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Looking for Sonoma County winery suggestions

My hubby and I will be staying in Glen Ellen in December. We've stayed in Sonoma before (a while back) and been to some of the larger, more touristy wineries. Now that we're a little older, wiser, and know a little more about what kind of wine we like, we're looking forward to trying some other wineries.

Since we'll be there for 4 days, we can probably drive to some farther wineries for a couple of the days, but we want to make sure we are efficient about it and get the most out of the farther drives.

To give you a gauge of our preferences:
- We mainly like red wines: Cabs, Zins, Bordeaux blends, Rhone blends, and the occasional Pinot. Hubby likes "big cabs" in particular (some of his favorite wines are 100% cab).
- We are big fans of Ridge and part of their wine club so we will most likely likely be taking the trek up to Healdsburg. Are there any other notable wineries in that area that we should visit?
- Would like to visit at least 1-2 sparkling houses. Would probably visit Iron Horse, but since it is quite far, wondering if there are any other wineries near the area worth visiting.
- Though we usually like "big" wines, we wouldn't mind visiting a couple places noted for Pinot, to have some variety. Some Pinots I've enjoyed before are Flowers (way too far) and Goldeneye (been there already). Any recommendations?
- Would like to visit a few small, family wineries that offer a great tasting experience. When we were in Napa last summer we really enjoyed Hendry Vineyards so something similar in the Sonoma area would be great.
- Of course, any wineries close to or in Glen Ellen would also be appreciated, for when we need to take a break from all the driving

Thanks all!

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  1. My husband and I really prefer the smaller family run wineries. We are pretty new to the area, and I'm not sure how close these are to Glen Ellen, but here are a few suggestions. The Vincent Arroyo winery is really great, they are around the St. Helena area. Goosecreek Cellars is also a good experience. They have a great variety of wine available as well. The Robledo family winery is around Sonoma. They are great! The tasting room isn't very impressive, but the wines are. Also if you are a fan of port, Prager is right next to Sutter Home on the main street in Napa. Hagafen is also a great winery. Their employees are very knowledgeable and friendly. The Frank Family winery also has a beautiful property. They have some great reds, and sparkling wine as well. The property is beautiful too. We had a great picnic there! Like I said before, I am not familiar with Glen Ellen, so I hope some of these are close. At least if there is a little driving involved, it's a beautiful area to explore. There are some great little restaurants, deli's and gourmet stores.

    Robledo's Restaurant
    6286 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94124

    1 Reply
    1. re: llietzke

      Except for Robledo, none of your recs are close to Sonoma or the areas the original poster requested.

    2. Try a visit to Mayo Family tasting room in Kenwood, they pair wine with food and
      makes a great lunch. Reservations needed.

      1. If you like "Big" wines, don't miss Ravenswood on the outskirts of the town of Sonoma.

        Also, south of Sonoma a bit is a nice fizzy stop at Gloria Ferrer (their still wines are good nice but in a more elegant style, not the robust you seem to favor). If the weather is nice enjoy a glass of their Blancs de Noirs or regular Brut (which I prefer to the reserve bottlings) out on the terrace. Then head further south another five minutes and take a peek around Cline, which makes some old vine Zins and Rhonish wines.

        A little east of Sonoma on 121/Carneros Highway is Domaine Carneros, excellent sparkling wines, and a richer style of Pinot Noir. Another lovely terrace.

        BTW, thanks for letting us know the style of wines you prefer -- makes it possible to actually give reasonably suitable recommendations.

        My caveat is always this ... four wineries a day is usually enough, unless you're spitting. Esp. true if tasting bigger, riper (I.e. higher alcohol) wines.

        Domaine Carneros
        1240 Duhig Rd, Napa, CA

        Carneros Restaurant
        1325 Broadway, Sonoma, CA 95476

        1. It sounds like your taste in reds is about like mine. A few months ago I happened onto a tasting event of Muscardini Cellars, and I was struck by how much I liked all their reds. I joined their "club", a thing I almost never do, and have tasted and bought their wine since then without changing my initial impression. They're a very small family winery with a tasting room in Kenwood, just up the road from Glen Ellen. I'll be going there sometime Sunday to pick up my November wine club wine :-) Stop by and try some really good full-bodied reds.

          Muscardini Cellars & Ty Caton Vineyards Tasting Room
          8910 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, CA

          1. Geyser Peak winery a few minutes north of Healdsburg. Has excellent blends of Cab. Not far, try their sister/brother winery...Canyon Roads.

            1 Reply
            1. re: joisey al

              Canyon Road is now just a Modesto brand. The winery property now houses Trione Vineyard & Winery.

            2. There are several wineries in western Sonoma that produce big Pinot Noirs. Two of my favorites are Gary Farrell and Lynmar. These are some distance from Glen Ellen, but you could spend an enjoyable part of the day in this Russian River appellation. There are a number of wineries and restaurants from which to choose. This would be a more rural experience than what you'd find around Glen Ellen. It's one of my favorite Sonoma regions.


              1. If you d get up to Healdsburg/Dry Creek, stop by David Coffaro on Dry Creek Road just north of Yoakim Bridge Rd. David is quite a character, and does exvellent blends. His zins are especially good.

                1. I like Wellington. Mayo makes some interesting pinots. Arrowood and Kunde for big cabs. Coturri.

                  Goldeneye is in Anderson Valley, which is about an hour past Healdsburg.

                  Arrowood Vineyard & Winery
                  14347 Sonoma Hwy Glen, Ellen, CA

                  Kunde Estate Winery
                  10155 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, CA

                  H Coturri & Sons Winery
                  6725 Enterprise Rd Glen, Ellen, CA

                  Mayo Family Winery
                  13101 Arnold Dr Glen, Ellen, CA

                  Wellington Vineyards
                  11600 Dunbar Rd Glen, Ellen, CA

                  1. A bit overdue, but just wanted to post a report about my trip. Thanks everyone for all your suggestions!

                    Day 1:
                    Gloria Ferrer - I always like to start wine-tasting with a bit of bubbly. Unfortunately they didn't have any flights so the hubby and I just got a glass each of their less common sparklers that aren't available everywhere.
                    Mayo Reserve Room - This was probably the highlight of all our winery visits. Loved the 7 (bite-sized) courses of wine-food pairings. Even though it was $25 it came with enough food to serve as our lunch for that day. They poured almost a half glass of wine with each one that we had to take a little walk for a bit after this one. They even gave us a free glass of their bubbly each, and we got a free bottle of Chardonnay that had no label (since they ran out of labels, they can't sell the wine anymore). Almost all their wines are $50 or less, with the cab being the most expensive. I liked almost all of their wines and bought a bunch of bottles (on our first day too!)
                    Arrowwood - This was our last stop of the day, right before we checked into our inn. I think my palate was a bit overwhelmed at this point that I don't think I really got to appreciate their wines. I liked their syrah and reserve cab.
                    Glen Ellen Inn - This is where we stayed all 4 days. The room was wonderful, with a fireplace and a jacuzzi for only $135/night (weekdays). It really pays off to stay in the low season. We had dinner here the first night, and while it was nothing to write home about, it was satisfying and reasonably priced.

                    Day 2:
                    Iron Horse - I really wanted to try this winery and I'm glad we got to spend some time here. We tried both the regular and reserve tasting, though I think one tasting would have been enough to split, given their *extremely* generous pours. The lady pouring poured us at least half a glass for the first few and almost a full glass for our last couple wines. They had some good deals too since both their Brut LD and the Joy magnum were on sale. I liked the real casual vibe of the outdoor tasting room and enjoyed all their wines, particularly the really dry styles.
                    Merry Edwards - Free tasting and loved all their wines. They had the bigger, more powerful style of Pinot Noir that I like so I really enjoyed this tasting and wound up leaving with a few bottles. I would definitely recommend this place for anyone who likes bigger Pinots.
                    We were going to Lynmar afterwards, but we were pretty tired (especially after all the wines at Iron Horse) so we just went straight home. I think I will definitely check it out next time though.
                    Vineyards Inn - Went here for dinner for a nice change since they have Spanish/Tapas. It was just ok, not really as authentic as other Spanish/Tapas places, but it was reasonably priced and they had good portions.

                    Day 3:
                    Raymond & Co cheesemongers - My hubby gave me a membership to their cheese club for Christmas (Yay!) so we got a free tasting. We were there for about an hour and a half while John Raymond let us sample at least a dozen cheeses, explaining each one to us and answering a lot of our general questions about cheese. We would have stayed longer if we didn't have an appointment with Ledson that afternoon...I would definitely love to come back and finish the cheese lesson. Really looking forward to my first cheese shipment at the end of the month!
                    For our wine tasting, we went with a bunch of people so we pretty much followed their lead for the wineries.
                    Ledson - It's big and touristy, but one of the people with us is a wine club member so we got a nice private room with cheeses, crackers and chocolates, and our own wine guide. The tasting was free and we got to try about 6-7 different wines. They also gave us the wine club discount for being with members! I liked their Rhone-style blend and it was priced better than some of their other wines.
                    Limerick Lane - Another free tasting + discounts since another one of our companions was a member. I really liked their zin-syrah blend.
                    Loxton Cellars - We got there almost at closing so we felt a little bad, but they let us in and stayed open an extra 45 minutes! Again, it paid off to have a wine club member as one of our party, we got a 25% discount on all their wines, and Chris Loxton even signed one of our bottles. They had a really good deal on their "Sonoma Red" blend, it wound up only being around $12/bottle, so we got a bunch of those for everyday drinking, as well as their regular Syrah and Cab-Syrah blend.
                    Fig Cafe - This was our favorite meal in Sonoma county! Free corkage(!), so we were able to bring one of our bottles from the wineries, but their flights and wines by the glass were also very reasonably priced, so I wound up getting a flight of ports at the end (good thing we were staying next door). They also had a $25 prix fixe menu that my hubby had and we supplemented it by ordering an appetizer, entree, and cheese a la carte. Thought the food here was leaps and bounds better than our previous two meals, and will definitely come back here every time I'm in the area.

                    Day 4:
                    Kunde - We went for the reserve tasting with the cheese/chocolates so we wouldn't really have to eat lunch. They gave us a decent amount of cheeses, probably the same size as our 3-cheese plate at fig cafe the day before. The pour amounts were a bit stingy though. I did like a lot of their wines, especially the cab, though they do seem to be a bit more on the expensive side. They only gave us $5 off the tasting for buying the cab, I think they should have at least comped us one of the tastings.
                    Wellington - They have a more unusual varietals for Sonoma so it was a nice change from our previous wineries. I was particularly surprised by the Roussanne, since I'm normally don't prefer white wines, but I enjoyed this one a lot. Also really enjoyed their cab. All their wines are very reasonably priced, and they comped our tastings for buying a few bottles.
                    Redd - We only went to 2 wineries our last day since I wanted to preserve my palate for dinner here, and I was so glad that I did! My husband and I each had the 5-course tasting menu with wine pairings, and I loved how we got different dishes/wines for each of the courses. I enjoyed every single thing they put in front of me, but highlights were the tuna tartare with the crispy rice, pork belly, and the steak+short ribs. The portions seemed larger than other 5-course menu's I've had, and the wine pours were very generous. One of the things I really like about wine pairings in restaurants is that it introduces me to a lot of wines I've never tried before, and I thought the sommelier did a great job giving us interesting wines that went well with the dishes. Definitely a great value for fine dining in wine country, we probably could have eaten here 3 times for what we spent at French Laundry last summer. We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner and I'm glad we saved the best for last.

                    We didn't get to go to Ridge as I originally planned, but we'll be planning a separate trip to Healdsburg later (hopefully including a dinner at Cyrus!). Also, I had 3-4 wineries per day planned, but we wound up going to only 2-3 wineries, but I think this worked out better since we got to relax and spread things out a bit over the 4 days. One good thing about living in the Bay Area is that at least we can always come back to try the places we missed this time! Again, thanks all for all your recommendations and hope this report was helpful.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: arlenemae

                      Ridge is a great experience up there. They do a tasting with some of the SCM stuff (Chardonay in particular) and then go on to the Sonoma stuff. The single block zin program that they are doing has some very nice wines in it.

                      1. re: arlenemae

                        Thanks for the full report Very interesting. I'll have to try Fig Cafe again as I had been underwhelmed on my last few visits about 6 mths ago
                        Merry Edwards has been a favorite of mine for years
                        On your next visit if its in the area try the reserve tasting at benziger - completely different to their mainstream Sonoma County wines. Tasting Room tends to be a bit of a zoo at peak hours so if you can ge tin early in the day you'll do better
                        I've been meaning to try Dick Arrowwood's new place Amapola Creek. I believe hte wines would be different profile to what you find at Arrowood. If you want to venture towards the Napa side Spring Mountain has some smaller and v interesting wineries also and is a pretty drive from Sonoma area
                        Muscardini and Ty Caton - joint tasting room - also definitely worthwhile. Muscardini is more Italian wines Caton has some great reds