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

krystle920 Aug 4, 2013 09:45 PM

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.

  1. d
    dkenworthy Aug 5, 2013 07:43 AM

    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
      krystle920 Aug 5, 2013 04:16 PM

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

      1. re: krystle920
        dkenworthy Aug 6, 2013 02:59 PM

        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. g
      goldangl95 Aug 5, 2013 09:10 AM

      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
        krystle920 Aug 5, 2013 07:33 PM

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

      2. FireSheep Aug 5, 2013 01:46 PM

        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. p
          pinotho Aug 5, 2013 03:08 PM

          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.
          http://www.paulmathewvineyards.com/ .

          1. krystle920 Aug 5, 2013 07:32 PM

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

            1. k
              Kappabrewer Aug 6, 2013 12:16 PM

              Just to let you know the tasting at Heitz is free and the Martha's Vineyard is not part of the tasting. However, with that said we've been there 3 times and was able to taste it 2 out 3 times when we asked for it- it is my all time favorite wine (granted we usually go during the week when it's less crowded). Just didn't want you to be disappointed as it's such a great stop whether you can taste the MV or not.

              1. Robert Lauriston Aug 7, 2013 10:37 AM

                There are around 500 wineries in Sonoma. I don't think the auction has much effect on most of them.


                3 Replies
                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  eatzalot Aug 7, 2013 12:14 PM

                  Could you check, or comment on, those links, Robert?

                  The second came up with nothing in English and the fourth came up as defunct, just now.

                  1. re: eatzalot
                    macsak Aug 7, 2013 02:23 PM

                    yeah, same for me too
                    the second one is in japanese, with no link to make it english

                    here's the last link corrected

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston
                    wally Aug 7, 2013 02:36 PM


                  3. s
                    sonomajom Aug 9, 2013 12:38 PM

                    I'd second Merry Edwards for pinot and also suggest Hanzell in Sonoma for pinot

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