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Recommendations in Russian River/Healdsburg area

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A friend is visiting the last weekend of OCtober and has never been here before. We're planning on taking him up to Sonoma as part of the wine country tour. Though I've done a search and have gotten many ideas for dining (Mariposa has been on the list but now Tastings in Healdsburg has me interested), I wanted to get some additional must-sees for the wineries.

We're going to be starting out our day with a picnic at KJ b/c I want to tour the culinary garden. We're also planning to hit A.Rafanelli in Dry Creek at the end of the day. We wanted to go to Chalk HIll but they're closed on the weekends and we can't make the 10AM Jordan tour. Are there any "You've got to try this vineyard" type of recommendations I can solicit from the hounds to fill in the rest of the itinerary?

Thanks

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  1. Check out Ferrari Carano gardens after Rafanelli. Then take Dry Creek Rd back, stop at DC General Store. Take Canyon Rd to Chateau Souverain and sit on cafe deck with a glass of wine at twilight. Check out Pezzi King tasting room (just west of gen'l store) for great view of DC Valley.

    1. Tida, I can make lots of recommendations depending on what your friend's looking for. Best wine? Talk to a hands-on winemaker? Best tour? Nicest grounds?

      3 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Melanie-

        Our friend is pretty adventurous and is going to go because we want to take him. I think the trip to Sonoma would be more designed around what we're looking for and he'll be along for a fun and exploratory ride!

        What are we looking for? Any recommendations along best wine would be great. I think that's the first priority. Any wine that sparks a "WOW!" is worth seeking out in my book. My husband and I are always willing to try new things so though I'd say our preference is for full-bodied, big wine, great wine is great wine! We're more familiar with Napa but have a great fondness for Sonoma and want to learn, drink, and buy more Sonoma wines.

        I think we'd also target wineries with a hands-on winemaker. My husband loves talking to the winemakers so if we run into people who are close to the creation/production, even better! It's a great thing to be able to associate the person who made the wine with the actual product.

        Finally, we don't actually care what the vineyard looks like if the wine tastes good. However, since our friend is indulging us and we're taking a picnic, any recommendations on stunning view would be great. My default is to picnic at KJ after we tour the garden but if there's a place that stands out for its beauty, I'd like to take our friend there. Hopefully it won't be rainy and I don't expect it to be too cold.

        This is all kind of general but I think the biggest priority would be on finding great wine. I think once you've done that, the hard part is done!

        Thanks
        Tida

        1. re: Tida

          Tida, I owe you some recommendations. I'll write it up when I get home and have my references around me for telephone no., addresses and e-mail etc.

          1. re: Tida
            s
            steve drucker

            We just returned from a one day whirlwind tour of Sonoma and Napa.

            Many places we saw had picnic areas.

            These two stand out:
            --Rochioli. Several tables on a stone patio with a great view out across the fields. They were selling two wines: A pinot noir--not ready to drink, and an oaky buttery chardonnay.
            --Hop Kiln. Literally, right next to Rochioli. Lovely old fashioned picnic tables--some shaded, rustic, no view. We didn't try the wines, although we borrowed their glasses for the Rochioli chardonnay.

            You might also consider Dry Creek. Long-time, family owned, nice spacious semi-shaded garden with tables. No view to speak of. A very good '97 reserve Alexander Cabernet to taste or purchase. One of my long time favorite wineries stretching back to when we sold quite a few of their cabernets and chardonnays from our wine list. Being that its family owned, it would seem that there might be a real opportunity to speak with the vintners.

            Excellent picnic supplies can be bought in Healdsburg at The Oakville Market located at the corner of the village square. Sandwiches, good roast chicken, great lightly steamed and composed fresh vegetables / salads, crusty breads etc. They didn't flinch at our requests for 'a 1/4 pound of this and a 1/4 pound of that' and volunteered plates after asking if we were going on a picnic.

        2. I have a few recommendations for fun low key places to visit with nice staff (that also make good wine):

          Preston Vineyards-great place to pinic, Bocce Ball, bread oven, nice gardens. West Dry Creek

          David Coffaro. He is a kick, and we got to taste almost all of his wonderful wines out of the barrel in his combination barrel room/tasting room/movie screening room. Appointment only. (707)433-9715.

          Armida: Westside Road: They have a wonderful view, Bocce quart, pond, doggie mascots. Nice people. (My husband works there).

          I hear Rafanelli is great.

          Hope this helps.

          1. Thanks for the recommendations! Just wanted to give you guys an update on the itinerary that I've come up with.

            We are going to tour the culinary garden at KJ, followed by a picnic there. I was hoping to get to Joe Matos cheese before heading up to KJ but I don't think we'll get there when they're open and in time to make the 1st garden tour - so another time.

            From KJ, we're going to Joseph Swan. I'm curious about this vineyard as I had a great mouvedre at the Girl and the Fig (huge favorite!) that went wonderfully with the duck confit I had. I'm hoping to pick up some bottles to add to my collection.

            Our next stop will be David Cafforo and then Chateau Souverain potentially. While we're up in that area, we're going to swing by Pezzi King and hopefully will be able to go to Rafanelli if they are seeing people that day. All depends on crush apparently. When we're finished we may amble into Healdsburg but if not, we'll just go to Mariposa where I expect to end a great day of tasting with a fantastic meal!

            Thanks again for the recommendations. We're really looking forward to finding some new things.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Tida

              Can't wait to read your report.
              Have fun.

            2. I've posted my suggestions in a new thread, Sonoma County Zinfandel Tour. Hope this helps.