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Aug 4, 2013 09:45 PM

Napa / Sonoma - unique, non-touristy, cult, good value?

We are visiting Napa / Sonoma on Labor day this year, and we are seeking suggestions for wineries that are relatively unique, non-touristy, or serious cult favorites but are still a good value for tasting fees.

We primarily like cabs and pinot noirs, but zins and merlots are okay too. We have been to the area before and have tried Rubicon, Pride, Spring Mountain, Joseph Phelps, Keenan, Arrowood, among others, but we want to try hidden gems away from the typical tourist stops. Also looking to spend ideally less than $20 a person on tasting fees.

So far, we are looking at Smith-Madrone and Heitz (for Martha's Vineyard). Any other suggestions? Are there any cult wines that offer a reasonably priced tasting (most places seem to be $50 a person)? Schoolhouse looked interesting but they are closed that day.

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  1. Just to let you know, Labor Day in Sonoma is the auction weekend, so it may be hard to do a lot of touring/tasting in this county.

    2 Replies
    1. re: dkenworthy

      Ah, would you recommend just staying in the Napa area?

      1. re: krystle920

        Well, I am usually all over coming to Sonoma (since I grow grapes here), but if you aren't interested in doing the whole wine weekend deal, it might make sense to avoid coming here when everybody is partying.

    2. Some suggestions, none of these are "cult" in the Hundred Acre way. I don't remember the tasting fees for any of these being crazy:
      In Healdsburg, I would try Valdez wines. I really enjoy them.
      In Russian River, Freeman Pinots are solid and I don't remember a huge tasting fee.
      Sojourn in the Sonoma square has excellent Pinots and Cabs.
      Adastra not too far away from Sonoma square has excellent wines.
      Stonestreet in Alexander Valley has solid Chards and Cabs.


      In Napa,

      I like Corison a lot. Larkmead doesn't have the best hospitality but their wines are solid.

      Trespass makes excellent wines (at the bottom of Spring Mountain) - they have a very basic facility, but it is among the vines and they are very friendly.

      1 Reply
      1. re: goldangl95

        Thanks! Corison charges $40 a person so it's a bit steep, but I have reached out to Trespass.

      2. I recommend the following: In Napa, Corison and Bell for Cabs, Elyse for Zin, In Sonoma, Merry Edwards and Red Car for Pinot, I also agree with the recommendation of Valdez. Happy tasting!

        1. Paul Matthew wines in Graton (west Sonoma County). Not only are the wines outstanding, but the tasting room experience is quite nice, and the little town of Graton is pretty charming, and has a couple of good restaurants.

          1. What are your thoughts on Sherwin, Behrens, Guilliams, and Neal Family Vineyards?