Sonoma Valley Wine Guide 2012
The glut of great wineries peppering the Sonoma Valley offers a bewildering embarrassment of riches. Where to begin? That’s easy. Start at the bottom and work your way more or less north. We’ve left out wineries that aren’t open for tasting or are not represented in a local tasting room.
All wineries are in or close to Sonoma, Glen Ellen or Kenwood, and we’ve included a section to guide you to tasting rooms in and around the famous Sonoma Plaza.
Ram’s Gate Winery is the incomparably elegant gateway to the Sonoma Valley wine scene, on a knoll just north of Sonoma Raceway. Try tasting plates of elegant foods in indoor and outdoor settings overlooking their new lake and the Sonoma baylands. Tasting tip: Specialties include Red Label Pinot Noir and chardonnay. 28700 Arnold Drive, Sonoma. 707.721.8700, ramsgatewinery.com.
The winery on the next hill is Viansa, with views across the wetlands Sam Sebastiani helped expand and preserve, and a winter refuge for as many as 10,000 waterfowl at a time. An Italian Marketplace with gourmet foods and outstanding wines. Tasting tip: Try the 2008 cabernet franc, a gold medal/best of class winner, or the 2009 barbera. 25200 Arnold Drive, 800.995.4740, or viansa.com.
A quarter-mile up the road on the left is Cline Cellars, where Fred and Nancy Cline have created an organic oasis, employing “Green String” farming techniques with no agricultural chemicals and weed-eating sheep. Cline features refreshing ponds, and a California mission museum with a set of model missions from 1939 World’s Fair. Tasting tip: Tasting is free. Try the Montepulciano, Valeriano or Moscato Bianco. 24737 Arnold Drive, 707.940.4000.
On the other side of the highway is Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, named for Fred Cline’s grandfather, Veleriano Jacuzzi. Fred’s great uncle, Candido Jacuzzi, invented the bathtub pump and changed our relationships with water. The winery also houses The Olive Press, which makes award-winning gourmet olive oil. Tasting is free and the grounds are gorgeous. Tasting tip: The 2010 barbera is their most popular wine. 24724 Arnold Drive, 707.931.7575, or jacuzziwines.com.
Gloria Ferrer is next, on the west side of Arnold Drive, part of a Spanish sparkling-wine dynasty from Barcelona, with an elegant visitor’s center. Founded by the Ferrer family, owners of the Freixenet label, it’s like a trip to Spain without the airfare. Tasting tip: Try any of their sparkling wines or the pinot noir rosé still wine. 23555 Arnold Drive, 707.996.7256, or gloriaferrer.com.
Directly across Highway 121 is the entrance to CornerStone, an amalgam of art, gardens, tasting rooms, intriguing stores, cafés and host to Meadowcroft Family of Wines, which includes Meadowcroft and Thomas Henry labels, as well as A.J. Foyt. Tasting tip: Try the Meadowcroft Reserve Chardonnay, reserve port, or the Foyt Riesling. 23570 Arnold Drive, 707.934.4090, or meadowcroftfamilyofwines.com.
A half-mile north, is a combination gas station, towing service, repair shop, deli, and wine bar. This is Bonneau’s, a family enterprise where you can fill your gas tank, your tummy and your wineglass all in one stop. Tasting tip: Try their Double Gold winning 2009 Los Carneros Catherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay. 75 Bonneau Rd., 707.996.0420, or bonneauwine.com.
Just across Bonneau Road is Anaba Winery, named for the cooling winds that sweep across Carneros. Anaba’s first vintage won five awards—including two golds. Tasting tip: Try any of their pinot noirs. 60 Bonneau Rd., 707.996.4188, or anabawines.com.
A little further up Bonneau Road is Schug Carneros Estate, where Walter Schug brought his pinot dreams from Germany and started the pinot noir craze in Sonoma County. Tasting tip: Try their 2009 Carneros Pinot Noir. 602 Bonneau Rd., 707.939.9363, or schugwinery.com.
Five minutes north is the Robledo Family Winery, a celebrated Mexican-American success story founded by an immigrant fieldworker named Reynaldo Robledo Sr., who has dined with President Obama in the White House. Tasting tip: Try their double gold-medal-winning Tempranillo, brut cuvée and cabernet sauvignon. Tastings by appointment. 21901 Bonness Rd., 707.939.6903, or robledofamilywinery.com.
Heading back eastward on Highway 121, turn down bumpy Millerick Road to Larson Family Winery, where Tom and Becky make great wine at a historic rodeo site on the edge of the Sonoma Slough. Tasting tip: Try the Three Lab Cab and their 2008 Late Harvest Carneros Gewürtztraminer. 23355 Millerick Rd., 707.938.3031, or larsonfamilywinery.com.
Mulas Family Winery is the pride of the cattle ranching Mulas family, who also staff the local fire station. Tasting tip: Winemaker Steve MacRostie makes their fine estate-grown 2005 syrah and 2010 pinot gris. By appointment only. 707.938.3134 or mulasfamilywines.com.
David Homewood’s Homewood Winery is a very tall, almost one-man operation, making small batches of luscious reds and whites. The Redder the Better Lounge opens onto the garden. Tasting tip: The new Joie des Vignes Reserve Tasting Room features Mourvèdre, blends with grenache and syrah, and McHugh Vineyard Pinot Noir. Appointments preferred. 23120 Burndale Rd., 707.996.6353, or homewoodwinery.com.
Backtrack to Eighth Street East and enter into the heart of warehouse winemaking, where corrugated metal roofing defines the architecture and some astoundingly good boutique wines are made. Here you will find Tin Barn Vineyards, Enkidu, Ty Caton, Kamen Estate, MacRostie, Three Sticks, Stone Edge Farm, Parmelee-Hill and Talisman. Many of these wineries are open only on weekends or by appointment during the week. Be sure to call ahead. We’ll visit some of these wineries at their tasting rooms elsewhere, but for those exclusive to Eighth Street the following will be of value:
Tin Barn Winery makes some spectacular wines. Taste and see winemaking process up close. Tasting tip: Try the reasonably priced gold medal winning 2009 sauvignon blanc Sonoma County from Hi-Vista Vineyard. 21692 Eighth St. East, 707.938.5430, or tinbarnvineyards.com.
Steve MacRostie is one of the wizards of California winemaking and helped pioneer the production of Carneros fruit and wine. His tasting room is open Saturdays on Eighth Street. Tasting tip: Try the Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. 21481 Eighth St. East, 707.996.4480, or macrostiewinery.com.
Talisman is linked to winemaker Scott Rich’s American Indian mother, with a traditional logo that denotes a very good wine. Tasting tip: Try their 2008 Red Dog Vineyard Pinot Noir. Watch for a new tasting room in “downtown” Glen Ellen. 21684 Eighth St. East, 707.996.9050, or talismanwine.com.
Parmelee Hill Vineyards is one of Sonoma Valley’s premier vineyard properties and winemaker/vineyard manager Steve Hill is a legend, along with his wife Gwen Parmelee Hill and son Ned Hill. Occasional open house tastings. Tasting tip: The 2008 Parmelee-Hill “Block B” syrah, 2010 “Darcy” Rhone White Blend, or Nightcap Syrah Port. P.O. Box 432, Sonoma 95476, 707.933.8905, or sonomasyrah.com.
Stone Edge Farm is organic and sustainably managed on the edge of Sonoma Mountain, producing superb cabernet and Bordeaux blends called Surround. Phone for a tour of their organic gardens. Tasting tip: Try any of their superb cabernet sauvignons. Tastings by appointment. P.O. Box 487, Sonoma 95476, 707.935.6520, or stoneedgefarm.com.
Dunstan Wines/Durell Vineyard is one half of an amicably divided winemaking family that launched the Dunstan label last year, sourcing from the iconic Durell Vineyard. Tasting tip: Call to taste their spectacular 2010 Dunstan Chardonnay, Durell Vineyard. P.O. Box 1676, Sonoma, 707.933.3839, or dunstanwines.com.
There are three things to know about Three Sticks: Durell Vineyards, winemaker Don Van Staaveren, and owner Bill Price, the other half of the Durell Vineyard patronage. They’re all legends in the wine industry. Many of their wines are hard to find, unless you’re on their list. Tasting tip: The 2007 Durell pinot got 91 points from Wine Spectator. P.O. Box 1869, Sonoma 95476, 707.996.3328, or threestickswine.com.
If you can’t say Gundlach Bundschu, just say Gun Bun. It’s the oldest family-owned winery in California, famous for history, high jinx, great fun, concerts and really good wine. Tasting tip: The 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is fabulous. 2000 Denmark St. 707.938.5277, or gunbun.com.
Down Denmark and left on Napa Road is Scribe Winery, only open by appointment, and to Nicholson Ranch, a place of many attractions, including a lovely lake, the hand-built chapel on the hill, the Overlook Gallery showcase for local artists, and a lot of award-winning wine. Tasting tip: The 2008 Cactus Hill Pinot Noir Reserve is tops. 4200 Napa Rd., 707.938.8822, or nicholsonranch.com.
Scribe is a hip young winery located on ancient Huichica Indian land and site of the old Huichica School and a speakeasy. Tasting tip: Try their 2009 pinot noir or any syrah or cabernet sauvignon. Appointment only. 2300 Napa Road, 707.939.1858 or scribewinery.com.
Buena Vista Carneros is the oldest winery in California, founded by Hungarian Count Agoston Haraszthy, and the birthplace of the California wine industry. Jean-Charles Boisset, married to Gina Gallo, recently purchased and renovated the winery and entire property with a winemaking museum on its way. Tasting tip: Any of its Ramal Vineyard pinot noirs or chardonnays. 18000 Old Winery Rd., 800.926.1266, or buenavistacarneros.com.
Bartholomew Park was founded by the late journalist and UPI president Frank Bartholomew on the site of Agoston Haraszthy’s original vineyard. Another Phil Coturri-managed organic vineyard with hiking trails, picnic grounds and history museum. Tasting tip: Try their 2010 zinfandel. 1000 Vineyard Lane, 707.935.9511, or bartpark.com.
He’s been called “the godfather of zin.” Even though Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson has sold the keys to the winery he still guards the door, making sure no wimpy wines get in. Tasting tip: The 2010 Estate Vineyard Zinfandel is fabulous. 18701 Gehricke Rd., 707.938.1960, or ravenswoodwinery.com.
Even though Foley Family Wines now owns Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery, it still symbolizes the City of Sonoma like no other label. The hand-carved barrels and tour are worth the visit. Tasting tip: Check out the 2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. 389 Fourth St. East, 707.933.3230 or sebastiani.com.
See Sonoma Plaza Tasting Rooms ( below) for a leisurely tasting stroll or roll without a car.
Valley of the Moon Winery is nestled in a scenic vineyard along the banks of Sonoma Creek. The facility goes back to 1863. Tasting tip: The 2009 Cuvée De La Luna is a Bordeaux-like blend and a star around their moon. 777 Madrone Rd., Glen Ellen, 707.939.4510 or valleyofthemoonwinery.com.
Small but mighty, Little Vineyards offers a musically enhanced winetasting experience. If you’re lucky, Rich Little will be there, playing his Chapman stick. (There’s a recording studio in back.) Lunch-paired tastings available by reservation. Tasting tip: Check out the Center Stage or Band blends of red varietals. 15188 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen. 707.935.1544 or littlevineyards.com.
Bruce Cohn is part of any conversation about music and wine. The Doobie Brothers manager is proprietor of B.R. Cohn Winery & Olive Oil Company, located on Olive Hill beside Highway 12. The Indian summer concerts have raised millions charity. Tasting tip: Try the bargain-priced Doobie Red blends or his Classic Car series including Woody White and Muscle Car Red. 15000 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen. 800.330.4064 or brcphn.com.
Arrowood Winery was home base for winemaking pioneer Richard Arrowood, who has been making great wine for more than 40 years. Heidi von der Mehden is current winemaker. Tasting tip: Try any of their cabernets from famous name vineyards such as Lasseter, Smothers, Monte Rosso and Murray. 14347 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen, 707.935.2600,or arrowoodwinery.com.
Imagery Estate wines are worth buying for the labels alone—all original art and owned by the dedicated Benziger family. The tasting room is a gallery with some very good, very different wine for sale, all claimed to be “yuppie tested and hipster approved.” Tasting tip: Try the great 2009 petite syrah and a new Code Blue blend of syrah with blueberries. 14335 Highway 12, Glen Ellen, 707.935.4515, or imagerywinery.com.
Eric Ross Winery is the product of photographer/winemaker Eric Luce, who sources his grapes mainly from Saralee’s Vineyard in the Russian River Valley and from the Dry Creek area. Tasting tip: Sample their Saralee’s Vineyard Pinot Noir and their Old Vines Zinfandel from Dry Creek . 14300 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen, 707.939.8525, or ericross.com.
Benziger Family Winery—which also owns Imagery—is the state’s first certified biodynamic vineyard, a pioneer in sustainability and producer of spectacular wines. Tasting tip: Try the 2008 Tribute, a fabulous Bordeaux blend. 1883 London Ranch Rd., Glen Ellen, 888.490.2739, or benziger.com.
At Mayo Family Winery, chef J. Clayton Lewis leads Reserve Room visitors through a seven-course wine-food pairing experience with the winery’s single-vineyard wines. It’s a $35 bargain. They have tasting rooms in Glen Ellen and in The Cellar Door at The Lodge in Sonoma. Tasting tip: Try the fine 2008 Laurel Hill Estate Chardonnay. 13101 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen, 707.938.9401, or mayofamilywinery.com.
Beltane Ranch is a slice of heaven on earth where Alexa Woods is sandwiched in the middle of three generations whose values and vision are infused in the soul of their wine. Previous owners include Wappo Indians and Madame Mary Ellen Pleasant. The ranch is worth a weekend visit for the wine and the Bed & Breakfast where grass-fed cattle, and organic produce are grown and served. Tasting tip: Whatever estate sauvignon blanc they are serving. Appointment only. 11775 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen, 707.996.1103, or beltaneranch.com.
Wellington Vineyards winemaker David Noyes makes no-nonsense excellent wines. Founded by father and son, John and Peter Wellington, the winery is more functional than fancy. Wellington is green-certified, solar-powered, partially dry-farmed, and the wines are exceptional. Tasting tip: Check out the 2001 Duchess white wine blend. 11600 Dunbar Rd., Glen Ellen, 707.939.0708, or wellingtonvineyards.com.
Loxton Cellars’ Chris Loxton from Australia with degrees in physics and enology, first went to Wellington and then to his own winery next door. Tasting tip: Try the 2010 chardonnay and vin gris of syrah. Appointment only. 11466 Dunbar Rd., Glen Ellen, 707.935.7221, loxtonwines.com.
Lasseter Family Winery is the latest baby of Nancy and John Lasseter (of Pixar fame) who love many things French, hence the names of their estate grown and bottled wines. Tasting tip: Cheeses are served with Enjoué, Chemin de Fer, Paysage, and Amoureux. Appointment only. One Vintage Lane, Glen Ellen. 707.933-2814 or 933.2800, lasseterfamilywinery.com.
The next stop is near the top of Cavedale Road at the profoundly Italian Petroni Vineyards where San Francisco restaurateur Lorenzo Petroni (North Beach Restaurant) has a mountainside vineyard and villa that produces an incomparable sangiovese hybrid, Brunello di Sonoma. Tasting tip: You’ve got to try the Brunello. Appointment only. 990 Cavedale Rd., 707.935.8311 or petronivineyards.com.
Deerfield Ranch winemaker Robert Rex isn’t awed by single-vineyard wines; he’s been blending for more than 30 years. The Deerfield facility in Kenwood has its tasting room in a cave, offers winemaking facilities to others, and serves an eclectic variety of blended wines to sample. Tasting tip: The Cove wines benefit the Oceanic Preservation Society’s efforts to save dolphins in Japan. 10200 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707.833.5215, or deerfieldranch.com.
Kunde Family Estate represents four generations of farmers on the same hills along Highway 12 in Kenwood. With 700 acres planted to grapes, the Kundes have vineyards going back more than 100 years. Enjoy wine caves, eco-tours, hikes, and picnics and a lavish visitor center/tasting room. TastingTip: Try the 2007 Reserve, Century Vines, Sonoma Valley zinfandel. 9825 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707.833.5501, or kunde.com.
The Family Wineries Tasting Room in Kenwood (with another in Healdsburg) is an amalgam of boutique wineries producing low-volume and top quality. Until the end of 2012, current selections include: Collier Falls Vineyards, David Noyes Winery, MacRae Family Winery, SL Cellars, and Wine Tree Farm. On January 1, 2013 Michael Muscardini takes over the lease for Muscardini Cellars, as well as the landlord’s SL Cellars.
Under the family wineries umbrella until 2013 is David Noyes Winery, a Sonoma Valley label worthy of additional mention. Noyes makes his wine at Wellington Vineyards and sources grapes from some of the county’s best vineyards. Tasting tip: Try the 2007 Sonoma Valley Zinfandel. 707.935.7741, or davidnoyeswines.com.
If you’ve read The Epic of Gilgamesh you know all about Enkidu. But do you know about Enkidu wines? Tasting tip: A must: their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Valley. 8910 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707.939.3930, or enkiduwines.com.
Muscardini Cellars in Kenwood will be remain with Ty Caton until January 1 when Muscardini will move down Highway 12 to The Red Schoolhouse. Tasting tip: Sample any of Muscardini’s multiple award winning Italian varietals. 8910 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707.833.0526, or muscardinicellars.com.
B Wise Vineyards has a new tasting room in “downtown” Kenwood featuring its Brion and B Wise labels. Enjoy small lots of specialized wines grown on nearby Moon Mountain: Tasting tip: Try any Brion or B Wise Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon or Rose. 9077 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood. 707.282.9169. Phone ahead. bwisevineyards.com.
Ty Caton Vineyards produces exclusively estate-grown grapes planted, picked, pressed, and patiently prepared by Ty Caton himself. Tasting tip: The TyTanium, a cab, syrah, petite syrah, merlot blend, just won gold medals in Sunset Magazine and San Francisco Chronicle wine competitions. 8910 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707.833.0526, or tycaton.com.
VJB Vineyards & Cellars is a true Italian family operation that just moved into its Italian marketplace facility with a focus on Italian varietals, but with some excellent cabernet and syrah. Tasting tip: Try the 2010 barbera as well as the Italian deli and sauces by chef Maria Belmonte. 9077 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707.833.2300, or vjbcellars.com.
Santa Rosa’s Paradise Ridge winery has a small tasting room, art gallery and new plush garden in Kenwood. Tasting tip: Five percent of your purchase goes to Sonoma County’s Climate Protection Campaign. 8860 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707.282.9020, or prwinery.com.
Kenwood Vineyards is a venerable Valley institution, dating back to the founding of Pagani Brothers Winery in 1906. The original buildings are still in use, updated and restored. Tasting tip: Try the Russian River Pinot Noir or Jack London Cabernet Sauvignon. 9592 Sonoma Highway, 707.833.5891, or kenwoodvineyards.com.
Chateau St. Jean, one of the Sonoma Valley’s most elegant estates, makes great wine and winemaker Margo Van Staaveren is widely celebrated. Tasting tip: Definitely taste the much awarded 2008 Cinq Cépages blend. 8555 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707.833.4134, or chateaustjean.com.
Landmark Vineyards had Midwest roots and tractor connections when owned. by John Deere descendant Michael Deere Colhoun and his wife, Mary, who sold it to Stewart and Lynda Resnick, owners of POM Wonderful and Fiji Water. Outstanding whites and reds with a gorgeous patio and garden with music on weekends. Tasting tip: Their Overlook Chardonnay is a winner. 101 Adobe Canyon Rd., Kenwood, 707.833.0053, or landmarkwine.com.
Tucked behind Landmark is what Richard Kasmier claims is the smallest Valley winery with a tasting room selling to the public. It’s called Kaz, after its craftily crazy founder. Tasting tip: Check out Kaz’s Red Said Fred zinfandel blend and the new white port. You can taste from the barrel, bottle your own wine blend and select a label, all for tasting. 233 Adobe Canyon Rd., Kenwood, 707.833.2536, or kazwinery.com.
Closest to the top of the Valley is the “castle” known as Ledson Winery & Vineyards, the cornerstone of millionaire developer, builder, philanthropist, hotelier, and winemaker Steve Ledson who sells some of his wine to help kids’ causes. Tasting tip: Ledson makes 85 wines, so try any of them in several tasting venues and enjoy a cheese plate from the marketplace. 7335 Highway 12, Kenwood. 707.537.3810. ledsonwine.com.
Dean Bordigioni went from a Harley Davidson dealership to winemaker, and now his Annadel Estate Winery produces some unique and wonderful wines on a lavishly beautiful, flower-festooned site at the top of the Valley of the Moon. Tasting tip: Try the 2009 Annadel Anni’s Blend for a pleasant surprise. 6687 Sonoma Highway, Santa Rosa, 707.537.8007, or annadelestatewinery.com.
Starting as you come into Sonoma on Highway 12/Broadway, The Lodge at Sonoma is on the northwest corner at Leveroni Road. In the hotel and near the corner is The Cellar Door tasting room where you can sample 20 wines from Chandelle, Mayo, and Guerrero Fernandez wineries. Chandelle is famous for its airplane theme labels and is owned by Robert Arnold, grandson of U.S. Air Force founder “Hap” Arnold. 1395 Broadway, Sonoma. 707.938.4466, or sonomacellardoor.com.
On east side of Broadway is R2 (R Squared) Wine Company, which stands for co-founding brothers Roger and Richard Roessler. The Roesslers sold their Roessler brand to Hall Winery in St. Helena and moved to this new location. Tasting tip: They specialize in Rhône wines such as Black Pine Pinot Noir and Rhapsody en Bleu red blend. 654 Broadway, 707.933-1330 or r2winecompany.com.
A block north on Napa Street you will find a surprise inside the South American Secrets shop where Rumpus Cellars will soon set up a tasting bar specializing in Bordeaux blends. 5 East Napa St., 707.935.6883, or rumpuscellars.com.
Westwood Winery is down a small walkway where you will find a comfy tasting room and interesting wines. Tasting tip: Try the 2007 redFour Rhône blend, or the 2007 Estate Syrah. 11 East Napa St., 707.933.7837, westwoodwine.com.
Next comes newly named “Vine Alley” with such fun and respected tasting rooms as GlenLyon and Two Amigos, Haywood, Bryter Estates, Sigh, and Envolve.
GlenLyon and Two Amigos both share comics Suzy and Squire Fridell (a former Ronald McDonald) and Squire’s winemaking talents. Amigo Bob Briner is the second of the Two Amigos and “Vino brothers.” Lots of laughs here. Tasting tip: Try Two Amigos’ Vino Bianco Roussanne and GlenLyon’s Hog Wilde Chardonnay. 25 East Napa St., 707.799.7146 or twoamigoswines.com and glenlyonwinery.com.
Haywood Winery’s Peter Haywood is back in his prime in this elegant tasting room with Happy Hours every Friday and Saturday, with complimentary cheese pairings part of your discounted tasting fees. Tasting tip: Outstanding zinfandel, cabernet franc and chardonnay. 25 East Napa St., 707.933.3001, haywoodwinery.com.
Bryter Estates’ cabernet sauvignon just won Best Overall cabernet sauvignon and received 98 points at the California State Fair. Proprietor and winemaker Terin Ignozzi learned to make wine from her Italian grandfather and father. Tasting tip: Go for the cabernet and taste the rest including her yummy sparklers. 25 East Napa St., 707.501.8575, bryter.com.
Envolve Winery is the hot venue belonging to TV’s Bachelor Ben Flajnik, Mike Benziger, and Danny Fay, who actually produce fine wines from organic and biodynamic vineyards. Tasting tip: Their new rosé goes down like candy. 707.939.5385, envolvewinery.com.
Jayme Powers’ Sigh Sparkling Wines opened recently in this complex and will feature Champagnes and sparkling wines. 29 East Napa St., Suite C. sighsonoma.com.
Sonoma Enoteca hosts 10 family winery tastings including Favero Vineyards, Grieve Family Winery, Jaqk Cellars, Il Cuore, Victor Hill Wines, Seabiscuit Ranch, Brutocao Cellars, Dreyer Sonoma, Manzanita Creek, and Compass. 35 East Napa St., 938-7212, sonomaenoteca.com.
Across First Street East you will delight in Spann, Kamen, and Sojourn Cellars.
At Spann Vineyards you can explore Betsy Spann’s wines while feasting your eyes on the fabulous photography at Saret Gallery, where Spann shares space. Tasting tip: Wonderful cabernet franc, malbec, and MoJo chardonnay and viognier blend. 111-A East Napa St., 707.996.1330, spannvineyards.com.
Kamen Estate Wines are the product of screenwriter Robert Kamen who used his Karate Kid income to buy 280 acres of rocks on the side of the Mayacamas Mountains. With organic guru Phil Coturri leading the way, Kamen created a chemical-free, certified biodynamic and organic cabernet vineyard. Tasting tip: Try their 2005 or 2008 cabernet sauvignon if you can. 111B E. Napa St., 707.938.7292, or kamenwines.com.
Enoteca Della Santina is actually an interesting winebar with food, not a real tasting room. Enjoy anyway.
Sojourn Cellars scored 90 points or better on all 12 of its 2011 releases. All Sojourn wines are outstanding and go well with dishes at Della Santina’s next door and Café LaHaye across the street. Tasting tip: Pinot noirs and cabernets score 94 to 95 points annually. Tasting salon by appointment, 141 East Napa St., 707.938.7212 or sojourncellars.com.
Highway 12 wines inside The Corner Store at East Napa and First Street East reflect the passion of winemaker Michael Sebastiani, Paul Giusto, and Doug Offenbacher, who used to market Sebastiani wines. Their fruit comes from old friends’ vineyards like Serres Ranch, Sangiacomo, and La Prenda. Tasting tip: The Old Sonoma Red, Mission Hardware and any Reserve Syrah. 498 First St., East, 707.938.8091, or highway12winery.com.
Eric K James Vineyards tasting room is tucked way back in the Mercado next to La Salette restaurant and the Chocolate Cow and also hosts the wines of Hoffman Family Cellars. Tasting tip: Try Eric K. James 2009 Estate pinot noir and syrah. 452 First St. East, Suite G. 707.996.1364.
Across Sonoma Plaza on First Street West continue to sip away at Charles Creek Vineyards, Adobe Road Winery, Roche Winery, Hawkes, and Walt tasting rooms.
Charles Creek Vineyards’ Bill Brinton is another descendent of tractor entrepreneur John Deere. Ms. Moo-Lot, a wine-cork- covered cow, presides over the tasting room along with rotating artists’ exhibits. Tasting tip: Try their award-winning Carneros Chardonnays and La Bomba dessert wines. 483 First St. West, 707.935.3848, or charlescreek.com.
Adobe Road Winery’s Kevin Buckler, who is also a racecar driver and team owner, hosts a pleasant tasting experience on the plaza for his Petaluma and Napa wines. Tasting tip: The cabernets, syrahs, and sauvignon blancs are their prize wines. 481 First St. East, 707.939.9099, or adoberoadwines.com.
Roche Carneros Winery’s tasting room is located just off the Plaza next to the girl & the fig and Sonoma Hotel on Spain Street. The “next gen” Roches host a fun outdoor tasting with lots of café tables, fire pit, and food available. Tasting tip: Try any of their Carneros chardonnays and pinot noirs. 122 West Spain Street, 800.825.9475, or rochewinery.com.
Just up First Street West you will find two tasting treats: Hawkes and Walt tasting rooms.
Hawkes, identified by a red motor scooter parked at the side of the Sonoma Hotel, red umbrellas, and a red hawk sign, this irreverent/fun family operation offers occasional food treats and hot dog days. Tasting tip: Check out their cabernets. 383 First St. West, 938-7620 or hawkeswine.com.
Walt is the baby and maiden name of Ambassador Kathryn Walt Hall, who also owns Hall Winery in St. Helena and has a long family background in the wine business. She bought the Roessler label and still sells its wines, with the Roessler brothers moving to their R2 location on Broadway. Tasting tip: Single vineyard chardonnays and pinot noirs. 380 First St. West, 707.933.4440, waltwines.com.
Traveling west on West Napa Street or Highway 12 past Fifth Street West, you can visit the Valley Wine Shack and the Community Café’s Annex.
The Valley Wine Shack offers tastes and glasses of at least eight wines every day in a true old Sonoma house. Owner Windee Smith is a kick. 535 West Napa St., 707.938.7218, valleywineshack.com.
The Community Café’s Annex pours samples and sells glasses of wine from five “resident wineries” including Coturri, Hughes, Schug, Sharp, and Trecini. The Annex also brings in an extra winery a month that might include Sixteen600 (Phil Coturri) or Canihan.
Hanzell, founded by the late James D. Zellerbach who served as ambassador to Italy abides by the highest standards of growing and making wine and is led by president Jean Arnold Sessions and her husband, winemaker emeritus Bob Sessions. Tasting tip: Fabulous pinot noirs and chardonnays. Appointment only. 18596 Lomita Ave., 707.996.3860.
From the 2012 Fall issue of SONOMA