Sonoma for a few days
Im going to be heading down to Santa Rosa to hang out in CA wine country for a bit; are there any recommendations for "Cannot Miss" wineries? With the Proximity of Russian River and Alexander Valley, I assume most spots in the region are going to be Pinot Oriented with some Zinfandel at high elevation sites. But honestly, Im pretty clueless to the area, being from the outskirts of WallaWalla wine country, this is my first non-PNW outing.
I am not an expert on the area, but I have been to the Sonoma area a few times. There is much more in the Russian River and Alexander Valley than just Pinot Noir. There are several excellent Cabernets and Meritages made in the area, along with many producers of excellent chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. http://www.sonoma.com/wineries/featur...
For pinots, the best day trip is West Side Road. I recommend stopping at Arista,
Rochioli, Gary Farrell, Davis Bynum and Moshin. from a price to quality ratio,
my favorite is Moshin.
Alexander Valley is mainly big cab and zin country. I have not explored it completely, but
Stonestreet, Alexander Valley Vineyards, and Stryker (for the architecture) are
Sasquatch350, I can say honestly that I never had seen even a single bottle of pinot noir in the Sonoma area until "Sideways." Until then, most followers of California wine "knew" that cabernet sauvignon was the gold standard of reds and that pinot noir always played second fiddle; whether conventional wisdom was correct or in error is not germane to the discussion here.
In any event, because conventional wisdom drove selling prices, the higher-end vineyards in the Sonoma area were strongly oriented toward cabernet sauvignon, more cabernet sauvignon, some occasional zinfandel, and even more occasional petit sirah, best to maximize dollar return on investment.
As for "cant' miss," the Hop Kiln winery right on the Russian River is one, as much for the setting and buildings as for the wine. Take your camera.
If you get the chance, visit the Raymond Burr winery (yes, the late Raymond Burr of Perry Mason) and try the cabernet franc (as well as, not instead of, the cabernet sauvignon); here's betting that you will end up buying some cabernet franc to take home with you.
In the FWIW Dept.,
>>> I can say honestly that I never had seen even a single bottle of pinot noir in the Sonoma area until "Sideways." Until then, most followers of California wine "knew" that cabernet sauvignon was the gold standard of reds and that pinot noir always played second fiddle; whether conventional wisdom was correct or in error is not germane to the discussion here. <<<
LONG before Sideways . . .
-- LOUIS M. MARTINI had Pinot Noir planted in the Russian River Valley since the early 1960s.
-- KORBEL (of sparkling wine fame) had Pinot Noir planted long before that, for both sparkling wines and still wines (they used to bottle nv varietal wines in the 1940s through the mid-1970s).
-- KENWOOD Winery has made Pinot Noir from the Jack London Vineyard since the 1970s, and was making Pinot Noir before that.
-- and many, MANY more -- I can name over a dozen producers of Sonoma Pinot Noir just off the top-of-my-head, without looking anything up . . . .
All I can say is that perhaps you weren't looking very hard . . .
Over a few days?
REALLY SHOULD VISIT:
Siduri / Novy
WORTHY OF A VISIT:
Wineries in other areas of Sonoma to consider...
Deerfield Ranch / Kutch / Kosta Brown
I've never been to WesMar but I really like their wines.
Hartford was one of my favorite places as the drive deep into the Russian River Valley was beautiful, and the wine was superb. They were one of the few to charge for their tasting when I went (2007) in Sonoma. If you are looking at smaller wineries, be sure to make an appointment! Siduri/Novy was a really enjoyable tasting as they took the time to go through a lot of information with us, they are in a warehouse setting. Keep in mind that some of the wineries will not be tasting their trademark wine, some were sold out, worth asking what they have available for tasting. Davis was a fun tasting, the owner was very interesting, no spit buckets allowed LOL.
Oh, I would also add Peay to this list, Andy was a just a stellar guy full of passion and knowledge with incredible wines, he may be too far north for you though.
>>> With the Proximity of Russian River and Alexander Valley, I assume most spots in the region are going to be Pinot Oriented with some Zinfandel at high elevation sites. <<<
Russian River = Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and some Zins. Mostly.
Alexander Valley = Cabernet Sauvignon and related Bordelais varieties. Mostly.
Nothing will taste like it does in Walla Walla.
You've gotten some good suggestions, especially from bclevy. Enjoy!
Be sure to take a drive out Dry Creek Road, west of Healdsburg, into the Dry Creek Valley. There are a number of smaller, family-owned wineries out there (Rafanelli is very good for Zin) and it is a beautiful spot as well. There are also several winery tasting rooms in "downtown" Healdsburg.
Also, do a search on the San Francisco board. There have been several recent threads there on wine touring in Sonoma County.
Link to a list of Dry Creek Valley wineries: