Six of the best: Classic California winery road trips

Napa Valley: Silverado Trail

Only a couple of hour's drive north of San Francisco, the Napa Valley has reigned as among California's most iconic wine regions since the mid 1970s. One of the best ways to explore it is the lesser known Silverado Wine Route. Located on the eastern side of the valley, the quiet, two lane country road snakes it way around towering oak trees, quintessential vineyards, boutique art galleries and even the odd Michelin starred restaurant. Often utilised by Napa locals, this bucolic stretch is an infinitely more picturesque, less hectic alternative to the more commonly travelled State Highway 29. See

Mendocino & Sonoma: The Wine Road

Encompassing Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley and Alexander Valley, 'The Wine Road' as it's known is a spectacular route through Sonoma's wine country. Situated around 65 kilometres north of San Francisco, it twists through Redwood forest and undulating hills scattered with more than 150 vineyards. With many wineries now charging a tasting fee, it's worth considering the 'Ticket to the wine road' pass options. Ranging from one to three days, they offer discounts on wines, tastings and even accommodation on a range of self-guided visits to cellars around the region. See

Placer County: Gold Rush Country

One of the more unique routes, Placer County's wineries lie between Sacramento and the Lake Tahoe ski fields at the foothills of the Sierras. This is gold rush country, in fact the year that carpenter James Marshall discovered the first nuggets here in 1848 coincides with the planting of the first grapes. An especially warm climate during summer months means the 20 or so wineries around Interstate 80 can produce bolder varietals more typical of Spain or Italy and with such a scenic setting, it's also a great region to kick back with a picnic blanket and sample of a few of your recent cellar door acquisitions. See

Ventura County: Town and Country

You'll find tasting rooms and cellar doors in a variety of locations on this trail, from ramshackle countryside offerings to more urbane township set ups. Sample barrel tastings paired with exquisite cheeses in Camarillo or taste New American varietals at Tierra Sur. A visit to the Old Oaks Cigar Company is also a lot of fun. Customers can recline in the back room with a fine Syrah and a hand-picked choice from over 300 lines of cigars, some of which are rolled on site. There's also a good selection of wine tours that permit you to meet the winemakers first hand. See

Temecula Valley: Up and Away

Southern California's answer to wine country is a surprise to many given its location on the outskirts of the desert. But wine has been grown here since the 1960s and the number of wineries has since swelled to well over 40, with many producing bolder varietals such as cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandels thanks to the toastier climate. The still, arid air also makes this a popular hot air ballooning destination, something that's marked annually in the first weekend of June with the Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival. See

Santa Barbara: Santa Rita Hills

A more sedate option with less than 10 wineries, this beautiful area's character has been fashioned by the cooling effects of the Pacific Ocean, making it ideal to produce Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. As you wind your way among undulating hills, orchards and towns that look lifted from the set of an old Western, look out for standout wineries such as Mosby, known for its Italian varietals, Lafond for its heavy hitting Syrahs and the wonderful boutique selection at Babock Winery. If heading in from Santa Barbara, the coastal views along Highway 101 take some beating. See