Some of the best times to be had in Napa and Sonoma are during the winter months of “low season.” Wine country travel in Northern California can be wonderful in the winter for those coming from other states, and especially so for Bay Area locals and those in the southern part of the state (“down South,” as they say here). The reasons why have a lot to do with weather, aesthetics and availability.
Weather: While much of the Mid-West and East Coast are in a deep freeze, Northern California is experiencing moderate temps. From January through March, the daytime temperatures are often pleasantly mild to absolutely warm, ranging anywhere from mid 50s to mid 70s. Evening temps drop, but not usually below 40s, making it great for drinking wine by the fireplace or fire pit. True, this is also the rainy time of year, so it can be hit or miss in that regard, but often some weather forecasting and travel pre-planning, can go a long way. It is the uncertainty with the rain that makes it an especially good time for locals or those traveling to or living in other parts of California. They have the advantage of spontaneous day or weekend getaways based on the weather and other variables.
Aesthetics: The benefit of of sporadic winter rains are lush, green hillsides and picture perfect moments. Green changes to golden and brown very quickly with the early onset of warmer temperatures and dry skies. Also worth noting is February ushers in the mustard flowers. Amidst the greenery and vines are acres and acres of lovely yellow mustard flowers. This unique photo op is not to be missed!
Availability: High season for wine country is at the end of May through much of October, with visitors flocking to wineries and booking up restaurants and hotels quickly. Ahh, winter frees up space everywhere, especially during the week and parts of the weekend. You usually won’t find packed tasting rooms and get more dedicated time with tasting room attendants, if you want. This is the time of year when hotel rooms are reduced (although often still pricey) and wineries are running case specials.
Bonus: Basking in the Florida sun is boring. Within 10 minutes to 3 hours, this is still the area that offers a range of unique travel experiences in addition to wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma. From great shops and restaurants in San Francisco, elk and sea lion watching in Pt. Reyes, hiking in Marin and skiing in Tahoe, there are plenty of winter time activities. All in all, a good time can be had, with a unique type of winter getaway.