One of the greatest perks of being in wine country is the opportunity to sit back, relax, and enjoy your wine while soaking in fantastic views. The Bay Area – the North Bay and Napa Valley in particular – is loaded with more incredible places to sip your wine and enjoy the view than just about anywhere I’ve ever visited. Napa Valley and Sonoma County wine country are surrounded by rugged rolling hills separated by vast open valleys full of a wide range of farms and wineries… and of course, California Wine Country is bordered to the west by the stunning cliff-lined scenery of the Pacific Coast.
Sample local wine where the russian river meets the pacific ocean
Heading west on River Road from Santa Rosa will send you along one of our absolute favorite scenic drives in the Bay Area, eventually dropping you onto the Pacific Coast Highway in Jenner. You’ll wind your way through towering redwood trees as you follow the course of the Russian River, twisting its way inevitably towards the Pacific. Allow your mind to wander as your eyes meander back and forth with the curves of River Road, imagining the beauty of the river’s outlet at the sea… building excitement all the while for your ultimate destination: Tasting by the Sea Wine Bar in Jenner.
Tasting by the Sea - a Fabulous Wine Bar in Jenner
For a village of its size, there’s a good deal of different things you can do while visiting Jenner in Northern California. However, much like all the things you can see and do along the Russian River, we’ll save that discussion for a different post! This post is focused on one spot in Jenner, its quintessential wine bar – Tasting by the Sea!
Featuring over 30 wines from four local wineries, accompanied by hummus and cheese trays and other assorted snacks, Tasting by the Sea is a great place to sample a wide variety of different local wines. With a variety of different sweet or dry red and white wines, plus a couple different beers on tap, there will be something to please nearly every palate!
The wines are only one reason to visit Tasting by the Sea, though: It’s the absolutely stunning view of the broad mouth of the slow-flowing Russian River pouring out into the crashing foam of the Pacific Ocean that keeps visitors from all over the Bay Area and beyond returning time and time again. At sunset on a beautiful warm evening, there is no better place in wine country – much less on Earth – to sit and sip some of the world’s finest wines.
After parking your car – which can be a struggle on busy weekends – walk up the wooden ramp on the outside of the building, around the corner and over to the open window on the side of the building to place your order. In most cases, they’ll open the wine for you, pour you a glass, and either start your tab or start preparing your food. Take your glasses and bottle and start finding your new spot to enjoy the view!
Lots of outside seating to enjoy the incredible view
With most of the seating at Tasting by the Sea located outside, either up on the deck or down in the grass below, there are plenty of great options to choose from when it’s finally time to sit down and relax. Honestly, I’m not even sure they have inside seating – sitting inside defeats the point of making the drive out to Jenner! The Wine Bar has numerous single and double wooden Adirondack style chairs, plus a handful of wooden picnic tables as well. You can easily maneuver most of the seats to best suit your comfort and maximize your view.
So once you’ve got your wine and food and adjusted your seats to improve your view, settle in and enjoy the show! Mother Nature never fails to provide lots to look at: there are plenty of seals, pelicans, seagulls, and a variety of other animals populating these waters! Add in the constant twinkle of sunlight on the water, the breathtaking warm colors of sunset streaming up the broad river from the coast, the small grassy islands across the way, the coastal evergreen trees lining the banks, the white foamy violence of waves crashing onto the distant beaches, the massive granite boulders towering up the hills behind you, the frequent kayakers and canoers paddling by, the excellent people watching all around… its easy to see why we’ve lost quite a few afternoons to drinking wine in Jenner!
When is the best time of year to sip wine at the pacific coast
The first time we visited the Jenner Wine Bar, it was August of 2020. Not long after completing our first massive cross country drive together, my wife and I were looking for an outdoor venue to be able to sample the world-renowned reds and whites from North Bay Wine Country! Being in the middle of a global pandemic complicated the matter a good bit, closing many local establishments for months, and forcing many others to offer reduced outside seating for a handful of brave patrons at a time.
Tasting by the Sea was recommended to us by some neighbors we met, so we ventured on out to the coast to sip some wine! If you’re a Bay Area local, you’re already grimacing, because you are well aware of the kind of weather we met on our first trip to Jenner! Dismally cold, windy and grey, and damp from the lingering fog, it was a hearty introduction for us East Coast transplants to what the Pacific Coast weather can be like in summer!
Needless to say, summer – late summer in particular – is always a gamble when visiting Tasting by the Sea Wine Bar. There certainly are going to be summer days so stunning the weather simply takes your breath away… and then there are also going to be bitterly cold, wind-driven foggy days that are going to take your breath away in a very different manner!
Toss in the growing risk of fire danger, particularly in late summer and early fall, and the high tourist season quickly becomes the trickiest time of year to try to drink wine at the coast! Winter is a big crapshoot as well: days are short, nights are long, and it could be sunny and mild or rainy and frigid – though temps very rarely approach freezing at the coast.
Spring and fall are generally going to be the best options for your visit to Jenner…. particularly in the later months of each season. Coastal weather can ALWAYS be finnicky, but the months of mid-May through late June, and mid-October through the end of November are likely going to be your best bet weather-wise for a visit to Tasting by the Sea.
What is the temperature in Jenner?
The temperature in Jenner can swing rapidly, so come prepared (see below)! Because the Wine Bar sits so close to the coast, its weather is an odd mix of relative stability – it rarely goes over 80 or drops below freezing there – and an unstable mix of a variety of weather conditions and temperatures. Within the span of a few hours, temps can easily swing 10-20 degrees, especially at sunset, and fog will often roll in (or out) and the wind will kick up as the afternoon wears on.
Bear in mind these tips are going to be generic, and your best option is to always check the forecast before you go. But in general, the seasons in Jenner will look like the following:
- Winter – Daytime temps rarely go much above 60, and will quickly drop towards 40-45 as the sun sets.
- Spring – Daytime temps warm up in the 65-70 range, and can go closer to 75 or warmer as you get into June. Temps will drop in the low to mid-50s most nights.
- Summer – Early summer in Jenner can get “hot,” with daytime temps occasionally cresting 80 degrees, and nights will be pleasant at first, staying around 60. As you get into July and August, when it’s foggy (as it often will be), expect to be chilly – highs in the mid-50s at best during the day. Temps can drop to the low 50s overnight.
- Fall – Early fall will look very similar to late summer – often foggy and chilly, slowly trending into nicer and more stable weather. By mid- to late October, temps are often back in the 60’s or 70’s during daytime hours, dropping into the low to mid-50s overnight.
What to Wear to the Wine Bar in Jenner
With the relaxed backyard party vibe of Tasting by the Sea’s outdoor seating area, casual attire is definitely the way to go. You never know, you might even end up sitting in the grass picnic-style! Dressing up is certainly welcome and won’t seem out of place – it is wine country after all – but the low key acoustic music and the bubbly energy of locals sipping wine waterside create a chill atmosphere best enjoyed in comfortable clothing.
HOWEVER – it is ALWAYS wise to bring and/or wear multiple layers whenever you plan to spend time on the Pacific Coast. That goes for sipping wine at Tasting by the Sea in particular. In addition to the rapid and dramatic changes in temperature typically experienced along the coast, Jenner can often also experience gusts of wind whooshing unimpeded up the valley created by the Russian River. You’ll want to be prepared for the possibility of rapid changes to both the temperature and the wind conditions as the sun sets.
Parking at the wine bar in jenner
It might sound like a simple question to the uninitiated, but especially on a busy tourist season weekend, you are likely to find yourself wondering… “Where should I park in Jenner?” The parking lot at Tasting by the Sea is admittedly relatively small, particularly in light of the popularity of the wine bar and its building-neighbor, the superb coffee shop and brunch spot, Cafe Aquatica. Toss in a few of the folks borrowing kayaks from the rental spot across the road – WaterTreks EcoTours – and parking directly in front of or beside the building quickly becomes a tricky endeavor indeed!
The few spaces in the lot beside the post office building next door also get snatched up quickly. Because most people are either kayaking or spending a few hours leisurely sipping wine, once a car is parked in a spot, it’s not likely to leave for several hours. So if you see someone getting ready to leave their spot – have the patience to wait behind them to claim it! The spaces even further towards the coast, by the boat ramp and the bathroom, are short-term parking only (15 minutes or less). Don’t leave your car in this area!
If all else fails, you can always park on the shoulder of the Pacific Coast Highway. If you opt to park on the side of the road, be sure to get your car completely on the shoulder. Be extremely careful when walking – there’s no sidewalk. During fire season (typically June – October), be extremely cautious to ensure your hot tailpipe does not spark a wildfire in the tall, dry grass that lines the road.
Can I get an uber in jenner?
The short answer is – probably not. Between the near-complete lack of cell phone service in the area and its relatively remote location, it can be a real challenge trying to request a ride from Uber or Lyft. You have the option of trying to pre-book someone to pick you up, but that’s not always reliable, and again you won’t have reception to receive calls, texts, or other notifications if needed. You can chat with the bartender – or at the hotel across the street – about the possibility of calling for a taxi, but if you do happen to order one, you’ll likely wind up waiting an hour or more for it to arrive.
Unfortunately, your best option for safe travel home is to select someone in your group to be the designated driver. That really sucks for them, but it is the safest option for everyone in your group – and everyone else traveling on the popular Pacific Coast Highway and/or River Road.
Live Music at the Wine Bar in Jenner
Sipping dozens of fabulous Bay Area wines, snacking on tasty cheese trays, a stellar view of the Russian River and Pacific Ocean… now you’re telling me there’s ALSO live music at Tasting by the Sea?! This place just keeps getting better and better!
It’s true, folks. There is almost always going to be some form live music happening at Tasting by the Sea! Featuring solo artists and small groups, virtually all of the times we’ve visited the wine bar in Jenner we’ve enjoyed the talents of a variety of local musicians. Dancing is definitely encouraged!
In addition to the shows put on at Tasting by the Sea, Cafe Aquatica will also often host a number of live musicians throughout each weekend. Most musicians at Aquatica sit up on the small wooden deck (which doubles as a stage) on the far side of the building opposite Tasting by the Sea, playing acoustic instruments and singing to the crowds at both spots. In all the times we’ve visited both places, we’ve never once dealt with a “battle of the bands” – I’m not sure if it’s intentionally scheduled this way, or just works out, but we’ve not had to suffer through listening to two bands at once.
Finding a schedule of live music for either venue is challenging. Neither business is particularly active on social media – I suppose with a location like theirs, they don’t have much need! – and to my knowledge, a current list of live acts doesn’t exist.
Tasting by the Sea Wine Bar - an incredible experience year round
Ultimately, no matter what time of year you find yourself sipping wine in coastal California, you’re almost certain to have a great experience at Tasting by the Sea. Regardless of the weather – especially if you come prepared – the sounds of live music, accompanied by the melody of Mother Nature and the comfortable atmosphere make Tasting by the Sea the ideal place to spend an afternoon (and evening!) sipping the Bay Area’s fantastic local wines!