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Aug 13, 2008 06:46 PM

Sonoma Wineries

I'm visiting the Sonoma area next week and I'm looking for recommendations, particularly off-the-beaten path wines/wineries. We're staying about an hour south of Healdsburg (in Sonoma itself), but plan to take day trips to the Russian River Valley, etc. Thanks.

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  1. I would highly recommend visiting Dry Creek Valley, west of Healdsburg. You will find many smaller, family-owned wineries there and very few tour buses. It is a beautiful spot as well.

    Check out this link for more info:

    2 Replies
    1. re: DavidT

      Yup. Dry Creek Valley.

      Do mind doing a search? You will unearth specific recommendations for wineries in Dry Creek Valley if you do. Other areas of Sonoma County to search for: Russian River, Westside Road (or Rd.), Healdsburg and Alexander Valley. Please bear in mind that Sonoma County is quite large (the city of Sonoma is at the southern end of it). Good luck!

      1. re: DavidT

        Check out Longboard in Healdsburg and eat lunch at Art Palatte Cafe. Low-key Sonoma!

      2. We usually stay in Glen Ellen, and are members of Benziger wine club. Benziger has a nice tram within their vineyards. We are very fond of Glen Ellen, although we appreciate the restaurants in Sonoma more. Have a great time.

        1. Healdsburg / Sonoma I'd recommend:
          Pride Winery (call for reservation)
          Spring Mountain (call for reservation) --This is the house featured in that old show Falcon Crest
          Guilliams (call for reservation)
          Gary Farrell (call for resv)
          Trentadue is great too (no resv needed)

          9 Replies
          1. re: Hot Chocolate

            Just a slight correction: Pride and Spring Mountain are in Napa Valley, in the city of St. Helena.

            1. re: maria lorraine

              Pride straddles the line between Sonoma County and Napa County.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Melanie is right. The crushpad itself is on the border line between the two counties. However, it is usually accessed through St. Helena Rd, coming from Santa Rosa, or Spring Mountain Rd, coming from St. Helena.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Pride straddles the line between Sonoma County and Napa County.

                  On first reading I wasn't sure that you were just referring to a winery.

                2. re: maria lorraine

                  While we're at it, Pride's driveway is in Sonoma County by a few tenths of a mile, Guilliams is 0.7 miles into Napa County, Spring Mountain Winery is 4.5 miles into Napa County on Spring Mountain Road, which has a name change to St. Helena Road when it crosses the county line.

                  If you go for any West Side Rd (Sonoma County south of Healdsburg) wineries, I'd recommend including Joseph Swan. Great Zinfandel, Pinot, etc. Their Zinfandels often include a spicy aspect that seems to have been lost in the high alcohol port-like Zinfandels of Dry Creek Valley.

                  1. re: SteveG

                    Love Zins that have that spicy peppery component. Here's a Chowhound post on that very thing:

                    In any case, Pride Winery makes some lovely wine. I'm particularly fond of the Cabernet Franc. The Merlot is also excellent, and it’s quite difficult to impress me with Merlot. Because of their winery regulations, you do need to make an appointment to visit there.

                    Pride Mountain Vineyards
                    4026 Spring Mountain Rd.
                    St. Helena, CA 94574
                    (707) 963-4949

                    Pride Mountain Vineyards
                    4026 Spring Mountain Rd, St Helena, CA

                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      Hehehe... Pride...

                      Well... The Vintner's Select Mountaintop Merlot is certainly the type of wine you have to taste to believe. It is quintessential 'Foley being Foley' and if you've never had one of his wines it might be a serious trip. ("Who threw a snickers bar into a blender and called it wine?!?!?!?!")

                      I agree that of their basic varietal bottlings the Cab Franc is the best. Easily, imo. Of course, they all pretty much taste the same, it is just that the Cab Franc is a bit better. (Including the reserves, the Reserve Cab is easily my favorite of their bottlings, but it is many $$$ and I chose to spend that elsewhere...)

                      Anyway, I agree that Pride is deffinitely worth a visit, though I would never reccomend it in a Sonoma thread -- I drive up Spring Mountain from St. Helena. It is an Iconic winery that almost everyone winds up with strong opinions about. ;-)

                      (Plus, it isn't like you can taste Pinot Noir after going through the Pride Reds... frankly, it isn't like you could taste much of anything -- I was once unable to taste a 2001 Torbreck Run Rig, a 99pt Parker Aussie Shiraz, after drinking a Mountaintop Merlot.)

                      1. re: whiner

                        I don't think I had that particular Merlot, but I've heard that Snickers line about Foley before...

                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          It is like a richer, softer Foley Claret... yet somehow on steroids. As I said, it really has to be tasted to be believed. It is easily the best CA Merlot I've had (tasted a few vintages of it) but it doesn't age and it is very... specific... Other than other Foley wines, it just doesn't taste like anything else.

              2. Off the beaten path, you say?

                All of these places are by appointment only...

                Freeman, August West / Sandler (all in the same place)
                Merry Edwards
                Deerfield Ranch, Kosta Browne, Kutch (all in the same place)

                It isn't really "off the beaten path" but I love the Hartford tasting room.

                6 Replies
                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    I really do think it is the best not-by-appointment tasting in Sonoma. I would put Martinelli up there, too, but their pours are so damn small, it is nearly impossible to taste the wine! Also, you deffinitely have to like/be in the mood for their style.

                    1. re: whiner

                      Re: your other suggestions:

                      Merry Edwards does such a good job. Really like some of her Pinots.

                      Need to make a trip over myself to Freeman and gang to taste again.

                      Like Rafanelli but I'm not so sure the tasting is that beneficial to drop-in visitors anymore...small pours, only a couple of wines...has anyone been lately?

                      I think Siduri wines are fascinating...Adam's Pinots are a little bretty for me, but I so admire him and his approach to making wines from a variety of areas.

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        I actually haven't been to Rafanelli in years, but they gave me a good size pour when I went. I more included it for the "off the beaten path" part...

                        Surprised you find Adam's Pinots bretty. I sometimes find them Syrah-y, but Brett isn't something I've found... I'll deffinitely be on the lookout. Actually, his current Viognier is KILLER for under $20. I've never really care for his Syrah, though.

                        Merry is great, I'm opening a 2007 SB in about 4 minutes! ;-)

                        Yes, make your way over to Freeman. Do you know Ed? He is a friend / friendly acquaintance. I could tell you a story or two!

                        1. re: whiner

                          I am a big fan of Iron Horse - which is a bit off the beaten path and has an outdoor tasting room with a great view. I would also check out Unti - I always have a great experience in their tasting room.

                          Iron Horse Vineyards
                          9786 Ross Station Rd, Sebastopol, CA

                          Unti Vineyards
                          4202 Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA

                        2. re: maria lorraine

                          I just made an appointment with Merry Edwards to taste with Ron on the 19th of September.

                  2. Check out Robert Hunter winery, about 10 min from downtown Sonoma. Beatiful gardens, great champagne and very strong chance you'll be the only ones there.