Driving Sonoma II

Take a trip through Sonoma's beautiful wine country


Last time we were driving around Sonoma (virtually, of course!) we ended up in Santa Rosa, just entering the southern reaches of the famed Russian River Valley.

Today we continue the trip through Sonoma, stopping in the Russian River Valley AVAs before heading north to visit the Alexander Valley, with a side jaunt up to the top of Chalk Hill.

This stretch of eastern Sonoma has some of the greatest vineyards in the county, with much of the vines facing west/southwest in this relatively warm corner of the region.

Want more about Sonoma?

In this series of emails we’ll be taking a look at the regions that make Sonoma special, and the wines they each produce. We hope you enjoy our tips and observations, and invite you to visit Visa’s Sonoma Trip planner. This interactive guide to Sonoma wineries is fun and informative. Plan a trip today to experience the unique beauty of Sonoma.
Driving north on Highway 101 out of Santa Rosa brings you through the eastern reaches of the Russian River Valley as you skirt the edge of the Chalk Hill AVA. The region starts out a bit disappointingly flat, but after just a few miles one rolls into the town of Healdsburg, one of the hubs of Sonoma County’s wine production.

With so many wineries and tasting rooms in the area, this is a great place to stop, taste some wine, and hit the Oakville Grocery for the best gourmet sandwiches and pizza, or stop by the great (and well reviewed!) Zin Restaurant where you can find delicious dishes, like those we talked about in our review of their co-written cookbook.

Two To Visit

Seghesio Family Vineyards

Seghesio has built its reputation around great red wines, Zinfandel in particular.  Their line-up of great Zins trakes advantage of the wonderfully varied fruit that the great old vine vineyards of Sonaoma produce. These wines are part of the county's heritage and represent one of the true gems in America's viticultural crown!

Pezzi King Vineyards & Winery

Although it lies in Dry Creek Valley -- it's even on Dry Creek Valley Road -- Pezzi King is really in Healdsburg, so we'll include it in today's trip, though look out for a visit deep into the Dry Creek Valley soon! Pezzi King is a relatively newer producer, again building a reputation around the spectacular Zinfandel that comes from these fertile vines. Always working to achieve balance in the vineyard, Pezzi King has lead the way towards the use of all-natural farming techniques for Dry Creek Valley's great stands of Zinfandel vines.

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Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: outthere
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    324443 4,150

    I'm surprised you drove north on 101 rather than going west on River Rd and eventually to Westside Rd which is home to many of the heavy hitters of the RRV AV as. River Rd has Martinelli and many separate vineyards and Westside is home to Gary Farrell, MacMurray Ranch, Twomey, Arista, Williams Selyem, Moshin, Armida, Porter Creek, Hop Kiln, Donatiello to name just a few and then lets you out right in downtown Healdsburg where you can enjoy Oakville Grocery, Seghesio as well as Cyrus and the Dry Creek Kitchen which rival the French Laundry and Bottega as the two best restaurants north of San Francisco. Wow, I did that in 1 breath? And I believe they all accept VISA. ;-)

    Jun 15, 2010 at 5:47 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 233,913

    I circled round to end up back in Healdsburg so that I can head out on River Road the next day! Great call on how to begin another beautiful day touring Sonoma!

    Jun 15, 2010 at 6:04 PM

  • Snooth User: outthere
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    324443 4,150

    I wasn't trying to knock you Greg. You're doing a great job with the info. RRV, Chalk Hill and Alexander Valley take much more than a day. A quickee just doesn't do them justice and suggesting travelers take at least a couple days for the excursion would be prudent. Cheers!

    Jun 15, 2010 at 6:05 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 233,913

    Totally didn't think so! You're right of course, but most people, myself included, come to Sonoma with a huge agenda, and just a few days. I'm just throwing ideas at people, hoping some stick! Last time I was in Sonoma I had 3 days and barely got out of Sonoma Valley!

    Jun 15, 2010 at 6:16 PM

  • Snooth User: outthere
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    324443 4,150

    Exactly what I meant. Travelers need to understand how immense this area is and plan their vacations/visits accordingly.

    Jun 15, 2010 at 6:55 PM

  • Snooth User: Da Wine Dog
    366897 110

    Well this is pretty good, though there are many other wineries in Dry Creek famous for their Zin.. Wilson, Mazocco, Rued, Ridge, and Lytton Springs are a few.. I do agree that Seghesio and Pezzi King are outstanding and if you get to Pezzi, make sure to ask about Riley's Red which is only sold at the winery tasting room or up at the ranch! Woof!

    Jun 15, 2010 at 8:03 PM

  • Snooth User: outthere
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    324443 4,150

    "... if you get to Pezzi..."

    If you don't get lost trying to find it as they do not mark the driveway very well at all. ;-)

    Jun 15, 2010 at 8:48 PM

  • Oh wow, I had to comment on this. A few things
    1) Are the wineries mentioned sponsors of the site? If so, fair enough, you have margins to meet and that's cool, but perhaps be upfront about it. If not, then you really need to dig deeper WRT to telling people where to go in Sonoma County
    2) There should be focus on the stylistic diversity even within a single region and a single grape. For example, you have world class, elegant producers of Pinot Noir such as Littorai, Freestone, Lynmar and Peay. Then you have houses of overripe alcoholic messes, like Martinelli, Kosta Browne, Brewer Clifton et al.
    In Dry Creek, you have great Zin producers like Ridge and Nalle. Then the factories of horribly overripe alcohol bombs like Wilson and Mazzoco.
    Vistors to the area need to to know the stylistic direction of a winery so they can visit places that produce styles that the like

    Jun 15, 2010 at 9:06 PM

  • Snooth User: John Andrews
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    36106 3,448

    Sonoma county is pretty damn big and there is a lot to cover. Greg could have added a lot more detail but then we'd be looking at 20 page article rather than a 3 page article.

    I am happy to see Sonoma get some recognition and it's up to us locals to fill the details. We have access to a lot of wines here that don't make their way out to NYC (where Greg is based) so get to upset if he has missed some.

    The great thing about Sonoma County is that there is definitely something for everyone.

    Jun 16, 2010 at 5:08 PM

  • Snooth User: Philip James
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    1 12,573

    Rapopoda - No, the wineries mentioned are not sponsors of Snooth. Visa is sponsoring this series (which has more to come, i'm pleased to say), though, and so there are Visa ads on the page.

    Jun 16, 2010 at 11:36 PM

  • Thumbs up on the Westside road part of this trip. Also, although they have limited production, when in AV, you should make time to see the David Coffaro Vineyard & Winery. They are located on Dry Creek Road near Geyserville.

    Jun 17, 2010 at 1:42 PM

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