Bachlorette wine tasting in Sonoma Valley
- oaklandfoodie Aug 30, 2006 09:49 PM
I turn to my trusty chowhounds for help in this hardy adventure. Think 8-10 women in their latest 20's (organic farmers, teachers, chefs, aspiring doctors) who like to eat and drink, and can get a bit wild. Out for a day of wine tasting in Sonoma Valley to celebrate with the bride to be.
We'd like to go to 3-4 wineries, preferable if they have some sort of attention to organic or bio-dynamic growing practices, and also have some affordable wines (under $20). I think staying in Sonoma Valley is a good idea, so we are not spending a whole lot of time driving around.
Now, I'm really starting to get into wine, so I'd like to take this as any opportunity to learn more about it. Also any suggestions for a place to grab a bite to eat would be good, a market with goodies for takeout? Thanks for your help and I promise to report back on the debauchery - I mean wine tasting.
I'd stick with the bigger places personally - maybe Clos Pegase, Sterling, that sort of place, maybe the Silverado Trail (not Sonoma though). Or you could try a sparkling-wine theme, that might be fun (Ferrer, Chandon, etc) and celebratory!
The bigger places can handle bigger groups like yours, and you should definitely stick with places that charge a tasting fee. We've spent a lot of time in many of the wineries in different areas up there and gotten lots of feedback on how certain corridors are "ruined" because of the prevalence of - you guessed it - bachelorette parties coming to drink and get crazy for free. They don't look so kindly on the scene, was our overall impression. However, if you stick with places that take this cost into account with a tasting fee, you hopefully won't get those negative vibes (who needs those on a bachelorette party?). Smaller places sometimes can't absorb that cost and are also less likely to be tolerant of the party-aspect. Unless, of course, they are hosting an event as they often do during harvest season, so that might be something to look into as well. Have fun!
Benziger is a great stop. They do biodynamic wines, and give a great tour that talks all about the practices, etc. I wasn't a HUGE fan of their wines, though.
Korbel also has a fun tour, believe it or not, and lots of affordable champagne.
What about Cline - I've read lots of great things on this board, but haven't tried their wine yet?
Maya - thank you for your post. I certainly don't want to go places that are not suited to our group. That's why I was hoping to go for more of the organic/byodynamic route since we have several organic farming women and women organic chef's among us!
For food, there's Dean and Deluca on one side of Hwy 29 and V Sattui on the other. The wine at V Sattui isn't great but there is a decent deli and large picnic grounds, and if you have been drinking alot before that you're probably not going to care so much. :) Niebaum Coppola is also nearby for browsing movie memorabilia and enjoying your wine (or cigars) on the beatiful grounds. All of those places have room inside or out for a large lively group, but do get LOTS of traffic on the weekend.
I would like to put in a word for small wineries on the Silverado Trail (http://www.silveradotrail.com/map.html). Alot of them don't get as much traffic, and if there's alot of you, you're not going to want to be separated by alot of other tourists in a crowded tasting room (note that that's a problem with the tasting room at V Sattui). I suggest calling ahead to make sure - the wineries will tell you if they can handle your group or not. One of my favorite small wineries is Clos de Val. Rarely any jostling with tourists, small size or private tours, and good wine.
Oops! I just realized you were specifically looking at Sonoma, not Napa! If you don't mind heading northwest, you can take any of these beautiful wine trails (http://www.winecountrygetaways.com/ru...) and get great eats in Healdsburg. I like picnicking along this trail myself: Dry Creek Valley trail (Winerieshttp://www.winecountrygetaways.com/russian_d...) We don't run into many crowds there like in Napa and it's more scenic.
Two suggestions for you in the Russian River area. For biodynamic wines, check out Davis Bynum Winery on Westside Road in Healdsburg. Truly great wines and a very unique tasting room. For organic, I like Everett Ridge, just north of Davis Bynum on West Dry Creek Road. Everett Ridge was just sold, so I don't know for sure if the new owners are still making organic wines, but you could call them. Both of these wineries are on the small side, so you should call in advance. A great start to the day in that area is J Wines, out on Old Redwood Highway. Ron Clark in the tasting room is one of the most charming, knowlegable and fun people you will ever meet. J charges for their tastings, but they also pair them with food. I would definately call in advance for your party, and make sure that Ron is on the day you want to visit. For a meal stop, check out Bear Flag Brewing just off the square in Healdsburg. Great food (vegetarians will love it as well), and they also offer a microbrew tasting sampler selection! Enjoy your party and congratulations to the bride to be.
Cline Cellars offers free wine tastings, and their reserve tastings cost a minimal fee. The tasting ground is friendly and fun with picnic tables, a little pond with a water fountain and lily pads, and big cages of random chickens from all over the world.
They also use biodynamic farming methods:
I enjoyed their wines but then again I don't have a distinguished wine palate. My favorite Cline wines are the Red Truck and Pinot Grigio/Chardonnay, which are decently priced as well.
Check out De La Montoya; small, family owned and operated, beautiful setting, and very reasonable wine prices. I actually think a smaller operation might be more fun than a larger one. I'd call in advance; they were very hospitable when we were there. I do not know what their organic approach is, however. Sinskey, in Napa, is involved in organic wine making and has a terrific kitchen; the wife of the owner is a former chef from SF, and it's also a fun stop
You are getting a lot of information about areas a ways away from Sonoma Valley including Napa Valley (Siverado Trail, Dean & DeLuca, V. Sattui), the Russian River area, etc.
Here are some websites that focus on the Sonoma Valley area (if that is what you really want):
And I have a heard number of comments myself about bachelorette parties when I've been out tasting. Few good.
Landmark, Chateau St. Jean & Kunde are a couple of our favorites.
Landmark has a horse & carriage "hay ride" on weekends that could be a lot of fun. They also have a great bocce court and a nice picnic area. Buy a bottle of their award-winning whites, and they'll give you an ice bucket to take out to the bocce court with wou. Last time we visited there was a group of ladies was having a wedding shower there. Matanzas is by far our favorite winery visit in the valley.
Chateau St. Jean (pronounced "Gene", not "Zhawn") has a terrific Chardonnay and beautiful gardens and visitor center. Be sure to print out a complimentary tasting pass online before visiting.
Kunde has a nice tasting room and grounds. Not sure of your dates, but they are hosting a 4-hour Sustainable Winegrowing "Green Tour" on 9/23 if you're interested.
Also, if you wish to drive just a bit, head out on Warm Springs road from Glen Ellen until you hit Bennett Valley Road and visit Matanzas Creek. Their Sauvignon Blanc & Merlot are excellent, and the entire property is surounded by an amazing lavendar farm, featuring varieties from all over the world.
Enjoy your tour!