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San Rafael's Wine Country

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San Rafael Wine Country

Grape enthusiasts with a taste for hand-crafted California wines made in small, artisanal batches have undoubtedly explored both Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley in their search for the perfect glass of wine. And rightfully so. The two locations are world famous for the quality of the wines they produce. But don’t forget about San Rafael. Located just 12 miles north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, and 27 miles south of Sonoma, San Rafael is a great place to spend an afternoon discovering and sampling wines indigenous to California’s Pacific Coast.

It’s no secret that San Rafael wineries benefit from the area’s fertile farmland and moderate Mediterranean-like climate. In fact, Marin County (which consists of an allegiance of cities that includes San Rafael, Sausalito, Tiburon, and Corte Madera) has been in the wine-making business since the 19th century. Throughout the years, vintners have prospered from the bountiful orchards, vineyards and, more recently, from the commitment to organic culture. One thing is certain, outside of Northern California’s celebrated Wine Country, the vineyards of San Rafael and surrounding Marin County can’t be beat.

The Marin County Winegrowers Association has been hosting a gathering of local farmers and wineries since 2005. It is a collaborative event that promotes the diversity of homegrown wines (and food). It is an excellent opportunity for visitors to sample wines from all the local vineyards.

But don’t worry if your schedule precludes you from attending this annual gala wine tasting event. San Rafael and the surrounding area is a convenient destination for quick wine tasting trips throughout the year. Here’s just a small sample of wineries worth visiting:

Mount Tamalpais Vineyards, San Anselmo, (415) 455-9463

Point Reyes Vineyard Inn and Winery, 12700 Highway 1, Point Reyes Station, (415) 663-1011

Sean H. Thackrey & Co. Winery, 240 Overlook Drive, Bolinas, (415) 868-9543)

Corda Winery, 845 Chileno Valley Road, Petaluma, 707-781-9310

Pacheco Ranch Winery, 235 Alameda Del Prado Road, Novato, (415) 883-5583

There are about 200 acres of vineyards in Marin County (compared to 40,000 acres in northern Sonoma County). But vintners agree that the county’s unique climate has helped build a reputation for their wines around the world. Vitis vinifera, a grape vine commonly found in the Mediterranean region, was brought to San Rafael way back in the early 1800s. Once in the ground, the plant flourished in a climate of wet winters, dry summers, abundant sunshine, and diverse terrain. The result: top-shelf vino for everyone.

In many ways, San Rafael is the quintessential California city. Without question it is a beautiful place with an artistic flair. At first blush it may seem like an idyllic rural community disconnected from the clamor of San Francisco 20 miles away. Easy access to Point Reyes National Seashore and Muir Woods help underscore this commonly held perception. But along with its natural beauty, San Rafael is also an urban area filled with diversity, industry, culture, and history. On the map, it may occupy a pinpoint between San Francisco and Napa. But once you visit, the charms of San Rafael become evident. It’s an easy place to fall in love with. And the local wines make it even better.

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