Sonoma County may be known for its wine, but locals are concocting a variety of drinks, from vodka, whiskey and gin to cider and aperitifs — even mead. If you want to change things up in the new year, here are nine local tasting rooms to visit, perhaps once pandemic conditions improve (or order your drinks online on company websites for delivery or pickup). Click through the above gallery for a peek at the tasting rooms and drinks.
Hanson of Sonoma
Move over grains and potatoes — Hanson of Sonoma is one of a few distilleries to produce vodka from grapes. The finished product can be enjoyed on its own or in one of the creative cocktails made and served in the distillery’s tasting room. Pair your drink with a wood-fired pizza, available Friday through Sunday.
Hanson has a variety of tasting options, from a standard tour and tasting to martini and caviar or vodka and chocolate truffle pairings. Their current vodka lineup includes the award-winning Organic Original as well as flavored vodkas — cucumber, Meyer lemon, mandarin, habañero and other limited-edition flavors, such as boysenberry, ginger and espresso.
22985 Burndale Road, Sonoma, 707-343-1805, hansonofsonoma.com
Young & Yonder
Young & Yonder was founded in 2017 by husband-and-wife team Joshua and Sarah Opatz. One thing that makes this tasting room stand out is its variety of spirits. While most distilleries specialize in one or two spirit types, Young & Yonder serves a flight of five: vodka, whiskey, gin, absinthe and amaro.
Visitors can lounge on the tasting room patio and sip on cocktails made with Young & Yonder spirits. The menu features classic cocktails and rotating seasonal drinks. The tasting room is open for cocktails and tastings noon to 5 p.m. Friday to Sunday. Reservations are encouraged; groups larger than eight people must make a reservation.
449 Allan Court, Healdsburg, 707-473-8077, youngandyonder.com
Crooked Goat Brewing
This brewery started as a hobby project for a group of friends and eventually turned into a full-time business. Since opening in 2016, Crooked Goat has brewed more than 350 types of beer. They offer a wide selection of brews on rotating taps, including traditional and nontraditional ales, sours, IPAs and even a seltzer.
The brewery’s west county taproom, located in The Barlow in downtown Sebastopol, has a friendly and lively vibe. The taproom doesn’t have a kitchen, so the brewery has partnered with Barlow restaurants to offer a variety of dishes to pair with your brew. Partner restaurants include Acre Pizza, The Farmer’s Wife and Sushi Kosho.
120 Morris St., Suite 120, Sebastopol, 707-827-3893, crookedgoatbrewing.com
HenHouse Brewing Company
Since opening in 2012, HenHouse Brewing has become a staple on the Sonoma County craft beer scene. Their Big Chicken IPA, available for only for a few days each February, has achieved cult status in the beer world.
The brewery’s original tasting room is in Santa Rosa, but you also can get HenHouse brews at the Palace of Barrels in Petaluma. Each location is visited by a different food truck every day — January’s food truck schedule includes Damn Dogs, Galvan’s Eatery, Red Horse Pizza, Streetside Asian Grill and Tacos Los Iñiguez.
HenHouses’s selection of IPAs and constantly changing limited releases are top-notch. To celebrate its 10th anniversary, HenHouse has partnered with nine American breweries and one in England to create 10 beers that will be released over five weeks, ending on Feb. 5.
322 Bellevue Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-978-4577; 1333 N. McDowell Blvd., Petaluma, henhousebrewing.com
Golden State Cider
Hard ciders are having a moment. In Sonoma County, cider makers are reviving local orchards; among them is Golden State Cider, owned by Jolie Devoto-Wade and her husband, Hunter Wade. The Devoto family has been farming apples in Sonoma County since the late 1970s, and Jolie and Hunter continue to make great things with the fruit.
Visit the Golden State Cider taproom in The Barlow and try their 12 ciders, available on rotating taps. Don’t miss Save the Gravenstein, a heritage-style cider made exclusively from Gravenstein apples grown in the Sebastopol hills. The cidery’s Harvest Series features ciders made from local fruit and includes Fool’s Gold, an aromatic cider made from organic apple varieties grown on Gold Ridge Road in Sebastopol, and The Elder Tree, with Newtown Pippin and Arkansas Black apple varieties.
180 Morris St., Suite 150, Sebastopol, 707-827-3765, drinkgoldenstate.com
Tilted Shed Ciderworks
Tilted Shed Ciderworks was launched in 2011 by husband-and-wife team Scott Heath and Ellen Cavelli. They use organically grown heirloom and cider apples from local orchards, as well as fruit from their Sebastopol farm, where they grow more than 120 cider apple and Perry pear varieties. The couple founded and managed the first Sonoma County Cider Week in 2018 and launched their own cider-focused quarterly print magazine, Malus.
Each Tilted Shed cider is inspired by the people, places and flavors of Sonoma County. The 2020 Block Party is a collaboration with neighboring Two Shepherds Winery (“love thy neighbor, share thy fruit” reads the label) and includes organic dry-farmed Jonathan apples from Nana Mae’s Organics in Sebastopol. The 2020 Still Standing canned cider is a wild-fermented blend of locally grown and organically farmed apples — Jonathan, Golden Delicious, Gravenstein, Rhode Island Greening, Wickson, Nehou and Muscat de Bernay. The cider is “a testament to the resilience and tenacity of Sonoma County.”
The cidery taproom is open Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. for tastings in a barn or outdoors (due to the omicron surge, the taproom is currently open for socially distant outdoor tastings only; guests need to be vaccinated — preferably boosted — and wear an N95 or other high-quality mask).
7761 Bell Road, Windsor, 707-657-7796, tiltedshed.com
Aperitifs rarely make the traditional American cocktail list, but they can be just as dynamic as wine or spirits. Popular in France and Italy as a post-work, pre-dinner drink, the aperitif is a fortified alcoholic beverage infused with fresh herbs, fruit and other botanicals — vermouth, pastis and Campari are common aperitifs.
Based in Healdsburg, Haus was founded by Helena Price Hambrecht and Woody Hambrecht, who previously ran a wine label together called Alysian. Their concoctions contain a fraction of the sugar of big-brand aperitifs and have a low-alcohol content “for more hangouts and fewer hangovers.” The aperitifs are naturally colorful, with refreshing flavors that range from citrus flower to bitter clove.
Haus doesn’t have a tasting room, but you can order their unique beverages online as single bottles or in custom sampler kits that include four smaller bottles of your choice. Each purchase includes information about each drink and suggestions on how to best enjoy them — sipped as they are or mixed into cocktails.
Hard kombucha is a growing trend and can be a healthier alternative to beer, wine or cider. Like its nonalcoholic counterpart, hard kombucha is a fermented tea packed with probiotics and prebiotics and is gluten-free.
Hoocha Brewing was started in Petaluma by a group of friends who wanted to turn the popular beverage into an evening favorite. They create simple yet refreshing beverages in flavors like grapefruit, crisp apple and their original flavor, a slightly tart dry kombucha with a kick. Their current offerings include cocktail-inspired flavors like Mojito and Moscow Mule.
Hoocha doesn’t have a tasting room, but you can find one of their beverages at local markets and restaurants, including Trail House in Santa Rosa, HopMonk Tavern in Sebastopol, Brewsters Beer Garden in Petaluma, Jack’s Filling Station in Sonoma and at all Oliver’s Markets. Also available online.
Petaluma, 707-583-1997, hoochabrewing.com
Heidrun Meadery is located in the hills of Point Reyes in Marin County, but their floral sparkling beverage makes the trip across the county line worthwhile. The meadery, founded in 1995 by geologist-turned-brewer Gordon Hull, was originally located in Arcata. It moved to its current spot in 2012.
Mead is made by fermenting honey in water and is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages. Heidrun meads are produced with a Champagne method and feature floral honey from local hives in Northern California and around the world. Each honey adds a unique flavor, depending on what flowers the bees feed on.
Heidrun Meadery is open for tastings by reservation from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Try their famous California Orange Blossom or one of their more unusual meads, the Hawaiian Macadamia Nut Blossom. Then wander through their bee foraging gardens and see the buzzing hives of worker bees that make this effervescent beverage possible.
11925 Highway 1, Point Reyes Station, 415-663-9122, heidrunmeadery.com