.

Never been to Chronic Cellars and find their wine mostly a bit OTT, but it’s one I would visit if I’m back in that area, just to see.

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If you drive north on the coastal road you’ll pass by beautiful scenery.

And, just north of Los Angelese you reach the Santa Ynez Valley where there are many excellent wineries. This was the location for the movie Sideways. I went there shortly before the movie was released and ate in The Hitching Post restaurant, which is in the film.

I understand the valley, which was sleepy when I toured the wineries, became crowded after the movie, but it may have calmed down now as the movie was released in 2004. Lots of fine wineries I think my favourite was Firestone.

(The Fess Parker winery was in the movie but its identity was hidden. It was where Jack had his breakdown with the spittoon.) I didn’t go there but I understand it was renamed because it stood for a more unpleasant commercial winery. (Those of us of an age will remember Fess Parker was the actor who played Davy Crocket - and we can still sing the chorus of the song – 'Daveee, Daveee Crocket, King of the wild frontier…)
Santa Ynez Valley Wineries: A Tasting Guide |

Further north you’ll pass San Simeon, location of Hearst Castle, the Bixby Creek Bridge - which you’ll recognize because it’s featured in so many movies. It’s about 24 miles south of the very pretty town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. We first went there when Clint Eastwood owned the Hogs Breath Inn but he wasn’t in when we dined there. The restaurant still operates but Clint no longer owns it. Hog’s Breath Inn | Carmel Restaurant| Clint Eastwood (

Oh, you’ll have a great time…

Just north is Monterey. We stayed in a hotel on the beach recently and walked along the beach to the town.


Sonoma is better than Napa. A bit less overpriced and overhyped, more laid back.

For a bit of calm / peace before you embark on LA proper, try Point Dume (beach just north of Malibu)…. whale watching from the shore if you are lucky - and a beautiful spot.

If you’re going south, I’m afraid I can’t help with wineries (when we did this in 2014 for our honeymoon we went north from SA, did Sonoma for wine then south). But we did really enjoy Carmel (good food - particularly in Dolores St area) and Santa Barbara (again, food and wine - great Public Market).

Enjoy - I’m very jealous!

In my opinion get out of LA as quick as the speed limits and traffic allow you to. It is a god awful place whose only saving grace is the access it gives you to nicer places.


With only 5 days and the sights already recommended it’s unlikely they’ll go the opposite direction south from Las Angeles, but for anyone interested about an hour’s drive south from LA, and touching I5 is the Temecula Valley which is packed with wineries.

I last visited there in 2016 and was particularly taken with Robert Renzoni who have a Tuscan styled winery building on a low hill. They specialise in Italian varieties and their Brunello di Sangiovese was my choice to bring home.


Callaway had changed since my previous visit when it had been owned by the golfer. Now it is a boutique winery using only a fraction of the winery