Russian River Winery with food for group...winery recs too!
Heading up to do some wine tasting in the Russian River valley this weekend with sizable group (10-15). I am currently trying to plan our route and need to work in a lunch stop. Given the size of our group and that it is unlikely to be picnic weather, I think a simple winery that sells bread cheese or already made sandwiches is our best bet. Do any of you chowhounds know of such a place? (Does Korbel fit this description?)
While i've got your attention.... what are your thoughts on my short list of potential wineries to visit. We are a diverse group in terms of tastes, wine knowledge / appreciation and budgets:
Russian Hill Estate
Thanks in advance!
Korbel has a nice deli with sandwiches etc where you can get a decent lunch. The Korbel tasting is not bad either - the wines range in quality only from acceptable/average to pretty good, but it's fun to try many kinds of unusual sparklers. I would avoid the Korbel tour given the list of heavy hitters you have lined up. The Korbel tour lasts an hour and it's 90% cheesy filler for tourists.
J Winery is really great and would probably be perfect for feeding a small goup. If you contact them beforehand they can put together a few nice options. One other winery I'd definitely visit is Copain Winery on East Side Road. It's only a few minutes past J and they have a beautiful newer, classic facility, great views of the Russian River, and delicious wines. It's appointment only and the people are fantastic! And no, I don't work for them, but I do have my own winery in Sonoma. Enjoy!
I would suggest sandwiches to go with salads from somewhere like Willowwood in Graton; much better than Korbel. Some better wineries for your consideration should include Freestone Winery (owned by Joseph Phelps) in Freestone, Marimar Torres on Graton Road (serve spanish tapas with their wine tasting of Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs), Lynmar Winery near Graton, Woodenhead on River Road and Hartford Court in Forestville. Iron Horse Winery off of 116 near Graton is one of the more beautiful locations and has a nice variety of wines from sparling to pinot noirs.
I like going to J, even though they've changed their tasting options which lessened the value of being in the wine club. . .they do have a variety of pours.
Sunce. . .love, love, love sunce. however, be aware that they pour alot of wine. . .so, if you aren't prepared for it, you will be finished for the day. they do have a nice (covered) patio with bocce ball area if you pack a lunch to-go.
the benefit of going to rodney strong is that they are in the same parking lot as j. they've always been real friendly and have a nice tasting room. . .wouldn't necessarily say they are a must, but if you're feeling lazy after j, they are right there.
hartford is great. . .
also, if you are that large of a group, you should really call ahead and see if that winery will accept that large of a group. i believe that sunce generally does not allow groups larger than 6, but you should check anyway.
Was at Korbel this summer, and opted to tour the gardens rather than the facility, and that was kind of a hoot. We picked up lunch at the store there and took it up the road to Armstrong State Park, at the recommendation of our tour guide. Get this -- it's where they filmed the, um, I want to call them lightcycles, but I know that's not right -- anyway, the tree-racing portion of Return of the Jedi! so we picnicked in the redwoods and it was sublimely peaceful, except for the robber bluejays.
Another nice option for a large group is to stop at the under-construction Rosso & Bianco, the large resort that Francis Ford Coppola is building just off the highway. I say this because they have a small outpost of his Zoetrope Pizzeria there, and the cirsp Napoli-style pizza makes a nice foil to a rough morning's winebelly. They also to small sandwiches and cheese plates, and the setting is quite nice. If you venture off into the darkest corner of the tasting room, you will see the man's Oscars up over the bar. Odd place to put them, for the riffraff to notice, or not! Also, the Sargeant's boots from Apocalypse Now are above the main bar. I was glad we made the stop -- I am picky about pizza and it didn't disappoint.