Napa vs. Sonoma: Which wine region suits you best?
While exploring the bay area, you might not have time to visit both Napa and Sonoma. You might actually have to choose between them. We often get asked, “which is better?” Better is a relative term so we hope that this piece will help you decide for yourself. They are very different and have two unique styles and specialize in producing different types of wine. The most important thing when deciding is to figure out which one of the two wine regions is more your style and produces the type of wines you like the most.
Napa Valley is considered one of the most iconic and exclusive wine regions in the world.
– Visited by more than 4.5 M visitors a year
– Features nearly 500 wineries and more than 800 different wine brands
– 43,000 acres of vineyards and 16 sub-AVAs
– Most popular wines: Cabernet Sauvignon above all, Chardonnay, Merlot
– The success of the Napa wines over French wines was shown for the first time during the Judgement of Paris wine tasting in 1976. Californian wines were rated the best in each category over Bordeaux wines by French judges during a blind tasting.
– Napa is home of many big names of the wine industry such as Robert Mondavi, Beringer and Domaine Chandon, making it undoubtedly California’s premier wine region
– Last but not least, Napa is considered by many as the “Disneyland for wine lovers”: it is a magical and recreational place for wine enthusiasts, as it gives visitors the opportunity to discover impressive infrastructures and familiarize themselves with a place known for innovation
– Napa is filled with large grandiose chateau-like wineries. They are decadent in their styles and popular as a destination for wine tasting day trippers and wine collectors alike.
Sonoma is separated from Napa by the Mayacama Mountains, and attracts about 7.5 million visitors annually.
– The valley features 490 wineries, from small vintners to big producers
– 60,000 acres of vineyards and 13 sub-AVAs
– Most popular varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel
Sonoma is more spread out than Napa and covers a much larger area, with more varied landscapes and terroirs but all exquisite appellations. The area is also characterized by a laid-back country atmosphere. Sonoma delights you with its rustic and rural charm. The intimacy of the quieter environment and smaller to medium-sized family-run wineries offers a truly relaxing wine country experience. Many of Sonoma’s wineries are off the beaten path and hard to find. You won’t find crowds, nor will you find the same sort of infrastructure commonplace in Napa.
Long story short, it really depends on which atmosphere you are looking for and the type of wines you generally like to drink. Napa might suit you best if you’re a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon, creamy Chardonnay or Merlot. On the other hand, you would probably want to go to Sonoma if you prefer Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.
The best way to experience California’s wine country is to visit both wine regions!