You might associate a California wine country vacation with the summer and fall seasons, when the harvesting of grapes creates a flurry of activity. A little-known hack is to skip the crowds and visit during springtime. Besides having the bucolic landscape of rolling hills and lovely wineries basically to yourself, you’ll also be treated to seasonal perks, including mellow weather, good deals, wildflowers, baby animals, and mouthwatering meals.
Whether you’re planning to visit wine country for the first time or looking for a slower-paced experience at a favorite destination, it’s worth considering a trip to the region between March and May. In this guide, we’re laying out all the reasons to check out California wine country this spring, along with a few spots to add to your itinerary.
In general, spring temperatures in California wine country range from the 40s to 70s. March is on the cooler–but still perfectly comfortable–side of this spectrum, with lows in the 40s and highs in the 60s. Temps rise steadily throughout April and May to reach highs in the upper 70s by the end of spring. March brings some rainy and overcast days, making way for clearer skies and lots of sunshine in April and May. The region’s spring weather is ideal for vineyard walks, picnics, bike rides, and hikes. Pro tip: for scenic hiking among the redwoods just 30 minutes from the charming town of Healdsburg, visit Armstrong Redwoods State Nature Reserve.
The Golden State’s wine country is a fertile region for more than just grapes. Check out the area’s many farms and culinary gardens to marvel at bountiful produce and learn about biodynamic growing practices. Baby animals are also welcomed to the world in the spring. You can see baby goats at multiple establishments, including Redwood Hill Farm Capracopia, where you can cuddle with the adorable animals. Many farms offer agritourism experiences where you can pick fruit and vegetables, cook with the produce, and learn to take care of livestock. These down-to-earth (literally) activities provide a nice contrast to some of the more upscale elements of wine country.
When you avoid the peak seasons of summer and fall, you’ll be rewarded with the best wineries, restaurants, and campsites sans crowds. Let the relaxation sink in with leisurely, unhurried days sampling wine, savoring local flavors, playing bocce ball, and wandering among the hills. Spend the day at HALL St. Helena, a winery with outstanding artwork on display. Savvy spring visitors have also noticed that locals have more time and energy in the down season to chat and give travelers insider experiences. If you’d like to be immersed in the region’s charming lifestyle rather than feeling like one of many tourists, a spring visit might be just the thing.
The cost of everything from accommodations to activities rises in the busy season and drops in the off-season. Although van camping allows you to avoid expensive hotels anyways, these fluctuating costs can still be impactful. Save so you can extend your trip or treat yourself a little extra. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for special deals and experiences that are offered during this time to bring in more customers. For example, Kunde Family Winery in the Sonoma Valley is presenting a guided wine tasting in their aging caves until the end of March.
The region is jam-packed with events during peak season, but springtime has a few lures of its own. In early March, get active with the Napa Valley Marathon, which includes a full marathon, half marathon, and 5k run. On May 7th, the Kendall-Jackson Winery in Santa Rosa will host a Kentucky Derby Party, complete with derby races, food stands, a live band, mint juleps, and more. The end of May marks the start of wine country’s busy season, which kicks off with the popular three-day BottleRock music festival from May 27th-29th. Whether you’d rather work up a sweat running, sit back with a fresh cocktail, or dance the day away, wine country’s event calendar has you covered.
Spring is a time of renewal, and California wine country is no exception. The landscape comes alive with wildflowers dotting the hillsides and flourishing between rows of grapevines. If you visit in March, you’ll catch the end of mustard flower season, when bright yellow blossoms spectacularly blanket vineyards. Besides creating a stunning scene, the mustard flowers offer erosion protection and attract pollinating insects. Many wineries also have extensive manicured gardens where you can enjoy blooming flowers. You’ll find tulips at Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery in March, lavender at Matanzas Creek Winery in May, and roses at Cline Family Cellars throughout the season. Starting in March, the grapevines also wake up from their winter slumber with the phase of the growing cycle known in the industry as “bud break.”
Thanks to these farms, wine country produces sensational local meals. Whether you want to experience one of the seven Michelin-starred restaurants in the region or something a little more low-key, you’ll find seasonal produce bursting with flavor used in creative ways. People take wine seriously here, and what better way to make the vino shine than pairing it with equally thoughtful bites? If you’re a fan of farm-to-table cuisine, you’ll love California wine country in spring.
How To Van Camp In California Wine Country
There is no shortage of places to van camp in wine country, from RV parks and resorts to state-run campgrounds. Van travelers can also join the Harvest Hosts membership program to camp without fees at small wineries and farms. Participating hosts open their properties to self-contained RV camping in exchange for campers supporting their businesses with purchases of artisanal products. Besides the attractive price point, Harvest Host campers get to interact with interesting locals and check out smaller businesses off the beaten path.
Inspired to enjoy rolling hills, lively towns, and picturesque wineries from the comfort of a van? Set course for California wine country this spring. Searching for the van to take you there? Visit Rec Van for our wide range of luxurious and innovative adventure vans.
For more spring destinations, read “The Best Places to See Wildflowers Across the US”