Take A Wine Trip Along The California Coast

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A Wine Trip Along The California Coast Finished Up Our Year 

We started our travelling year with a 4 week trip along the California coast. It was such a great return visit that we booked a wine trip along the California coast to finish our year.

The Oceania Cruises trip on the Sirena was called the “Stars of the Vine”. There were 5 ports in California and one stop in Ensenada, Mexico. We cruised along the wine coast and had many opportunities to sample California wine in port cities. And onboard during California wine tasting sessions and lectures.

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Even though it was a short trip, it was a challenging trip to pack and prepare for. We started in winter in Toronto, enjoyed warm temperatures in southern California and then finished up with colder weather as we finished in Vancouver.

Starting In Long Beach

We escaped the winter weather in Toronto and arrived in Long Beach for a week to start our trip. It gave us a chance to get on local time. And warm up.

Long Beach was all decorated for the holiday season. We loved the bright lights and fountain shows outside the Long Beach Performing Arts Centre.

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There was much to see and do along the harbour in Long Beach. And we discovered an amazing variety of street art.

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We were happy we went to Long Beach for a short stay before our wine trip along the California coast.

Catalina Island For Dolphins And Sea Lions

On our day anchored off of Avalon on Catalina Island, we took a fast boat trip and saw the playful dolphins and sea lions. When we headed along the shore, we found a large colony of sea lions lazing on the rocks. Sea birds played along the waves.

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And then went off and searched for the dolphin pods.  Just when we almost gave up, we discovered a large pod of hundreds of dolphins. They entertained us as they swam past in groups and porpoised along the waves.

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Our visit to Catalina Island to see dolphins and sea lions was the perfect way to start our cruise along the California coast.

A Wonderful Surprise Wine Tasting In Ensenada

On our cruise along the California coast, there was one port in Mexico. We docked in the busy city of Ensenada and headed off on a jeep tour to the Guadalupe wine valley. The jeep ride was a lot of fun as our guide took us along the rain gutted roads in the country.

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We arrived at the Monte Xanic Winery situated in the beautiful Guadalupe Valley. Rosalina led us through a delicious wine tasting. And then gave us a tour of the winery production areas.

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Ensenada Wine Tasting.jpg

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It was to great discover the new wine region of Guadalupe Valley. An area we definitely want to re-visit one day.

Returning To A Familiar Ports In San Francisco

On our California visit at the beginning of the year, we stayed in Monterey and then finished our trip in San Francisco. So on this cruise along the California coast, we did not book excursions in either city.

We cruised into San Francisco while the fog hung over the Golden Gate bridge. The ship docked at Pier 27 in the main waterfront area of San Francisco.

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It was easy to walk off the ship and we found things to see and do. We were amused when we saw a group of dogs in raincoats several times as we wandered along the waterfront. They certainly stayed drier than we did!

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We were excited when we found out that fellow travel blogger Amber was around and able to join us for a day in San Francisco. We loved when we got to wander a city with a local. She came in by ferry from Napa and we strolled the waterfront for hours. She took us for amazing fresh seafood at Scoma. And then we had an Irish coffee at the iconic Buena Vista cafe.

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It was a late port day in San Francisco. While the fog still hung in the air, we got a great view as we waved goodbye.

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A Quiet Day In Monterey

In Monterey, the weather stayed grey. Fog rolled steadily down the hills. After we walked for 20,000 steps in San Francisco, we were happy to enjoy the luxury Oceania Cruises Sirena. We looked out at the familiar waterfront. And watched the sea lions play by the anchored ship.

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But we passed on taking the tender boat to shore in Monterey. Even the little big of light we got as the sun went down did not lift the fog. Some days we just needed to relax on our vacation!

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Wine And Cupcake Tasting In Santa Barbara

When we knew we were returning to Santa Barbara, we looked at excursions to book on our own. When we saw a tour called Cupcake and Wine Tasting with Santa Barbara Wine Country Tours ,we knew we needed to book this.

It was a wonderful day wine tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley. We visited two wineries – Rideau Vineyards and Brander Vineyards. After a great lunch in the vineyard, we then made a stop for olive oil tasting at Rancho Olivos.

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Santa Ynez Santa Monica Wine Tasting.jpg

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We finished up our day with cupcakes and wine in Los Olivos at Saarloos and Sons Tasting Room. A sweet way to finish for sure.

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Cupcake and wine tasting in Santa Ynez Valley was a great way to enjoy a port day in Santa Barbara on a wine trip along the California Coast.

Enjoying California Wines Cruising Along The California Coast

On our visit to Calfornia earlier in the year, we travelled to different California wine regions. We started wine tasting in the Temecula Valley. And then stayed in Napa Valley where we had the opportunity to try out an excellent selection of Napa area vineyards.

No wine trip along the California coast was complete without learning more about California wines. Gillian Ballance was the master sommelier from California onboard for our cruise. We were happy that one afternoon the ship put on a free California wine tasting session. There were 4 different stations set up for different wine regions in California. And each station had at least 4 wines to sample.

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Oceania Cruises Wine Tasting.jpg

Oceania Cruises Wine Tasting.jpg

On another afternoon, Gillian did a one hour talk on the wines of California. We learned a lot about the different wine regions. And the history of wine making in California. There was even California bubbly to enjoy during the talk.

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Oceania Cruises Wine Tasting.jpg

On a California cruise, we definitely learned more about California wines.

Time With Family For The Holidays

On our way back to Toronto, we made a slight detour for a week to stay in Vancouver. We often enjoyed Vancouver for the holidays.  And on this visit we even visited with two of our three children.

For holiday celebrations, we always looked for a turkey feast. But often we were in destinations where turkey was not readily available. So this year for our holiday celebrations, our son Nick cooked up a delicious meal. He and his friend made an awesome smoker. And we had the juiciest home smoked turkey dinner.

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Vancouver Christmas.jpg

We spent time with our daughter Erika when we moved downtown. We found the city decorated with holiday cheer as we wandered the waterfront.

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When we finally arrived home in Toronto just before Christmas Day, we were joined by our third child Kris. As a treat, we went out to the Windsor Arms Hotel for a Christmas Day Brunch. We made sure we got our fill of turkey for this holiday feast.

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We often feel a bit like Scrooge at the holiday season. But David’s funny gift for me made sure that in the future, I always had turkey when I wanted it!After our cruise along the California coast, it was great to have time with our children for the holidays.

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We Enjoyed A Wine Trip Along The California Coast

We started our visit to California in the holiday season in Long Beach. On our cruise along the California coast we explored north from Long Beach to San Francisco. A fun day stop in Catalina Island gave us playful sea lions and dolphins. On a day trip from Santa Barbara, we had a sweet experience with cupcake and wine tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley. And we got a great day wine tasting from Ensenada, Mexico too.

The cruise travelled through many of the wine regions of California. And onboard we had many other opportunities to learn more about California wines. There was always something fun to do onboard. And some days started with the most amazing sunrises and ended with sunsets at sea!

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Sunset at Sea.jpg

We headed from California north to Vancouver for the holidays to visit family. On other visits to BC we explored many of the wine regions in British Columbia. But on this final trip of the year, we did not add more wineries to our list.

Have you done a wine trip along the California coast? If you cruised, did you find fun things to do on your port days?

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About TravelAtWill 739 Articles
Travel blogger and photographer! Scuba diving, luxury cruising, chocoholic, sea and sunshine addicts, camera attached and just generally curious! Join us on our adventures!


  1. You don’t know how much I would love to experience the wine trip, and visit many places along the way. California is a dream place for wine lovers like me! Thank you for virtually bringing us there and also now I will continue dreaming of those vineyards.

  2. Wine trip, cruise, California – I like everything about it. As a fan of street art, I love that street art in Long Island. The wildlife at Catalina island is absolutely spectacular. You were indeed lucky to have spotted so many dolphins! Jeep ride on rain gutted roads looks challenging, but yummy wine is a good prize for it!

  3. I am waiting impatiently for the opening of the borders and the end of the epidemic. I want to go to the California coast and feel the taste of California wine again. You’ve had a great trip, so many exciting places. I would like to see Catalina Island For Dolphins And Sea Lions. Wine Tasting In Ensenada seems perfect for me. It’s for sure a great idea to take a jeep tour. I would also like to try wine in Santa Barbara.

  4. What a beautiful way to experience the west coast. I grew up near Long Beach and Catalina is one of my favorite spots. I would love to head up to wine country again. I hope it survives all these fires.

    • Chelsea, We love travelling along the California coast. So many great stops along the way. This was our first cruise and we were excited that the ship was focused on California wines too! Linda

  5. What a fun cruise! We lived in So Cal for many years but never heard about these at the time. Santa Barbara is one of my favorite stops. It sounds like you enjoyed quite a learning adventure in all those wine regions.

    • Nancy, It was great to head back to California for the second time that year and see it from the water. Loved the mix of stops along the way. And the chance to learn more about the wines. Linda

  6. Wow, Sea lions, Dolphins, Cruise trip, relaxed foggy days, wines, great food and Christmas sounds so-so dreamy. You sure reminded me of my cruise trip. I still have to do many more. California coast is a trip on my cards. . So many exciting things to do and discover. I am not a wine person but I love learning about it. Anxiously waiting for pandemic to be over and just do a carefree trip.

  7. Happy to know that you were able to visit the Catalina Island. We had a chance to visit last year and we loved those playful sea lions.

    We’d love the visit the wine region in Guadalupe Valley. Hopefully we get the chance when we’re traveling without the kids. Thank you for sharing your trip in the Cali.

    P.S. The Turkey Hat looks so funny.

  8. California wine has never been my favorite. For some reason i get swolen feet while drinking it. But I would definitely not have said no to a trip like this. Cruising, dolphins, wine and tasty cupcakes? Sing me up!

    What a fun adventure you had, and with the perfect ending.

    • Lourdes, What an interesting reaction to California wine. I am usually worried about headaches or heart burn! But there was lots to see and do even without wine. Linda

  9. Everything about this trip seems to be just fabulous including the view from your cruise room. Catalina Island For Dolphins And Sea Lions must have been just a wow experience. Wine Tasting In Ensenada would be one of my favorites. California coast is so beautiful and the weather too seemed so perfect for a holiday like this. Spending time with your daughter would have been so nice too. Overall looked a wonderful trip for you..

  10. I am so glad to have found this adventurous wine trip. I love Californian Coast and have driven alongside the magnificent roads. Every moment on the coast was a discovery. Your post reminded me of my trip to Catalina Island For Dolphins And Sea Lions. And I agree with you that one has to be patient to discover nature like you never gave up for Dolphins. Finishing the trip with a visit to family was an awesome idea and the pictures of BBQ Turkey make my mouth water. I am going to go on this trail when I am in California next! Thanks for enticing me.

    • Monica, We loved the chance to combine our cruise with a family trip for the holidays. We too are missing California and hope to visit when thing open back up. Linda

  11. This looks an amazing itinerary, I would love to visit the dolphin pd and the jeep tour to the Guadalupe wine valley. Do they show you the entire wine preparation process over there? I mean take you to the vineyard and giving you a walk through.

    • Ramya, In Ensenada we got a walk through the processing plant but not out into the vineyard. But many people didn’t get this tour so we were happy to learn more. Linda

  12. I absolutely love the California coast. The wine and cupcakes in Santa Barbara sound fantastic. I would love to visit Catalina Island. I keep meaning to go as I hear it’s a beautiful island.

  13. I heard about people went for a wine trip to another country, but this is the first time I heard about a wine cruise. Pretty cool! Facts about wine in California that you learned in the ship was something new to me. Thanks for sharing the picture. And of course those dogs were adorable!

  14. I did a huge PCH road trip awhile back and reading this makes me wanna revisit for all the wineries! You definitely had me at the wine and cupcake tasting. Those are two of my favorite things! I’m actually from Vancouver so that’s awesome that you had an amazing family gathering there.

  15. Catalina Island is so perfect. I suspect that I would end up delaying the entire road trip owing to the dolphins and seals. They are super adorable and you have caught them perfectly. I also, loved your capture of the dogs in the rain coats 😉 Random fact but I had to share that I loved the,. On the whole, your wine tasting journey was a perfect with all these sights and some yummy brew.

  16. I love a bit of wine tasting & this cruise sounds like it combined some really interesting wine regions. I didn’t even know Mexico produced wine & would never put wine & cupcakes together! How lovely to have met up with a fellow blogger, there is nothing like spending time with a local. Especially in a city like San Francisco where there is so much choice.

    • Sue, We loved all the stops on this shorter cruise. We too had no idea the wine would be so good in Ensenada. A great trip combining some exploration and time with friends and family. Linda

  17. Yes, the coast is beautiful. Okay, the wine is nice – the region is famous for good wine, after all. Alright, the food looks quite delicious. But what just blows me away and makes me want to hop on a plane is the picture with those dolphins. That’s just amazing! I think if I see something like this in nature, I will cry!

    • Renata, we were glad we got such a great variety of things to see and do on our trip. We were so glad the boat driver was persistent to find us that amazing dolphin view! Linda

  18. Oh yes! This is most definatly my kind of travel, the once that include a tasting – either food or drinks. The coolest one we did was a Beerspa in prague, but the best was a Gintasting in Edinburg 🙂

    • Ann, We do love to travel for food and wine. California always offers new adventures and tasty stops when we visited. We love to try drinks that are local. We will need to try gin tasting when e return to Edinburgh. Linda

  19. Gosh this ticks a lot of boxes! Wine. Sunshine. Road trip. California. Vancouver. It sounds like a heavenly combination. I can’t wait to be able to do things like this again soon. PS Love the hat!

  20. What an amazing adventure. I have longed to do a wine tour in California and you have definitely given me some ideas of places to add to my itinerary.

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