Los Carneros -- “the rams” -- stretches across the southernmost band of Napa and Sonoma Wine Country. This windswept AVA includes some of Napa’s coolest microclimates -- thanks to its proximity to San Pablo Bay -- but it’s moderate for Sonoma, whose coolest stretches are further north and more coastal. On both sides of the county line, the stars here are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and historically the region has been an important source for sparkling wine. Generally speaking, Carneros Pinot Noir tends to be a little spicier and earthier than, say, the more fruit-forward expressions from the Russian River Valley.
Being so far south, Carneros is the quickest drive from San Francisco of anywhere in Napa or Sonoma, and its expansive, rolling vineyards make it one of the prettiest places to drive around. Don’t miss the chance to stop for lunch at the Fremont Diner. The Boon Fly Cafe, at the swanky Carneros Resort, also does a mean brunch. (Order the doughnuts.) – Esther Mobley