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Russian River Valley/Sonoma County Restaurants and Wineries? Also, sept 22-25 events?

  • l

We will be in Windsor from Sept 22-26--chicago and NYC foodies for wine tasting. What are the must try restaurants? Looking for great ambience and food--will drive for something truly outstanding--can be $$$. Also intrested in the must try vineyards for best wine and prettiest wineries (and if we need to book for a private tasting or any other interesting things liek that)? thank you! finally, are there any events that weekend we need to know about such as a wine crush? thanks a lot!

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  1. The Farmhouse Inn is right where you are and worth the trip. The General's Daughter is a nice destination in Sonoma. Try Porter Creek for some great burgundian style wines (their own vineyards are biodynamic. Taste at Rochioli as well further down the road.

    1. I moved to this area from Chicago just over a year ago. First I would ask what kind of wine you are looking for? Where will you be staying? It is a very diverse region, (fortunately?) there is no simple answer to your question.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jimmmb

        we are looking for more of the cult great reds that you cannot find in stores. we would love to try vineyards that are unique, either for the views, the wines, the grounds, food pairings, but not overly touristy. we will travel for great wine or food. thanks! how do you like living there?

        1. Great website for info and doings in the area:


          a division of winecountry.com and sister site to napavalley.com

          very informative.

          Lots of good options in Healdsburg......Cyrus being one of them.
          Cute town to shop and have lunch too.

          1. You are in luck, the Russian River Food and Wine Fest is Sun. Sept. 24.


            The harvest should be in full force by then (hopefully) so any winery you go to should have a lot of action.

            My favorite wineries:
            Beauty: Ferari Carano
            Wine and Food pairing : J Winery (next door to another great winery, Rodney Strong
            )View (and great bubbly): Iron Horse

            All of the above wineries are not far from Windsor.

            Have fun!

            1 Reply
            1. re: bonnie_p

              Thanks so much! We are spending 1 day in Dry Creek Valley, one in Alexander Valley, and one in Russian River Valley, so if you have any others in those areas, I'd love to hear! Also, have res for dinner sat at Farmhouse, sun--have 3 reses (one at River's End, one at Madrona Manor and one at Terra), and mon, 2 reses (Cyrus and Santi--cyrus would have to be 5:30pm). If any of you have any thoughts, pls let me know!

            2. I visited the Applewood Inn in Guerneville this past February and it was outstanding. One of the best filet mignon dishes I've ever had and my fiance had the same sentiment for her duck breast.


              1. Any thoughts on Michel Schlumberger? They went organic a few years ago. Went to a winemaker's dinner hosted by a French guy who was one of the people running the place. He was dry and an absolutely wonderful (hilarious yet understated) speaker through dinner.

                1. Having just returned from wine country last night, I'd like to also add a few recommendations.

                  We ate at Cyrus and loved it. Our reservations were at 6pm, and we were ultimately very grateful for the "early start." We enjoyed the chef's tasting menu and it took several hours to do so. The food was spectacular and the service excellent. It was incredibly refreshing to visit a restaurant with top notch food but who also didn't take themselves too seriously. From the moment we walked in the door to our departure, we were pleased. Give me a day or so and I'll post the details of the evening.

                  We also found several wineries worth mentioning:

                  Fritz - smallish, boutique winery. We enjoyed each wine and found the tasting room staff and the very accessible owner really added to the experince. Views were great and they had a nice terrace with nice tables (rather than picnic bench)at which you could enjoy a picnic lunch. They were recommended to us by the folks at Whitehall in Napa.

                  Dry Creek Vineyards - we've been here many times and are usually very pleased with their wines and their prices. They also have picnic grounds.

                  Preston - I found these guys from my Chow search before leaving. While we weren't sold on all of the selections, we were pleased with many of them. They also bake fresh bread, sell cheese (small selection), olives etc for consumption on their grounds.

                  Belle - this was recommended to us by Whitehall in Napa and then again by the guys at Fritz. It is located just around the corner from Preston. We didn't make it there ourselves, so this is only passing along the word-of-mouth.

                  Rodney Strong - we have been in the past and have been pleased.

                  J - we went last weekend and were just a bit disappointed. While they do offer 'bites' to pair with their wines, both were rather disppointing to me. Also, we inquired about the Viogner listed on the wine menu, but were never offered a pour. This is quite unlike many other places we've visited where a genuine interest in a particular bottle would justify the tasting room staff to try to accomodate in hopes of making a sale.

                  Dutcher Creek - also recommended by Fritz. Again, this is work-of-mouth only as we ran out of time.

                  The advantage to all of these wineries listed above is geopgraphy. They are quite close to one another and to the Healdsburg square where you can also take in the shopping and be close to Cyrus.

                  Enjoy your trip!

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: HMK

                    I recommend having a picnic at Preston while you tour the area. Buy their white melange or rose and enjoy the pretty grounds.

                    I have been to Bella a couple times and highly recommend it if you love zin. They have 3 or 4 single vineyard zins that are outstanding and you won't even find them in a wine shop in SF. Plus, the tasting room is in the wine cave!

                    Here's some other recommendations in the Dry Creek area...


                    1. re: HMK

                      Thanks so much for the report--will be excited to hear more! Where else did you eat? Here is my itinerary thus far (let me know what your thoughts are): fly in Sat, so not a full day: Saturday-River Rd.stops at Martinelli and then J. Swan and then a drive through the Redwoods. Sunday: Dry Creek Valley, 11:00am at Michel Schlumberger, then to Bella, then lunch at Preston, then a drive up to Ferrari-Carano to see gardens (not sure if tasting or not), then to papapietro...on to Dry Creek General Store for an ice cream stop (was thinking Unti or Taldeschi but prob. too ambitious), Monday: Alexander Valley--Silver Oak, Geyserville, including Meeker and Smokehouse, Jordan and then Jimtown, then Lancaster --Ridge on way to Silver Oak if we have time. Tuesday: Westside Road--stops at G. Farrell, D. bynum and Porter Creek (No Rochioli as not pouring pinot or sb) and appointment at Merry Edwards--they have fabulous pinots and sb.
                      by the way: I have heard wonderful things about the food and wine pairing at Mayo in Hburg..$20 for 7 courses with wine pairings-much better deal than J. any thoughts? thanks!

                      1. re: ljero

                        If you're looking for ice cream or gelato, you might want to check out the many offerings around the plaza in Healdsburg. Unless something has changed radically at the Dry Creek General Store...

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          thanks for the advice. wasn't particularly loking for ice cream but heard that Dry Creek Gen Store was a cute stop for a beer or ice cream thru a post (thought it sounded strange at the time--the ice cream part that is). Is it worth a stop in any regard?

                          1. re: ljero

                            It is historic, and you might enjoy poking around. If it's a nice day, it can be pleasant to kick back on the front porch. However, on the weekends, you might have a hard time getting into the parking lot and and have to hike in from down the road. The line inside will be be a mob scene. Teldeschi is right next door, maybe they'll let you leave your car there and you can walk down the driveway and scoot inside the store for a few minutes. Since it's less than 15 minutes from the plaza in Healdsburg and that's the direction you're headed in, I'd save my ice cream calories for someething special.

                            Dry Creek General Store post -

                            Ice cream and gelati in Healdsburg -

                            To the list of ice cream purveyors in the posts above, we can also add the branch of Powell's Sweet Shoppe that scoops Gelato Classico. More flavor selection, but Fiorello's and especially Bovolo's is much superior, imo.

                            1. re: ljero

                              I haven't purchased picnic supplies from either Oakville or Downtown. Too long since I've been to Jimtown Store to offer an opinion. Haven't seen any good reports on the Smokehouse since it changed hands, only negatives.

                            2. re: Melanie Wong

                              should I maybe buy my picnic goods ther as opposed to the am stop in hburg at oakville grocery or downtown c.?

                              1. re: ljero

                                Per the post I linked above, I threw away my lunch from the Dry Creek General Store because it was crap, and to make it worse, I waited a long time for it. Your mileage may vary.

                                1. re: ljero

                                  No, based on your reviews, I trust your taste and recs!
                                  2 other Qs, if you don't mind: do you like Oakville g or downtown B better to pick up picnic goods? For lunch in geyserville, do you prefer smokehouse or jimtown? thanks!

                                  1. re: ljero

                                    I have been hearing to skip Ferrari-Carano and Dutcher and go to Lambert Bridge and Geyser Peak instead. Anyone have any thoughts? Moreover, also looking for lunch reommendations--hear anything about Alexander Valley Grill (at Chateau S.)? Better than a stop at Mayo?
                                    anyone tried GoFish yet in St. Helena?

                            3. re: HMK

                              I love Fritz and Preston, and driving along Dry Creek Road is a pleasure in itself. Hopkiln is another great one.

                            4. One of my favorite wines is Papapietro Perry. They mostly do Pinot and some Zin. The are right in Healdsburg on Dry Creek Road - http://www.papapietro-perry.com/

                              They only do a few thousand cases a year and regularly sell out. The winemakers and staff are lovely, and for their tastings they only use Riedel glasses. I can't recommend them enough.

                              1. -dont miss Raymond Burr if you like Cab.Franc - the 02 was the Cheval Blanc of Sonoma - also a really great Picnic spot with a real view, try the chard too! A little out of the way but worth the trip.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: drobbia

                                  To offer an opposing point of view, I tasted the Raymond Burr chardonnay in August and didn't find much about it to recommend.

                                  1. re: drobbia

                                    Unless I'm forgetting the location, Raymond Burr is on the way to and not far from Preston. I've only been there once a couple of years ago and found it a very friendly place as well. I think I liked whatever reds I tried; can't really remember.

                                  2. in the dry creek/alexander valley area, my faves are:

                                    Frick - kind of off the beaten path, the owner is super hospitable, its not crowded, and they have a great dog- excellent merlot

                                    Dutcher Crossing - probably my #1. beautiful picnic grounds, knowledgable staff, not crowded, extensive tasting, great zins and ports, and a nice buttery chardonnay if you like whites.

                                    Bella - their tasting room is in a cave! you can't beat that. They have the 2004 Lily Hill Syrah which is really great, and an amazing zinfandel port.

                                    a little bit farther south on dry creek road is Porter Creek Vineyards. They have great Pinot Noir and very good syrahs as well. the tasting room is really only big enough for 4 or 5 people, and the land is beautiful.

                                    I usually stop at Hop Kiln on the way. I'm not a big fan of their wines, but they have yummy olive oils and mustards and lots of other gourmet condiments.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: mchan02

                                      Is it worth a stop more than Ferrari-Carano? Only have time for 4-5 vineyards when hitting DCV, and already have aptmt at Michel-S, then really want to try Bella, then Preston and then PPPerry on way home. Open to making the switch!

                                      1. re: ljero

                                        I can't say, as I've never been to FC. I've heard its really great though. If i had to recommend one off my list it would be a tossup between bella and dutcher crossing.

                                        1. re: mchan02

                                          any other in alexander valley besides SilverOak, Meeker (is it worth it), Jordan and Lancaster? Lancaster is at 4pm--not sure if worth the time slot, as we have 5:30pm res at cyrus, which we can give up for dinner at santi

                                    2. I had a zin from Lake Sonoma winery that stopped me in my tracks, enough to get me to buy one to see if I liked it as much off-site (I did and bought more).

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                        As another poster pointed out, currently Lake Sonoma winery only has a tasting room in downtown Healdsburg, right off the square. That doesn't make me like their Zin any less :-)

                                      2. I love this thread because it has recommendations for wineries that I've never been to, and I consider this my favorite wine-tasting area. I guess I'm so used to it I'm in a winery-rut.

                                        Also, I've had very good wine (reds) and a great time at Alderbrook, right in Healdsburg.

                                        1. Been 4 times in 5 years. If you love big reds, don't miss Meeker! Just sip and POUR. Eat a big breakfast, take snacks and cold water in your car. Ferrari is pretty touristy, but it's gorgeous. At least drive in there and see the grounds. Lake Sonoma is not open, but they have a tasting room in Healdsburg. Do NOT miss the Rosenblum tasting room in Healdsburg. Durcher was great, but one of the wineries making superb and HUGE award winning wines is Wilson. Diane Wilson is an incredible winemaker. Right across the parking lot from Papapietro -Perry (btw, I just finished their pinot..YUM) is Amphora. Rick's making some great wines, it's a fun stop, too. Chateau Souverain is gone- it's now Francis Ford Coppola Winery and his restaurant is serving pizza and light Italian fare from what I've read. We were there in April, it wasn't opemn yet. The restaurant at Souverain was not good last time we went. Bad service, food cold, management issues. I love the restaurant/deli at Hoffman House in Geyserville. They'll make you a fantastic picnic if you do that at a winery. Dry Creek kitchen was good when we ate there, haven't tried Cyrus because we keep going back (3 times) to Willi's Seafood. You can make a reservation there on www.opentable.com It's fun and the tapas style dining is great.

                                          1. Forgot to mention, Foppiano is a fun stop- they always have a dynamite Petite Syrah.

                                            1. We just returned from our trip and wanted to post to thank all of you and tell you our thoughts. First day: went to martinelli (too fruit forward for us) and j. Swan (thought pinots not worth pricing), then went to walk through the redwoods (do not miss this), and had dinner at Farmhouse. we were GREATLY disappointed. We had horrible service from maitre' D, towaitress to sommelier...sat with empty wine glasses, no service...food was ok. we were disappointed (will not go into all of the tedious details). 2nd day: went to windsor farmer's market in the am-fabulous...fresh, warm smoked salmon, great pizza breads. then went on tour of michele-schlumberger (ok wines, informative tour), bella (LOVED, LOVED Bella..fabulous tasting room in cave, great reserve zin and syrah with little free pairings), preston for picnic (ok, not overwhelmed with picnic area compared to others--no views, but bought the Guadagni $30 for 3 liters, which was fun, then to papapietro perry (we thought wines were average, and tasting room not any better), then to Ridge (AWESOME wines, great variety, cool building, with great people), then to J (eh), then to jenner for a drive and then to Santi for dinner ( sat outside on the porch with live jazz, cute, romantic courtyard and good food--nice staff). 3d day: went to healdsburg to walk around, went to cheese shop, a must if you like cheese with many local cheeses, cute shops and restaurants, did local rosemblum tasting 9(good, reasonable zins), then went to Mayo for the $20 7 tasting and 7 wine pairings rated by Wall Street Journal as best deal in wine country and we agreed, to jordan for the tasting (gorgeous winery, Mr.Jordan was there, a lot of fun with great staff), then to horseback ride in the armstrong woods, which i also highly recommend. 4th day: started at Arista, which had great pinots (just released their '05), pretty grounds with japanese gardens, to lynmar (fun tasting with your choice of seating to sip--great quail ridge chard and pinots), to deloach (fun, as we loved the woman there, but did not like the OSF wines, although the cheese pairings for $5 were fabulous), and then to hook & Ladder and then to john ashe & co for lunch which we loved...great views, vibrant colors and great lunchfood--better than expected...we loved the papardelle pasta and PLT. All in all, a wondeful trip. We cannot wait to return.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: ljero

                                                >preston for picnic (ok, not overwhelmed with picnic area compared to others<

                                                What other picnic grounds did you prefer?

                                                1. re: ljero

                                                  I know this is an old post but i wanted to ask Ljero a few questions if I can. I am planning a trip to Healdsburg area for 4 days. Wondering which areas you liked the most - and how much per day to plan. Want to be spontaneous but worried about having no plan.
                                                  Thinking Tuesday get in, do Healdsburg town walking and or maybe Alexander Valley - jordan, meeker, trentadue, hanna, jimtown,etc. Perhaps eat in town or Taverna Santi. Wed do the other one I don't do Tues. Thurs do Dry Creek Valley, eat dinner Willi's and drink at Cyrus. Fri do Russian River , J , christopher creek, chalk hill, gary farrell, etc. eat dinner mirepoix. Picnic on Dry Creek day, Bistro Ralph or Charcuterie for in town dinner or lunch. Maybe Ravenous.
                                                  Anyway, how many wineries per day is my main question? and which areas were your favorite? Planning all this seems hard for some reason. And I'm a planner!

                                                  1. re: HungryLA

                                                    You have some great wineries planned out (J, Gary Farrell)...a couple to add: Family Wineries (www.familywines.com) carry 6 fantastic labels, so you can taste them all there
                                                    Lambert Bridge
                                                    Tin Barn Vineyards (www.tinbarnvineyards.com
                                                    )Eric Ross
                                                    Ridge/Lytton Springs
                                                    A. Raffanelli

                                                    Definitely try The Girl and the Fig. Fantastic food, right on Sonoma's main square.

                                                    As far as how many wineries a day, that's relative. Depends on how much alcohol you can handle, if you're driving or not, how much driving between wineries, etc. I'm a planner as well, so I usually map out the wineries I'd like to go to (complete with business hours and phone numbers) and just try to fit in as many as I can handle. Enjoy your visit, and let us know how it goes!

                                                    1. re: christineb

                                                      Thanks Christine! I've got the business hours too! So funny. I'm trying to apply a rough plan each day and what area to do each day and feeling like it's so important. But it's probably not at all. I need to relax. Now, I just need to schedule Taverna Santi dinner, Willi's dinner (but i'm liking thurs so thats good - can get reser, etc), Mirepoix and a free night. I guess that makes it two nights just outside of town and two nights in town. So I guess alternating is good. But do I want my last night to be in town or out?! Oh, gawd...

                                                2. I liked Lambert Bridge winery better for a picnic--or even Bella, they provide blankets!

                                                  1. Also, Dutcher Crossing for picnic grounds that are pretty.