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Mead and More: 9 Sonoma Tasting Rooms to Visit for a Taste of Something Different

Sonoma County locals are busy brewing up a whole lot more than wine.

Just because you’re making a trip to Wine Country doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time drinking wine. Sonoma County locals are busy brewing up a whole lot more. If you’re looking for some new libations, check out our list of local companies and tasting rooms for a taste of something new.

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 offers a variety of tasting experiences: in addition to their standard tour and tasting, guests can enjoy martini and caviar or vodka and truffles pairings. Their current lineup includes their award-winning Organic Original as well as flavored vodkas — cucumber, Meyer lemon, mandarin, habanero and other limited-edition flavors, such as boysenberry, ginger and espresso. The Sonoma distillery, which is family-owned and operated, also makes whiskey and has a second tasting room in Sausalito.

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 of the things that make their tasting room stand out is the variety of spirits on offer. While most distilleries typically specialize in one or two types of spirits, Young & Yonder boasts a flight of five distinctive alcoholic beverages, including vodka, whiskey, gin, absinthe and amaro.

Guests are invited to lounge on the tasting room patio and sip on cocktails made with Young & Yonder spirits. The cocktail menu features classic and rotating seasonal drinks. The tasting room is currently open for cocktails and tastings on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 to 5 p.m. Reservations are encouraged and are limited to groups of 4 people.

449 Allan Ct. Healdsburg, 707-473-8077,  youngandyonder.com

Wila Imhoff heads across the street to Crooked Goat Brewing with a to go Acre Pizza in Sebastopol’s Barlow district. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Crooked Goat Brewing

What started as a hobby project between a group of friends 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 non-traditional ales, sours, IPAs and even a seltzer.

This west county taproom, located in The Barlow marketplace in downtown Sebastopol, has a friendly and lively vibe. Miss going to concerts? Crooked Goat hosts live music every Saturday and Sunday. The taproom doesn’t have a kitchen, so the brewery has partnered with The Barlow restaurants to provide a variety of dishes to pair with your brew. Partner restaurants include Acre Pizza, The Farmer’s Wife and Sushi Kosho.

120 Morris Street, Suite 120, Sebastopol, 707-827-3893, crookedgoatbrewing.com

HenHouse Brewing Company

Since opening in 2012, HenHouse Brewing has become a staple on the craft beer scene in Sonoma County — made famous by their highly sought-after, limited-release Big Chicken IPA. The brewery’s original tasting room is in Santa Rosa but you can also taste HenHouse brews at the Palace of Barrels in Petaluma. Each location is visited by a different food truck every day — try some tacos from Zapata Grill or eclectic pub grub from Lila’s Streetside Eats.

HenHouses’s selection of IPAs and constantly changing limited releases are top notch — current hoppy offerings include the standard Stoked! IPA and the new Mandela Effect IPA. You can also sample some of their more unusual brews, such as the Fresh Pots! coffee saison and the Brit Pop English mild. Don’t miss snapping a shot of one of their fun and colorful labels, featuring their iconic mascot, a “Petaluma-style hen.”

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 leading the charge in rejuvenating 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, featuring ciders made from local fruit, also includes Fool’s Gold, an aromatic cider made from organic apple varieties grown on Gold Ridge Road in Sebastopol, and The Elder Tree, which features Newtown Pippin and Arkansas Black varieties.

180 Morris Street, Ste. 150, ​Sebastopol, 707-827-3765, drinkgoldenstate.com

Fresh squeezed apple juice at Tilted Shed Ciderworks. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat)

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 for their ciders, as well as fruits from their own 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 also launched their own cider-focused quarterly print magazine, Malus.

Each Tilted Shed cider is inspired by the people, places and flavors that make Sonoma County so special. The 2019 Echolocation is made from pears from Gabriel Farm in Sebastopol, and the 2020 Love’s Labor is made from local west county blackberries and elderberries. Their cidery taproom is open Saturdays from 12 to 5 p.m. There’s limited indoor seating in a well-ventilated barn and spacious outdoor seating that accommodates 24 people. Kids and well-behaved dogs are welcome.

7761 Bell Rd, Windsor, 707-657-7796, tiltedshed.com

Haus’s Grapefruit Jalepeño apertif. (Courtesy Haus)

Haus Apéritifs

Apéritifs rarely make the traditional American cocktail list but can be just as dynamic as wine or spirits. Popular in France and Italy as a post-work, pre-dinner drink, the apéritif is an aromatized, fortified alcoholic beverage infused with fresh herbs, fruit and other botanicals — Vermouth (a red or white wine flavored with aromatic herbs), Pastis (an anise-flavored spirit) and Campari (a liqueur created from the infusion of herbs and fruit in alcohol and water) are common apéritifs.

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 apéritifs are naturally colorful with refreshing flavors that range from citrus flower to a warm bitter clove.

Haus doesn’t have a tasting room, but their unique beverages can be ordered online as single bottles or in customizable 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 — they can be sipped as they are or mixed into cocktails.

Healdsburg, Drink.haus

Hoocha Brewing

Hard kombucha is a growing trend and can be a healthier alternative to beer, wine or cider. Like its non-alcoholic counterpart, hard kombucha is a fermented tea packed with probiotics and prebiotics and is gluten-free and lower in sugar.

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 limited offerings include cocktail-inspired flavors like Mojito and Moscow Mule.

Hoocha doesn’t have a tasting room, but you can enjoy one of their beverages at local markets and restaurants, including in-store at all Oliver’s Markets, Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol and Brewsters Beer Garden in Petaluma.

Petaluma, hoochabrewing.com, 707-583-1997, hoochabrewing.com

Heidrun Meadery tasting patio is nestled in a vibrant garden. (Courtney Caldwell/Heidrun Meadery)

Heidrun Meadery

Heidrun Meadery is located in the hills of Point Reyes in Marin County, but this floral sparkling beverage makes a trip outside of Sonoma County worthwhile. The meadery, founded in 1995 by geologist-turned-brewer Gordon Hull, was originally located in Arcata, CA. It moved to its current Point Reyes Station location in 2012.

Mead is made by fermenting honey in water and is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages in the world. Heidrun meads are produced in a Champagne method and feature monofloral and wildflower honeys from local hives in Northern California and around the world. Each honey adds its own unique flavor, depending on what flowers the bees feed on.

Tastings are available at Heidrun Meadery 7 days a week from 11 a.m to 5 p.m. 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 view the buzzing hives of the worker bees that make this effervescent beverage possible.

11925 State Route 1, Point Reyes Station, 415-663-9122, heidrunmeadery.com 

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