Dmcker asked for a guided tour of the "True" Sonoma Coast wineries. That can be a handful since many wineries source fruit from the "True" but don't necessarily make their homes there. The tour could start in Freestone or Cazadero and end up on Howell Mountain in the Napa Valley. With that in mind I'll try to break the tour up into parts that can be done on different days to take advantage of the different winery locations.
For those of you wondering what we mean by the "True" this is a stretch of the Sonoma Coast AVA that is nestled between the upper Petaluma Wind Gap and the Coastal hills near Annapolis. This is the source of fruit for some exceptional Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. With the Sonoma Coast AVA being so large many growers an producer are looking to differentiate their fruit from some of the warmer climate vineyards within the appellation since it is so different.
The short list of producers includes:
Anthill Farms - No tasting room
Baker Lane - No tasting room
Benovia - By appointment
Ceritas - No tasting room - Get on this list! the next BIG thing or should I say the current big thing?
Bohème - Tastings at "The Cellar Door" in Occidental
Chasseur - no tasting room
Emeritus - no tasting room
Failla - Tasting room in St Helena
Flowers Vineyard & Winery - By appointment way up in Cazadero
Fort Ross Vineyard - Tasting room opening late 2011
Freeman Vineyard & Winery - By appointment
Freestone Vineyards - Tasting room
Hartford Family -Tasting room at winery in Forestville
Hawk Hill - Vineyard only, Chardonnay grower
Hirsch Vineyards - By appointment also in Cazadero
Kutch - No tasting room
Littorai -Tour and tastings by appointment
Patz & Hall - Tasting salon by appointment in Southern Napa
Peay Vineyardsv- No tasting room
Ramey- By appointment in Healdsburg
Rancho Bodega - Brother of Bohème winemaker also at "The Cellar Door" with nice Syrahs
Red Car Wine Co. - Tasting room
Rivers-Marie - Tasting by appointment at Outpost on Howell Mountain
Small Vines Wines - No tasting room
Sojourn - By appointmet - Tasting salon in Sonoma proper
Whetstone - On Atlas Peak Rd in Napa
Wind Gap - By appointment in Forestville
Yeah, that's the short list. Too bad you're not in the area this weekend as the WOW (West of West) Festival is happening in Occidental Most all the producers listed above will be in attendance pouring their beloved nectar. I truly wanted to attend but by the time I found out about it I had already committed myself to other functions. Next year though I'm all over this one and you should plan your visit around it as well.
In my next note I'll break down this group into 3 segments of separate outings.
Touring the "True"
Reply by outthere, Aug 5, 2011.
Edited Aug 6, 2011
-edit- Snoothers, how do I remove a post?
- Reply by outthere, Aug 6, 2011.
It's important to take note that the majority of these wineries offer tastings by appointment only and some only to members of their mailing list. The prior because of staffing issues. The latter being because of being such low production, often selling out on release, they really can't afford to pour wine for people who cannot purchase but will happily for current customers. Call in advance to be sure before planning your itinerary.
Reply by outthere, Aug 6, 2011.
Edited Aug 7, 2011
Day 1 - There's wine in dem dar hills!
This is the most driving you will ever do to go to 4 wine tastings but it will be worth every twist and turn of these old backroads. Be sure to pack snacks because there are no services to speak of along the way until you reach Cazadero on your way out of Hirsch.
The True is a very scenic area and most people do not or have not had the opportunity to experience it. The coastal hills stretching from Occidental in the south to Annapolis in the north sport some very rugged terrain studded with fir, redwood and in the lower elevations oak trees. While some of these vineyard sites were controversial when planted due to clear cutting of old growth forest they have made a huge impact on the wine world with their incredible fruit. Most are influenced by the coastal fog in the evenings but many are above the fog line so while they get the cool air they also get longer days of sunshine.
The oldest and largest of the group is Hirsch who began planting in 1980 and now have 118 acres containing over 130,000 vines featuring Mt Eden, Pommard, Swan, 114 and 177 clones as well as Chardonnay. Hirsch fruit can be found not only in their own bottlings but also those of Kistler, Flowers, Failla, Littorai, Siduri, Williams Selyem, Walter Hansel, Whetstone, Scherrer among others. To say they are the premier Pinot Noir grower in the AVA is not a stretch.
If you can work out a visit with them it will be an incredible experience in not only wine but nature with their location being perched on the hills overlooking Fort Ross and the coast north of the mouth of the Russian River in Jenner. It would also be a great way to start your day 1.
If you are staying on the coast though you might want to start at Fort Ross Vineyard if their tasting room is open. *(Currently not available) and then travel up to Flowers. Flowers offers some wonderful Chrdonnay and Pinot Noir bottlings that show off their cool climate origins. From Flowers you can continue to Hirsch.
After Hirsch you take the long ride down the mountain. Stop in Cazadero for gas and refreshments and then continue down to Hwy 116 and the Russian River. Head west to the small town of Monte Rio where you can stop at Sophies Cellars and browse their selection of fine wines and cheeses. From Sophies you can take a 15 minute drive to Occidental where you can taste wines from Bodega Rancho and Bohème at the Cellar Door (weekends between noon and 5pm) and/or enjoy them along with a great meal at Bistro Des Copains.
After dinner perhaps you simply stay in Occidental for the evening which can be a perfect starting point for your Day 2 adventures.
This day is obviously dependent on your ability to secure appointments that coincide with your route but if you can pull it off it will be a day to remember.
- Reply by JonDerry, Aug 6, 2011.
Thanks for the tip on Ceritas, CA just keeps on giving.
- Reply by dmcker, Aug 6, 2011.
Outthere, thanks for all this info, and will look forward to more. What are the dates for WOW? definitely sounds something to plan around
Me, I'll be happy with at least half a day at Hirsch, including conversation with people there, and picnic in the area watching the fog burn off. Maybe one other winery that day, or maybe not depending on whether I want to do something else. Kinda like how I used to do trips to Chalone with picnics at the Pinnacles, back when it was worth making the hike down there. The others you mention (like Flowers) definitely, but likely on another day. Hirsch is historically a watershed-like operation, and I'd want to give it all my attention. I do love driving those roads, too.
- Reply by winepugnyc, Aug 7, 2011.
Here are some other great places in Sonoma to visit... The 'off the beatin' path' kind! I did two posts on them in my blog.. I must say it was very fun!
- Reply by outthere, Aug 7, 2011.
"What are the dates for WOW?"
This years event is this weekend August 5th-7th and it is the inaugural year. You'll have to keep in touch with them through their website to get dates on next years celebration. Huge lineup of wineries and chefs though. It will surely be back.
- Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 9, 2011.
dmcker: So maybe Chalone isn't worth a trip to the Pinnacles anymore, but there are so many wineries down there now... and if Roar or Pisoni were willing to host something, that would be something. Actually, my next goal is to hike to the top of the Santa Lucia range from Big Sur and then look down on the new Sierra Mar vineyard Gary and Gary (and their wives and offspring) have planted.
outthere, this is fantastic--way beyond anything I've done up that way so far, something to use in planning my Sonoma time. And WOW sounds like a definite for me next year. maybe dmcker and I can have a tubing race on the Russian River right after. Not to exceed 5 mph or .12 BAC.
Reply by outthere, Aug 10, 2011.
Edited Aug 10, 2011
Day 2, whether you stayed there or not, is starting in Occidental. So too bad. From Occidental our first stop will be on the backroads of Sebastopol for a visit with Littorai. They are one of the (mailing list tours only) so get on their list. There's no wait at this time.
Along the way you will pass through Freestone. If you're up for it they have a wonderful spa named Osmosis where you can get a cedar enzyme bath and/or massage. OMFG! A once in a lifetime experience. It's the only one of its kind in North America.
Anyways, back to the wine. Littorai has some very intense pinot noirs and the folks who run the place are a great group as well. From Littorai I want to send you to Forestville to visit Pax Mahle of Wind Gap Wines to taste though his lineup of cool climate Pinot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Trousseau Gris. On the way out of Wind Gap there are a couple of lunch choices in Forestville. Aioli is a gourmet deli and Sarah's Forestville Kitchen is a great place for some nice local organic cooking. Both are located on Front St (Hwy 116) in downtown F'ville. Afterwards you can hop over to Martinelli Rd and stop by Hartford Family Winery where they make highly acclaimed Pinot, Chardonnay and Old Vine Zin.
I'm slowly inching you eastward and now you will take a turn north to the quaint town of Healdsburg where you can taste Ramey Wine Cellars Sonoma Coast Chard and Syrah. If you still have a hankering you could travel the 3 blocks or so to Holdredge Wines and try his awesome Pinots. Though none of them come from the "True" they are still truly incredible. Spend the rest of the evening in Healdsburg. Enjoy one of their many world class restaurants and their cozy small town feel. It was tough having you pass the likes of Merry Edwards, Dutton-Goldfield, Copain and others and not have you stop. But we're focusing on the specifics of the true.
So, on Day 3 we are heading over the hill to the Napa Valley to finish off our tour of "True" Sonoma Coast Producers ending up in the lovely town of Sonoma.
- Reply by napagirl68, Aug 11, 2011.
OMG... great thread...a bit late for me... but I did love Taft St. winery, red car, and did not visit, but adore Lioco with a tasting room in Santa Rosa...by appt only, love the pinots, have not tasted the chards.. http://www.liocowine.com/wines.html
BTW- Cedar enzyme bath at Osmosis is AMAZING, but DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT drink ANY wine or other alcohol beforehand... I've know a few people, even strapping men, who have fainted after this tx after consuming alcohol. Book in the morning... it is amazing, as outthere says.