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Favorite Wineries in Glen Ellen, Sonoma, Santa Rosa (Free Tastings, No Appts)

OK, I promise this is my last Sonoma query; I'm just trying to keep my wedding guests entertained and happy.

Looking for some good wineries that offer free tastings without appointment. Should be open on Friday and Saturday. Our guests are staying in the towns of Sonoma and Glen Ellen, so wineries should be located in the surrounding area. (Santa Rosa is fine, Heldsburg is too far).

If anyone can recommend any other (food related) activities in the area, I'm all ears. The Olive Press is already on my list. Any good breweries offer tours and tastings?

Your feedback is most appreciated, as always.

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  1. Finding a winery in the Sonoma/Glen Ellen/Santa Rosa area with free tastings might be tough. No appointments needed is the easy part...there are plenty of good places to choose from that don't require that. (Hopefully some of the more knowledgeable wine fiend..I mean Hounds, *gryn*, can chime in with their winery recs in the area) From what I understand, Healdsburg is the place to go for wineries with no tasting fees (although with its growing popularity, I think that might be changing)

    The tasting fees in the Sonoma area aren't all that high though, from what I understand. If any of your guests work in the wine business, you can sometimes get free tastings if you let the winery staff know that you work in the business. Found this out when I went wine tasting with my mom, who works in the tasting room of Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma, and we received a lot of free tastings and even some discounts on purchases when she let them know she worked at the winery.

    Other food related activities would be the farmer's markets. Sonoma's Tuesday night market held at the plaza downtown has started up again (5:30 pm to dusk), and they often have live music. (And really terrific corn dogs!) It would make a great end to a day of wine tasting. Santa Rosa's Saturday morning farmer's market (8:30 am to noonish), held in the parking lot of the Veteran's Memorial Building, is a terrific food experience (although maybe not quite as extensive and revelatory as your experience with your father at the FPFM in SF), and now that the weather is perking up and springtime is in full swing, it's the happening place to be on a weekend morning. I think it's worth the drive on a Saturday morning from Glen Ellen or Sonoma.

    It's food related in my book (the burbank potato!): a visit to the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens is not only entertaining and informative, but beautiful this time of year. "April 1 - October 31 is the Luther Burbank Home & Gardens Tour Season. Docent Tours of the famous home, cell phone audio tours of the beautiful gardens of Luther Burbank, world famous horticulturist. The Carriage House Museum & Gift Shop sells unique items for garden enthusiasts, including plants propagated from the gardens. Fee: Admission Free. Tours: $5 Time: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Tue-Sun & Holidays Phone Number: (707) 524.5445" (from http://www.sonoma.winecountry.com/spe... ) Bonus points for being just down the street from Dierk's Parkside Cafe, one of my new fav. Santa Rosa breakfast/brunch spots.

    I don't know if Russian River Brewing Company (Santa Rosa) does tours or tastings, but they do have really excellent beer, and a good view of all the brewing equipment, etc.

    -----
    Russian River Brewing Co.
    725 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

    Veterans Memorial Building & Community
    1351 Maple Ave, Santa Rosa, CA

    Sonoma Plaza
    475 1st St W, Sonoma, CA

    1. The Benziger Family Winery does "biodynamic" farming and would love to tell you all about it. They do free tastings and give tours of the fields. They are located in Glen Ellen next to the Jack London park, which is an interesting tour in itself.

      http://www.benziger.com/

      1. In Sebastopol (very near Santa Rosa) Taft Street and Graton Ridge offer free tastings. No appointments. Lovely scenery, too, especially this time of year.

        1. Here's a map of Sonoma wineries that I put together for myself that indicate which ones have no tasting fee and don't require an appointment
          http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF...

          Santa Rosa
          http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF...

          Glen Ellen
          http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF...

          All of Sonoma County
          http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF...

          As touristy as it sounds, there are visitor centers that give out free tasting passes. Actually I'm putting together a little post about this soon. Sometimes the passes are not free, but they are two for one offers.

          If you look at the Sonoma County map, yoju might consider Kenwood which is nearer than Santa Rosa
          http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF...

          5 Replies
          1. re: rworange

            rworange, your map links aren't working for me-- could you just post a list?

            1. re: wearybashful

              They should work now. I posted the wrong links.

            2. re: rworange

              That is very handy. However, I would just point out that some of the wineries listed as "free" is slightly misleading, as they may offer 1 or 2 tastings for free, but charge to taste more. Ridge, for example, offers 2 tastings for free, but for $5 (or something like that), you can taste more (I think DeLoach and Davis Bynum is like that as well). Whereas Sunce and Porter Creek, for example, are completely free.

              1. re: rworange

                Wow I love your links and maps. Do you know if the places you have tagged as not having a tasting fee is current? I guess I am wondering if you have updated info. I am wanting to take a group wine tasting for my birthday but am worried that my friends won't have the money to participate :( If you have any updates please share.

              2. I am not sure the tastings at Cline are free but the Mission Museum (with to scale mini-replicas of all of the California missions) on the Cline grounds is, and is great!

                http://www.clinecellars.com/index.cfm...

                Its a great place for a picnic also...

                1. Re my post on Cline: just checked the website linked in my other post, and tastings are free, and yes, they are open daily. They only charge for reserve tastings. That and the picnic grounds and museums would put it at the top of my list, since those who don't like wines could enjoy the museum and grounds, and those who don't like (quirky but interesting) museums could just taste and relax...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: susancinsf

                    Here is a post of mine about 5 wineries in Sonoma. Some (like Cline) are free, others have a fee waved w/ any purchase......http://www.chowhound.com/topics/468022

                    Dave MP