This post is part of a series on travel close to home. You can find more posts from this series on my page Getaways Near Me (or You)
We’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area nearly all our lives. My husband was born in San Francisco proper. For us, it’s a quick hour or so drive to the lush vineyards in Sonoma or Napa County. But if you don’t live here, you may wonder, “What are the closest airports to Napa Valley Wine Country?”
To answer that question, you must break it down a few different ways.
- By Distance
- By Time
- By Type of Air Carrier (commercial or private)
In the first part of this post, it’s assumed you will rent a car at the airport for your trip to Napa Valley. I will cover each of these alternatives to help you decide why you may choose one airport over the other. In the latter part of the post, I will offer alternatives to renting a car for your Napa Valley Wine Tour.
Continue reading, and you can be sipping an enjoyable glass of your favorite wine on a Napa hillside in no time!
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The Closest Airports To Napa Valley Wine Country With Commercial Flights
These airports with commercial airline service are listed here by their driving distance to the fabulous “Caymus Vineyards” smack dab in the middle of Napa Valley. However, driving distance (aka miles) is not always the most valid measure.
Like most metropolitan areas, traffic is complicated in the SF Bay Area. In addition to that, you may need to go through cities (no freeways or highways are available) and across bridges, which will add to the time it takes to get to Napa Valley. So, let’s take a look.
Charles M. Schulz: Sonoma County Airport – 33 Miles
Named for Sonoma’s most notable citizen, The Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa is the closest commercial airport to Napa Valley. And if you are wondering about wineries in Sonoma County, you can’t get any closer than landing in the middle of the Sonoma Valley.
This is a small airport with a limited choice of airlines, just Alaska, American, or Avelo Airlines. And there is a good choice of car rental agencies, including ACE, AVIS, Budget, Enterprise Hertz, and National. But this is why it is a good choice for your wine-tasting holiday. It is easy to get in and out of Sonoma County Airport.
However, it is still an hour’s drive from the Sonoma Airport to Caymus Vineyards, as you will be driving primarily on small two-lane roads. But you will be going through some pretty scenic country. This makes Charles M. Schulz a good option for your Napa Valley Wine Country visit.
By the way, if you like Snoopy and Charlie Brown, you may want to check out the Charles M. Schulz Museum while you’re in Santa Rosa. It’s one of my favorite day trips from the Oakland SF Bay Area.
Buchannan Field Concord – 48 Miles
Buchannan Field is a tiny airport with only one commercial carrier, JetSuiteX (JSX). JetSuite is not your typical commercial carrier; look at their website here.
Because I live just 10 minutes from Buchannan Field and my daughter is just 20 minutes from Burbank, they are my Airline of choice when I fly for a visit. JSX also flies directly to Concord (Buchannan) from Orange County and Las Vegas.
JSX flies from “smaller executive terminals,” and you can usually show up as close as 20 minutes before your flight. JSX flies Embraer ERJ-135 and ERJ-145 aircraft, each having just 30 seats with no overhead bins. The seating is spacious, and JSX is welcoming to pets. BTW, you can also fly into the private terminal at Oakland International Airport on JSX. But I still recommend Buchannan Field.
The advantage of JetSuiteX at Buchannan Field is no time delay from getting off the plane to being in your car and on the highway to Napa Valley. Getting to Caymus Vineyards will take around an hour on a typical weekday. Of the closest airports to Napa Valley Wine Country, this may be my favorite.
The disadvantage of Buchannan Field is that JetSuiteX is your only choice. Also, if you plan to rent a car, your options are limited to Go Rentals, Hertz, and, a bit down the road, Enterprise.
Oakland International Airport – 67 Miles
The Oakland Airport (OAK) gets my vote for the closest airport to Napa Valley Wine Country which gives travelers many choices. There are several domestic carriers to choose from here: Alaska Airlines, Delta, Hawaiian, Spirit, Sun Country, and, of course, OAK is a central HUB for Southwest Airlines. You can check out all the flight options on Booking.com.
You can fly JSX, as I mentioned above. However, the private air terminal is not close to the public air terminal in Oakland, and getting to a rental car (except for Go Car Rentals) will be more cumbersome as no shuttle service is available.
Rental cars are readily available from all the major companies. Still, like at most airports, you must take a shuttle from the airport to the rental car agency. From De-planing to picking up your car and finally being on the road to Napa Valley, it will most likely take about an hour.
Google shows the travel time from OAK to Caymus to be around 1 hour 24 minutes. Having driven that route many times myself, this is a very close estimate. The first half of the drive on Interstate 80 runs along the east side of San Francisco Bay. Once you cross over the Carquinez Bridge and get past Vallejo, you will finally come to the Napa Valley’s southern end and be on your way to the Wine Country in no time.
San Francisco International Airport –75 Miles
The San Francisco Airport (SFO) is the gateway to the Bay Area and Napa Valley Wine Country. This is the largest airport in the San Francisco Bay Area, with access from destinations throughout the United States and internationally. For this reason alone, SFO will provide you with the most flight options and flexibility.
Again, car rentals are easily obtained. A few years back, the Airport Authority built a Car Rental Center just north of the airport connected to all terminals using the AirTrain. This service is free for the traveler. So that is convenient.
But again, it will take around 30 minutes to get from your gate to your car rental agency (assuming you did not check your luggage). And then probably another 30 minutes to get your car.
Google’s average drive time, depending on the route, is 1 hour 36 minutes. But as I spend most of my time driving around the San Francisco Bay Area, I can tell you that is very optimistic! You should plan for at least 2 hours.
SFO is south of the City of San Francisco, and to get north of San Francisco, you have to go through downtown San Francisco. You will either go north across the Golden Gate Bridge or east across the Oakland Bay Bridge. Both routes take enormous patience to manage the traffic.
This is the most congested part of the roadway system in the Bay Area. For this reason alone, if you can choose either OAK or SFO, I recommend you choose OAK.
Sacramento International Airport – 79 Miles
The Sacramento Airport may seem an outlier when considering the closest airports to Napa Valley Wine Country. But give me a minute to explain why you may make this choice.
You have a variety of domestic airlines that fly to Sacrament to choose from. American, Delta, United Airlines, Alaska, Frontier, Hawaiian, Horizon, JetBlue, Spirit and Southwest. Nearly double that of the carriers that fly into Oakland. And in terms of driving distance, you are only 4 miles further from the chosen destination of Caymus Vineyards than SFO.
You can choose to drive over some backroads along CA 128 and scoot into the back door of the Napa Valley with a low chance of any heavy traffic. However, I should say that this road is mainly a 2 lane highway with lots of curves. If you prefer a major freeway, you can take I-80 east to Highway 12 and then up to the Valley via CA 29.
Either route will take about 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach Caymus Vineyard from Sacramento International after you are in your car. So, timewise, you are closer than if you flew into San Francisco.
Why San Jose International Airport Isn’t On This List – 100 Miles
San Jose’s Airport is becoming increasingly popular. With its location in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose can be a good choice for many travelers coming to the area.
However, if your reason for coming to Northern California is to visit Napa or Sonoma’s Wine Country, this airport is just too far. San Jose Airport is 100 miles away and your drive will take you through the most congested traffic in the Bay Area. It could take you between 3 to 4 hours to finally reach the chosen Caymus Vineyards.
The Closest Airports To Napa Valley Wine Country – General Aviation Airports
General Aviation Airports are public-use airports without scheduled regular flight services. Private pilots who own or operate private aircraft use these airports. Think Cessna, Piper, or Beechcraft prop engine planes. There are also small jet-type aircraft often used by charter airline companies that fly into general aviation airports.
You already have access to this information if you are a licensed private pilot. However, If you want to charter a flight to get as close as possible to Napa Valley Wine Country, here are the airports and some charter airlines you should look into.
Napa County Airport: The Closest Airport to Napa Valley – 23 Miles
Coming in at just 23 miles from our choice vineyard, this Napa Valley airport is the nearest airport to the Napa Valley wineries. From here, it is almost a straight shot north to the heart of the Valley.
You can charter flights with companies such as EVO Jets, Paramount Business Jets, and many others. The downside of general aviation airports is that you must arrange your flight and ground transportation. There are no car rental companies at these airports, so you must arrange for a hired car or have good friends willing to pick you up and ferry you around.
In addition to Napa County Airport, there are general aviation airports in Sonoma Valley (27 miles) and Marin County (Gnoss Field – 44 miles).
How To Get From An Airport To Napa Valley If You Don’t Rent A Car
Maybe you don’t want to rent a car or perhaps even don’t drive, but there are still good ways to get from the closest airports to the Napa Valley Wine Country.
Private Transfer – Hire A Limo!
If you are a “money-is-no-problem” person or want to splurge, hiring a car and driver is the way to go. The obvious advantage here is that you don’t have to drive. You choose where to go and when. Best of all, everyone in your group can enjoy wine tasting worry-free.
Group Tours Are A Good Idea For A One Day Visit To The Wine Country
Companies like Get Your Guide can arrange a day of wine tasting and fine dining throughout the Napa and Sonoma Valleys.
Uber Or Lyft
Uber or Lyft can get you from an airport to Napa Valley. But the downside here is two-fold.
1) Getting a rideshare at the airport may take some time as many drivers are not interested in driving that far. Rideshare drivers like to stay in metropolitan areas and make the most money doing short drives. Once they are out in Napa, they may not find a fare to get them back to the Bay Area. This means they lose money.
2) Once your driver drops you off, you are on your own and must find additional transportation to get around the Valley. The various wineries are not close to each other, often miles apart. You will lose a lot of time and spend a lot of money going this route.
I have not found this an effective way to tour the wine country yet. However, if more people use rideshares to go wine tasting, I’m sure more drivers will find it pays to stay in the area.
Are There Ferries, Trains, Or Local Transit You Can Take From The SF Bay Area To Napa Valley?
Some forms of public transportation will get you part or all of the way to Napa Valley, but none are easy or fast.
For example, you can take BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) from SFO or Oak to the local Ferry docks in each city. From there, you can catch a ferry to Vallejo, which gets you to the north side of San Francisco Bay. You then can take a local bus from Vallejo to downtown Napa, and you still will not be at a winery.
Another example is taking BART from San Francisco or Oakland International to the Emeryville Amtrak Station and then taking Amtrak to Napa. But to be honest, this is not a proper train trip. Amtrak takes you to Martinez on the train, where you board a bus to downtown Napa. This trip will take you, on average, five hours.
After looking at the options, you can see why most people choose a rental car for their vacation in Napa Valley Wine Country.
Now That You’ve Viewed The Options for Airports Close To Napa Valley. What’s Your Choice?
All the commercial airports have plusses and minuses. Charles M. Schulz in Sonoma and Buchannan Field in Concord are close to the wine country. Both are small, so you won’t waste time in long lines or waiting for your luggage. However, the minuses are the limited airlines and availability of flights.
Sacramento, Oakland, and San Francisco International are larger airports with many daily flight options. With the most carriers, San Francisco International will surely have your airline of choice. The trade-off for flying into these airports is distance and traffic.
However you choose to fly to Northern California and visit the Napa Valley Wine Country, I know you will have a grand visit. I’d love to hear about your travels and which wineries you visited for tastings. And, of course, any recommendations you have for dining in this beautiful part of California.