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Pangloss Cellars, Sonoma: Come for the wine, stay to take in the impressive restoration of the historic building, which was brought back to its original glory several years ago (ask one of the staff for the story). The tasting menu might include a flight ranging from Chenin Blanc to Cabernet Sauvignon ($25 for the basic tasting). A flight with food bites is also available ($35 to $50), or buy wines by the glass. Reservations are required for a cellar tasting ($35, three times daily) that includes a cheese and charcuterie plate for each guest. 35 E. Napa St., Sonoma, 707-933-8565, panglosscellars.com.
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A. Rafanelli Winery, Healdsburg: Four generations of the Rafanelli family have been making Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot in Dry Creek Valley for more than 60 years. This small producer pours its efforts into quality, not quantity. Because of the intimate tasting environment — the barrel room — and limited parking, visiting is by appointment only (book by phone), and tasting is complimentary for groups of six or fewer. What you taste on any given day will depend on availability, as this winery’s annual production is only 11,000 cases. 4685 W. Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-1385, arafanelliwinery.com. (Courtesy photo)
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Bennett Valley Cellars, Sonoma: The Bennett Valley AVA isn’t large, but it produces excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. Most of the fruit for this producer’s estate wines comes from 40 acres dubbed the Simpatico Ranch Vineyard (pictured). The tasting room in downtown Sonoma offers a six-wine flight ($25). It starts with a sparkler, then moves to two Chardonnays and three Pinots, including the Simpatico Ranch limited release with flavors of dark berries, coffee, and roasted chestnuts. Wines are also available by the glass, ranging from $7 to $12. When business is brisk at night, this tasting room tends to stay open later than most. 127 E. Napa St., Sonoma, 707-934-8173, bennettvalleycellars.com. (Courtesy photo)
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Clos du Bois Winery, Geyserville: Producing fine wine for more than 40 years, Clos du Bois is a longtime favorite with visitors to the Dry Creek Valley. The winery made Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in its early years and has since added Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah, an old-vine Carignane, and several others. Much of the fruit is sourced within Sonoma County and also from coastal areas of California. A barrel tasting and tour is offered twice daily ($25, by appointment), or drop in for the “premier” tasting of six wines ($15). 19410 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville, 800-222-3189, closdubois.com
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Cochon Tasting Bar, Sonoma: The tasting menu rotates frequently because the small-production labels poured here have limited availability. Typically there are three flights of four wines each, ranging from $14 to $18 (ask for a taste of Elévé Cabernet Sauvignon). Wines by the glass are also available — try the old-vine rosé, a blend of Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Carignane. Grapes are sourced from Sonoma, Mendocino, and Contra Costa counties, then aged in large French oak barrels called hogs ( cochon is French for hog). Cheese and charcuterie nibbles can also be purchased. 531 First St. E., Sonoma, 707-934-8157, cochonwines.com.
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Fulcrum Wines, Sonoma: This tasting room in the Sonoma Court Shops beckons with as many as five Pinot Noirs on its menu, together with a Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and dry Gewürztraminer. A five-taste flight ($25) might also include a rosé. Most of the Pinot grapes are grown on the Sonoma Coast and in Sonoma Valley. Production is small, with fewer than 200 cases made for many of the bottlings. The contemporary tasting salon features original artwork by Stephen Hall, including two pieces he created for Fulcrum labels. 25 E. Napa St., Suite D, Sonoma, 707-931-6097, fulcrumwines.com. (Photo by Robbi Pengelly)
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Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, Healdsburg: Winemaker Gary Farrell made his bones crafting stellar Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley fruit. He’s no longer at the helm here, but his legacy continues to be celebrated in small-lot Pinots and Chardonnays. Three tasting options are available ($35 to $75, all by appointment). This tasting room recently had a makeover to add plush seating areas where guests can linger to enjoy their experience. A holiday open house is planned for December 1, from 4 to 7 p.m., when library wines will be poured and light appetizers served; advance tickets are required. 10701 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707-473-2909, garyfarrellwinery.com.
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Grand Cru Custom Crush, Windsor: Don’t let the location fool you. It may not be surrounded by rows of vineyards, but Grand Cru is a state-of-the-art custom crush and co-op production facility for several small-lot wines that also doubles as an inviting hospitality venue. The labels represented include Mueller, Cleary Ranch, Black Kite, and Flambeaux, among others, available for tasting in private salons. A “vintners’ selection” tasting ($25) is a sampling of seven wines from different labels. The facility is by-appointment-only, but walk-in customers can sometimes be accommodated. 1200 American Way, Windsor, 707-687-0905, grandcrucustomcrush.com. (Photo by Beth Schlanker)
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Lancaster Estate, Healdsburg: At the southern end of Alexander Valley, Lancaster Estate has 53 acres of vineyards for producing Bordeaux-style Cabernet-based blends. Its estate Cabernet Sauvignon includes a fusion of Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Walk-ins are welcome for tasting current releases ($20); large groups should call ahead. A by-appointment-only estate tour and tasting can be arranged ($40), which includes a peek into the wine cave. A solar array supplies the entire estate with 100 percent of its power, including the modern hospitality facility. 15001 Chalk Hill Road, Healdsburg, 707-473-3910, lancaster-estate.com. (Courtesy photo)
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Landmark Vineyards, Kenwood: Landmark is known for its single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, with fruit grown in the Russian River Valley and Carneros AVAs, and also in Monterey and Santa Barbara counties. Two tasting menus are offered: five tastes ranging from Pinot Gris to the “Grand Detour” Pinot made from Sonoma Coast grapes ($20), and the six-taste flight ($30) of three Chardonnays and three Pinots. The large courtyard beyond the tasting room is a standout, with a lovely vista and soothing fountain, bocce ball court, and comfortable seating. 101 Adobe Canyon Road, Kenwood, 707-833-0053, landmarkwine.com.
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Lasseter Family Winery, Glen Ellen: Take a sharp left turn behind the elementary school and keep going — the gate into Lasseter is just ahead. All visits are by-appointment- only, with all ages welcome Monday through Friday. (Saturday and Sunday is for guests 21-and-over only.) Lasseter produces a range of white and red blends, such as “Voilà,” a mix of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc, and “Reminiscence,” blending Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. A “proprietor’s reserve” tasting and tour ($45) features a walk through vineyards, tour of the facility, and tasting paired with a cheese plate. The tour and barrel sampling ($35) includes one barrel taste and four finished wines. 1 Vintage Lane, Glen Ellen, 707-933-2814, lasseterfamilywinery.com. (Photo by Christopher Chung)
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Martin Ray Vineyards & Winery, Santa Rosa: As you approach the driveway, watch for the vintage water tower overlooking the property. The basic $20 tasting includes Chardonnay, an estate-grown Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery also produces Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and white and red blends. A tour and seated tasting ($35) and seated tasting in the outdoor pavilion ($45) are also offered. On weekends, even into the rainy season, combine your tasting with a wood-fire pizza crafted by chef Thomas Benham. Picnic platters ($45, Monday through Friday) and an estate lunch ($60, Thursday and Friday) can be arranged with reservations. 2191 Laguna Road, Santa Rosa, 707-8232404, martinraywinery.com.
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Matrix Winery, Healdsburg: Red wines dominate at Matrix, and Pinot Noir in particular. A tasting flight of reds ($20) may include three Pinots and three Zinfandels. Matrix also makes a plummy and peppery Petite Sirah, a Chardonnay, and a rosé of Pinot. The modern, light-filled tasting room looks out onto a shaded patio with a sweeping hillside vineyard view. Bocce ball is also an option on a fair-weather day. A holiday open house event is planned for December 8 — check the website for more details. 3291 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-1982, matrixwinery.com.
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Porter Creek Vineyards, Healdsburg: “Intimate” best describes this tasting room, which pours exceptional Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, and a single- vineyard, estate-bottled Viognier produced from Russian River Valley fruit. Winemaker Alex Davis is continuing the work of his father, George, who began growing grapes here in the 1970s. The estate vineyards are all certified organic and biodynamic. Davis sources additional fruit from Mendocino County for a spicy old-vine Carignane, which is also blended into a rosé with Zinfandel. For a $15 fee, sample six or seven of the varietals that Porter Creek bottles. 8735 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707433-6321, portercreekvineyards.com.
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Rochioli Vineyards & Winery, Healdsburg: The Rochioli name is synonymous with fine wine made from Russian River Valley grapes, as three generations of the family continue to coax excellence from some of the oldest vines found in that AVA. The patio off the tasting room is like a picture window looking out over some of Rochioli’s most treasured vines. The $20 tasting fee includes the three varietals Rochioli is known for: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. Fruit from many Rochioli vineyard blocks are blended to make the Pinot, which is then aged in French oak for 15 months. 6192 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707-4332305, rochioliwinery.com.
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Seghesio Family Vineyards, Healdsburg: For more than 120 years, the Seghesios have been growing wine grapes in Sonoma County and producing delicious Zinfandel and Italian varietals such as Sangiovese, Barbera, Arneis, and Vermentino. A classic tasting ($20, no appointment necessary) offers a flight of current-release Zins and others. For an additional $20, add an antipasto and cheese board. The old-vine cellar flight ($40) is a seated tasting paired with small bites. The Chef’s Table tasting ($80) is a seated four-course wine-and-food pairing in the winery’s Founders Room. 700 Grove St., Healdsburg, 707-4333579, seghesio.com. (Photo by Conner Jay)
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Westwood Wine, Sonoma: This cozy tasting salon is down a short alley in a quiet spot off the Plaza. The focus is on Pinot Noir and Rhône varietals, with most fruit sourced from the Annadel Gap Vineyard in the northern Sonoma Valley. Two tastings are offered ($30 each): a Pinot flight of five wines, or the Rhône flight with tastes of a Roussanne/Viognier blend, an estate rosé, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and the “Legend” proprietary blend. Appointments are encouraged. 11 E. Napa St., Suite 3, Sonoma, 707-933-7837, westwoodwine.com.
2 thoughts on “Best Sonoma Wineries to Visit This Winter”
I have no idea how the editors selected the wineries on this list. Many of the tastings seem disproportionately expensive. My own picks:
(1) Cline Cellars (Sonoma): Some of the best values in Sonoma County; (2) Mayo Family Winery Reserve Room (Kenwood): Excellent food and wine pairing, good wines, very nice people; (3) Matanzas Creek Winery (Santa Rosa): gorgeous setting, great wines, nice wine-cheese pairing; (4) Donum WInery (Sonoma): superb pinot noir, fabulous, world-class, monumental outdoor sculpture. And here’s a wild-card: The Fig Cafe and Wine Bar in Glen Ellen offers flights of 3 or 4 wines. Three tastes, $10; four tastes, $12. Along with a great, reasonably-priced menu, and some of the nicest servers anywhere!
Thank You for these more affordable options!
My friend and I (her in Chicago, me in Savannah) will be coming to Sonoma early January. First trip. We are trying to narrow down wineries, how to get around w/out driving. Also, restaurants. Any ideas would be welcome if you don’t mind – Marie