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Oct 26, 2013 05:24 AM

Any thoughts on purchasing a winery "passport" for sonoma and napa valley?

A few years ago, we stayed at a B&B in Sonoma where we were given a passport for free tastings at many wineries in Sonoma Valley. We enjoyed the tastings and felt it was a nice perk. We are now returning to the area and staying at a rental property so will not have that perk. I see that there are similar "passports" available for purchase. Any thoughts about these?

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  1. If you like the experience of wine tasting, and aren't an obsessive, the passports are fine. If you can provide the links to the programs you are thinking of, we can let you know what we think of those wineries.

    For me, most of the wineries I want to try do not participate in these programs, so it's usually a waist.

    6 Replies
    1. re: goldangl95

      I concur, and add a point. When I visit wineries I'm interested in, and taste thoughtfully (I often ask for only 3 wines when they have 10 on offer), and buy a bottle (or sometimes don't), I get tastings waived. My girlfriend and I "share" a tasting (because even with the new regs the taste is enough for two). The tasting price keeps down the drunkards and offsets the cost of the wine for the roving hordes who just sip and run.

      Another plus is if you're a real spitter, that'll get your tastings waved, except the big wineries.

      I'd love to see a short list of wineries you think are interesting. It's been a strange harvest, and it's time to take a weekend in sonoma, see what's up.

      1. re: bbulkow

        Still working on a short list. It's a bit overwhelming. It's been 5+ years since we've been to the area. In the past, we enjoyed Iron Horse, Lynmar, Gunlach Bundschu to name a few, for the views, grounds and experiences as much as the wines. That said, we also enjoyed the low-keyed tasting at Taft St.

        We like sparking wines, zinfandels, pinot noir, and oaky chardonnays that are good value wines. Probably won't want to spend over $30 for a bottle.

        At the moment, I'm most interested in figuring out the Sonoma Valley leg of our trip. We're staying on the coast between Bodega Bay and Jenner before moving on to Napa.

        Thanks for all the input!

        1. re: sydney2

          I was actually hoping Mama L. would give her tops Sonoma list, we might have similar tastes.

          I am deeply into red blends these days. Last weekend was mexico city, and we had a great Baja red blend. A little sparklish, but deep red, maybe too much petit verdot, but complex and changed nicely as the bottle was open and we worked our way through the meal.

          1. re: bbulkow

            Quivira in Dry Creek Valley does a lot of Rhone varietals and blends. You might like them.

            OT. you can always go to Baja, it's only about an hour and half drive after you fly into San Diego.

            1. re: sydney2

              Hanzell (appt only), Stonestreet, & Copain may be worth a look.

        2. If you're speaking of the "Sonoma Passport," there are a few good wineries on that list and a lot of wineries I'd never recommend. So, you still have to know where to go.

          Some of the best Sonoma County Wine Regions (AVAs) have no wineries in the program.

          So, it's not bad for the money, but just remember there are a lot of wineries that are not worth your time on the Passport list. And you still have to do the research on which wineries are worth visiting.

          Being on the list means nothing in terms of quality; in fact, the very best wineries don't need to participate in a "traffic generating" program like Passport because they're already sought after.

          A big "No" on the Napa "Passport" because the wineries listed range from lackluster to awful for the most part. I went through the full list of AVAs.

          1. Thanks! We decided against the Napa passport, but may still consider Sonoma. Here's the link with the list:

            8 Replies
            1. re: sydney2

              Yes, this is the list I reviewed before replying. I went through each AVA on the right.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                I think the list link was in response to goldangl95 request below :)

                1. re: ylsf

                  ylsf, that post was confirming I'd reviewed the specific info for the Sonoma passport, and found it lacking.

              2. re: sydney2

                I just quickly scanned and the only ones that excite me off the list were:

                Papapietro Perry

                  1. re: goldangl95

                    I would add

                    Davis Family
                    Carol Shelton

                    Then, if one is looking for free wine tasting, this summer I stopped at Sonoma Fine Wine in Occidental. It is also the tasting room for Boheme and Bodega Rancho wines. There's no charge for tasting. My take was the same as this review, solid across the board for cool climate, crisp, and minimally wooded style of wines. Chardonnays, Pinots, all interesting and well-made. And I especially liked the Viognier from Santa Lucia Highlands, also singled out here.

                1. big name wineries suck i suggest seeking out the following in the internet to make your wine vava
                  calder wines
                  tres sabores winery
                  iron horse winery
                  paul mathew tasting room
                  NPA santa rosa "natural process aliance"
                  Dirty and rowdy calistoga
                  donkey and goat talk to zack

                  great small prduction natural wines
                  find their contact info im sure theyd love to have you and your friends there to taste.