Wine & Travel

Snooth User: klpete

Sonoma winery recommendations

Posted by klpete, Apr 25, 2011.

Hello-

My wife and I are taking a three day trip to Sonoma in August. I'm looking for some of the best wineries (rated by wine quality) to visit. Any suggestions?

Thanks.

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Replies

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Reply by dmcker, Apr 25, 2011.

Welcome to Snooth, kipete.

There have been a number of excellent threads on this exact subject in the past. You should run a Search on past forum threads using the box to the right.

Here's one older thread:

 Going to Sonoma

And here's a newer one:

Sonoma Recommendations

But there have been several more very good ones in between...

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Reply by outthere, Apr 25, 2011.

Where are you staying? Sonoma County is huge. The town of Sonoma is a different story altogether. What varietals do you like most? I'm loaded and ready to fire away. ;-)

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Reply by klpete, Apr 28, 2011.

We're staying at the Wine Country Hilton in Santa Rosa. I think I'd like to concentrate on Pinot Noir, since my wife is just getting into reds.

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Reply by dmcker, Apr 28, 2011.
Edited Apr 28, 2011

Sounds like you should therefore focus your time on the Real Sonoma Coast out around and past Occidental, and the Russian River Valley. Hirsch, Littorai, Flowers and others out in The Real are labels to look for while Rochioli isn't a terrible place to start in the RRV. Many more beyond just these.

Lots and lots of really interesting pinot developments taking place in Sonoma that are interesting not only to new drinkers, but even the most experienced. Outthere will likely have several more good recommendations.

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Reply by outthere, Apr 28, 2011.

Cool! You'll be in the right place then.

From the hotel you have a few choices. I'll insert maps for your convenience.

1) From the Hotel travel south on US 101 to Hwy 12 in central Santa Rosa. Go west on Hwy 12 to Fulton Rd. Turn right on Fulton and then immediately left on Occidental Rd. Travel Occidental Rd to the traffic light (Hwy 116) and turn right. Up ahead on the right will be Merry Edwards. A couple hundred yards further up the road at the intersection of 116 and Graton Rd will be the Dutton-Goldfield tasting room. East on Graton it turns into Frei Rd and you can stop by Lynmar Estate. Back to 116 and turn rt, 1/3 mile ahead on the right is Graton Ridge and another 1/2 mile ahead is Dutton Estate.

At this point you may want lunch and I'll make a couple suggestions. 

  • Henweigh Cafe - Basic home style menu at reasonable prices, then stop next door at Mom's Apple Pie for her famous desserts. If you dare!
  • Sarah's Forestville Kitchen - All organic and fresh as fresh can get. Delicious food prepared with care.
  • Nightingale Breads - Best bread in Sonoma County baked in a wood fired oven with a nice local cheese selection if you just want to eat light. (Only open Wednesday through Saturday) Across the street from Sarah's.

After lunch you backtrack on 116 to the intersection 200ft south of Henweigh (Guerneville Rd.) you turn left heading east just over a mile and then turn left on Laguna Rd. Follow that another mile till you arrive at Martin Ray Winery. Great views of the Santa Rosa plain from this site. After Martin Ray continue on Laguna to Trenton Rd and turn rt. You will come upon Joseph Swan Vineyards. Yum! Once your done there it's just one more stop before you head back to your hotel. That would be Martinelli Winery on River Rd. Then it's back to the hotel. On the way back to the hotel, on Old Redwood Hwy, you will come upon a small place on the left called Willi's Wine Bar. If you're still hungry I would highly recommend this spot for incredible small plates and a great wine list.

That's just one day. Perk on it for a while. Day 2 with a trip down Westside Rd to Healdsburg and back will be posted later.

I'd send you out to some of the spots that dmcker mentioned but it's real easy to get lost in west county and this might be an easier trip to handle. More to do, more choices, in a short period of time. But, if you want to venture out I can oblige with more directions.

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Reply by klpete, Apr 28, 2011.

Wow! Thanks. We'll have our GPS so we can be adventurous.

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Reply by dmcker, Apr 28, 2011.

If you really want to do the pinot thing, then for sure try the roads to the west. Peay, Cobb and Evening Land are other labels to look for (as is Copain back in the RRV area). You should also keep your eyes peeled for any Rivers-Marie pinot noir, from near Occidental, you might see.

The road to Healdsburg is another easy one, and outthere will give you better reccs than any blogger or newspaper columnist, but perhaps save that for another trip. Lots of other options up past Healdsburg to round out another two or three-dayer. The Sonoma Coast has an environment and mystique of its own, and the wines can be shockingly good. Worth a bit of navigating effort, IMHO. ;-)

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Reply by outthere, Apr 28, 2011.

Peay is a day trip in and of itself when doing the Sonoma Coast thing being all the way up in Cloverdale (or what we lovingly refer to as Clovertucky). Good luck finding ANY Rivers-Marie in a tasting setting as their wines sell out the day they are released. But, if you're real nice I may share a bottle of some of my own RM juice from my stash. I don't think Cobb has a tasting room but you can contact them. Exceptional wines but again they are in the sticks. I guess it all boils down to how much driving you want to do and/or how many different wines you want to taste.

Evening Land may use Sonoma Coast fruit but they're in the Santa Maria/Lompoc area.

Copain is on my short list of Day 2 stops in the Russian River Valley.

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Reply by dmcker, Apr 28, 2011.

Yeah, Evening Land is Oregon/StaRitaHills as well as the Occidental area for their grapes. Meant that as a wine to watch for rather than a tasting room to visit.

Also understood about Peay's hicksville location (I used to have relatives there). A question of whether you like the wine enough to visit, which I do, but can make the cull list for others pretty easily. Some of the wines in my earlier post are closer, and certainly worth a visit.

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Reply by dmcker, Apr 28, 2011.

Outthere, a question that popped to mind while thinking of all the itineraries you've undoubtedly put together for people, the logistics of the west county, etc.

Any tasting rooms sponsored by associations, liquor stores, what have you, that will facilitate tasting as many Sonoma pinots as possible, hopefully including several of those mentioned above?

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Reply by outthere, Apr 28, 2011.

Most of the events that are Pinot-centric in the area tend to only have a handful of really good wines and lots of good ones. Pinot on the River is one of those events held each year at Rodney Strong. Another one with fewer participants but better wines is the Pinot Family Reunion held at the Vintners Inn in July. The short list includes: Adrian Fog, Balletto, Cloud's Rest, Chalk Hill, Goldeneye, Ferrari-Carano, Harmonique, Lynmar, Gracianna, Moshin, Mueller, Ridgeway, Rodney Strong, Russian Hill, Sapphire Hill, Small Vines, Suacci Carciere, Willowbrook, Kosta-Browne, Kokomo, Siduri, Skewis, Merry Edwards, Papapietro Perry, Crinella, Twomey, Whetstone, Emeritus, Davis Bynum, Deloach, Littorai, Freeman, Pisoni, Thomas George, Graciano, Mac Murray, Chasseur, Orogeny, August West...

As for retail outlets hosting tastings the problem lies with distribution. They cannot purchase/serve a wine that they don't buy from their distributors. CA law. So, if the winery is a boutique with mailing list only distribution such as Rivers-Marie, Cobb, Kosta-Browne and the like you won't see those wines.

Really the best way to do it is to organize an offline where a bunch of geeks get together at a restaurant or some other venue (we use a friends wine/cigar store in Napa and it works out great) for a themed tasting. Everyone brings a bottle or two of something different staying within the theme whether it be California PN or Burgs or sonoma Coast only fruit...

Most retail tastings will be showcasing one or two winemakers. At least that's the way it seems to play out around here.

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Reply by klpete, Apr 29, 2011.

The Grape To Glass in Russian River event is the weekend we will be there  (8/19-8/21). Worth going to?

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Reply by outthere, May 1, 2011.

That's a fun event. We've been before. Sonoma Cutrer is a real pretty property and hosts it well. MacMurray Ranch does part of it as well and their site is one of the most picturesque in the RRV. So much to do, so much to see in this part of the county. A day of Grape to Glass would be a good addition to your stay.

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Reply by gbover, Jul 25, 2011.

We enjoyed Imagery Winery- suggest you get there early.  We arrived right at 10AM and we went solo for an hour.  Artwork and stories are great.  We then shot up to Metanzas in lower Santa Rosa.  If your wife enjoys lavender, the grounds are fantastic.  The flowers will certainly have been harvested, but the products are good, the wines are a tremendous value and its so easy to get back into Marin County if you are heading to SF or Sausalito (which is where we cracked open a bottle amongst the Redwoods).

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Reply by outthere, Jul 27, 2011.

As promised here's a good day 2 in the Russian River Valley for your pinot fix.

 

Might want to pack a lunch as there really isn't anything to eat along this path until you reach the town of Healdsburg.

From your hotel you want to go north on US 101 and exit at the Old Redwood Hwy exit just south of Healdsburg. Turn left on ORH and go a couple miles to J Vineyards which shares a driveway with Rodney Strong. J produces some nice sparklers which will be a good start to your tasting day. When you're done at J continue south on ORH to the stop sign. Turn right on Eastside Rd and continue about 4 miles. You will see a sign on the rt for Riverfront Regional Park. Directly across the road from the park entrance is the gate for Copain Wine Cellars. They have one of the best views of the Russian River Valley you can get and some of the best wines produced there as well.

After Copain you proceed on Eastside Rd, veer rt at the stop sign and then again veer rt at the "Y"in the road which puts you on Wohler Rd. You will cross a historic bridge over the river. Stop for  photo ops. At the other end of the bridge you have choices. Turn left to visit Gary Farrell and taste through some more great Pinots. and/or turn rt and follow through to past the historic MacMurray Ranch to Porter Creek Vineyards. If you are a member of the Williams-Selyem List their lovely new facility is the next stop. Members only though and by appointment. From Williams-Selyem it's a short hop of a few hundred yards on Westside Rd to Arista. Prepare yourself for some killer Pinots and killer scenery at Arista.  Next is J Rochioli. Superior wines from a long time RRV producer.

Getting palate fatigued yet? There are a dozen more stops along the route before you end up in downtown Healdsburg where you can have you pick of incredible food spots. From high end (Dry Creek Kitchen, Cyrus, Scopa, Bistro Ralph, Zin to moderate BovaloWilli's Raw Bar, Bear Republic Brewery) but all delicious. Spend the afternoon early evening walking the plaza and adjoining streets. Just a lovely small town. When in Healdsburg a don't miss is Holdredge Wines. Tasting room only open on Saturday and Sunday unless you make an appointment in advance. Worth the stop for the wines as well as the winemaker. Awesome RRV Pinots.

From there it's back on 101 south to Santa Rosa.

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Reply by tmarman, Jul 30, 2011.

We've yet to actually go - I had to cancel a planned trip two years ago for health reasons  - but one of my favorite Sonoma producers is Sojourn. They make Pinot and Cab, and their wines are consistently excellent since their first vintage in I think 2004. They have a "tasting salon", which they do in a sit-down environment. 

We've shared their wines a number of times at blind and other tastings and they have walked away as the favorites in almost every case. And for what it's worth, their recent release (6 different wines) all got 90+ from Parker.

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Reply by outthere, Jul 31, 2011.

The Sojourn lineup is great. They have nice cabs as well. But the OP is going to be in Santa Rosa (RRV) and even though Sojourn is produced and bottled in Santa Rosa thier tasting salon is in Sonoma I didn't add it to my recc's. Good call though.

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 1, 2011.

So outthere, if I was going to rent a wee cabin either north of Jenner or even near Occidental and wanted to get to know wineries in the True better over the course of three to four days, do you have a recommended course? Not sure if this will happen this year or next, but it will be happening before too long....

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Reply by outthere, Aug 2, 2011.

I'll throw something together for you when I have some spare time. This will be fun.

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 2, 2011.

thanks...

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