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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:

    http://www.wdcv.com/index.php?option=...

    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:
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/414266

                    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)
                Rafanelli
                Siduri/Novy

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

                6 Replies
                1. re: whiner

                  Loves me some Hartford.

                  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.
                          Yipppppppppeeeeeeeeee!

                  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.

                    1. I just got back from SF and visited four wineries:

                      Arista
                      - $5 tasting fee (I had been told to expect around $15, not specifically this place but in general - maybe in Napa?). They poured one white (gerwurztraminer) and 3-4 reds, one called Mark David which they don't pour on a regular basis. All very nice!

                      C. Donatiello
                      - This was my favourite since we brought our own picnic lunch and bought a bottle of white there to go with it (can't remember what it was, sorry!) and the garden and vineyard beyond made a lovely view. Also there was live music: Casey Fraser (sp?) on acoustic guitar who was very good.

                      Rochioli
                      - currently doing reno but still open. My host went there specifically to buy wine as it's her favourite. So I hope that's enough of a recommendation?

                      Porter
                      - the owner is a very friendly Scottish man with an equally friendly dog and aviary
                      - no tasting fee, unless someone else in my party paid and I didn't notice? ;)
                      - my next favourite place for it's casual atmosphere and I'm glad it ended my tour of Sonoma for the day

                      I enjoyed all of these places and am sure those of you who know more about wine would like them too.

                      1. I love gundlach bundschu in Sonoma, Rochioli on Westside Road, Gary Farrell, Moshin has beautiful bottles and some decent wine....really depends on what type of wine you like.

                        1. Thanks all for the thoughtful responses. We're traveling with our four-month old son, so we have to take it easy and be a bit flexible. I figure a day in and around Sonoma (Gundlach Bundschu was recommended here and elsewhere), a day up by Westside Road (w/ lunch or dinner in Healdsburg), and a day in and around Spring Mountain. I plan to schedule a tasting at Pride. Are there any tasting rooms open in that area (Spring Mountain) that do not require an appointment?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Dedalus

                            Due to state or county regulations, all smallish wineries have permits that don't allow them to be "open to the public." They're supposed to taste by appointment only, but in practice many of them will have tasting staff on site during business hours and can be quite flexible. When you make appointments, ask how flexible they are--most should be able to accommodate reasonable last-minute changes as long as you call them, but some have rigid appointment schedules because they're so popular.

                            1. re: Dedalus

                              if you go to Pride, you can also ask them if you can reserve the picnic area and have a picnic lunch with a bottle of pride. last time i went they had a horse and carriage that you could take a little ride in as well.

                              Guilliams is next door to Pride ... not sure you need an appointment and it's a tiny winery (i.e. I tasted in their kitchen) which makes for an intimate fun experience.

                            2. In RRV (as a Winemaker I would say..)

                              Lynmar - Winemaker is Hugh Chapelle (ex Flowers) doing great things...one to watch..
                              Gary Farrell, Rochiolli and Hartford Court

                              Theses are the "must" go to places - Joseph Swan and Russian Hill also worth a visit.

                              Enjoy Robin

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Robin Langton

                                This is the best list of wineries on this page, IMHO. :) To make it complete, I'd also add Woodenhead. The winemaker (Nick Setz, formerly of Williams-Selyem) makes fantastic Pinot and Zin, and now offers Syrah & French Colombard, too.