Top 5 Sonoma Wineries
Please post your Top 5 bullet list for wineries not to miss in Sonoma (Unique Experience, Views, Quality of Wine). Zins, Sangioveses, Viogniers and Buttery Chards are some of our favorites. If you have any specific contacts we should search out at the wineries, please include them too!
While we did land up spending most of the trip in Napa, here is what we experienced in Sonoma:
Wednesday – Tasting at Freeman. Ken and Eric were extremely kind in communicating back with me prior to the trip. We arranged to stop in though they told us it was harvest and they would be swamped. They said it was ok to still come though. When we arrived, it was obvious that Eric had forgotten. As he was right in the middle of something, he had his grower/fellow winemaker Craig Strehlow from Keefer Ranch start us on tasting in the cave. He was really enjoyable and very much loves wine/winemaking and it showed. As this was one couple’s first winery experience in the Napa/Sonoma area, it set the bar extremely high for other wineries to match this! Craig opened up his bin filled with grapes encouraged us to stick our heads down in it to smell it. It was amazing! We did not taste his wines, but he knew Freeman’s wines as if they were his own (one of theirs is made with just his grapes)! We all enjoyed Freeman’s wines. Eric did join us when he was finished and showed as great enthusiasm for the wine as Craig did. I think the Chardonnay, then Pinot Cuvee’, then Keefer Ranch Pinot were the favorites among the group. The facility is the working facility – it’s not a crowd-oriented place. I asked where we as the general public can purchase the wines (expecting him to say well here, now), but instead he said online. I was very surprised. I don’t know if he misunderstood what I was asking or if he did know I was trying to purchase some then. We will purchase online as we want to repay them for such a lovely experience and had planned on doing so in person – and we want to enjoy such lovely wines at home!
The driver of our group wanted to try another winery or two before the end of the day. So, he drove to Simi and Kendall Jackson. Eh. Simi would not taste their Viognier, but we purchased one. Their other wines seemed unremarkable to me. The gentleman behind the counter had a great sense of humor and was good at his job, but definitely geared towards getting orders and serving crowds all at once.
Kendall Jackson’s was interesting because of the aerator they used. Two couples purchased one for $45 (seemed steep to me for a little plastic thing when I've already got a great decanter at home!). The wines tasted were good, but not anything that stood out of the pack (we did not do the reserve tasting). While we did not accompany them the next few days, the other couples did say they had great experiences in Sonoma - they all raved about Arista.
I'm fortunate enough to be posting from Healdsburg now on a little vacation, so here is another list for you:
Rochioli (chard and pinot (the Special Cuvee) for sale in the tasting room now, and both are excellent);
Robert Young (excellent chard) in the Alexander Valley and a truly beautiful location;
A. Rafanelli (requires an appt and limited hours, but a real experience)
Mauritson (under the radar zinfandel producer also makes good chards)
Hartford (quality across the board: pinots, chards, & zins)