Banshee Wines, 325 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-395-0915, bansheewines.com. One of the newer additions to Healdsburg’s downtown wine-tasting scene, Banshee has created a cool, urban enclave of wine and art, open into the evenings for lounging. Wines are available by the glass and bottle at retail prices; more formal tastings are available, paired with bites from Healdsburg Shed.
Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves, 9711 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 866-572-3552, bellawinery.com. While winter is great for meandering in Bella’s cozy caves, spring brings the opportunity to tour the hillside vineyards by four-wheel drive Pinzgauer and then taste the wines beneath the property’s giant trees. On weekends, enjoy small bites from the winery’s stellar chef, Bruce Frieseke. Cave and vineyard tours should be arranged by appointment one week in advance.
Benziger Family Winery, 1883 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, 888-490-2739, benziger.com. This friendly family winery is all about nature and the outdoors, nurturing an insectary to benefit the vines and taking visitors on vineyard tram tours to discuss the whys and hows of Biodynamic farming. The Benzigers produce a wide range of wines at fair prices.
Buena Vista Winery, 18000 Old Winery Road, Sonoma, 800-926-1266, buenavistawinery.com. Historic Buena Vista has refashioned its wine caves into a glittery romantic spot for barrel tasting and touring, and a section of the cave can be reserved for private, by-appointment tastes of library wines and barrel samples. Don’t miss the Champagne Cellars (kid-friendly and there is no charge), where the winery’s history can be further explored.
Campovida, 13601 Old River Road, Hopland, 707-400-6300, campovida.com. On the site of glorious gardens surrounded by vineyards, Campovida features a tasting room called Taste of Place, offering wine tasting, local artisanal fare and plenty of discussion about the advantages and challenges of organic, Biodynamic and sustainable farming in Mendocino County. In spring, don’t miss Campovida’s own stunningly delicious rosé.
Chateau St. Jean, 8555 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707-833-4134, chateaustjean.com. With a sprawling picture-perfect lawn and bocce courts, the best reason to visit this venerable winery besides its gorgeous location is the 40th-anniversary celebration of Cinq Cepages, its proprietary Bordeaux-style red blend. It also carries many picnic goodies.
DeLoach Vineyards, 1791 Olivet Road, Santa Rosa, 707-526-9111, deloachvineyards.com. Producer of predominantly Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, DeLoach affords visitors the opportunity to learn the philosophies of Biodynamic farming and take part in two unique experiences available daily. The M.F.S. Blending Experience ($100) is a 90-minute lesson in blending, bottling and labeling your own Pinot Noir. The Magic of Wine and Mustard ($40) explores the history of mustard in Burgundy, France, and includes a stroll through the vineyard and garden, the chance to make your own mustard from Dijon seeds, and a pairing of mustard-inspired food with a flight of DeLoach wines.
Dry Creek Vineyard, 3770 Lambert Bridge Road, Healdsburg, 800-864-9463, drycreekvineyard.com. If for no other reason, come to Dry Creek Vineyard for the dry Chenin Blanc, a fine, springtime sipper. Then move on to the winery’s Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Meritage wines. It’s worth first stopping at the nearby Dry Creek General Store for provisions to enjoy on the winery’s open-air picnic grounds.
Ferrari-Carano, 8761 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-6700, ferrari-carano.com. Take a tour of the sprawling Versailles-grand gardens, so rich in tulips (said to number 10,000) that the winery mans a garden hotline (707-433-5439). Taste the wine in one of two tasting bars, Enoteca or Villa Fiore.
Gundlach-Bundschu, 2000 Denmark St., Sonoma, 707-938-5277, gunbun.com. The 1860s winery, still family-run, offers a courtyard tasting menu in good weather with flights of five current-release wines, and the option to indulge in five library Cabernet Sauvignons. A board of local cheeses, hummus and almonds might accompany the wines. Vineyard excursions start in May.
Harmonique Wines, 14501 Highway 128, Boonville, 707-895-9300, harmoniquewine.com. Opened in 2013 by owners Bruce and Moira Conzelman to celebrate the release of three aged Pinot Noirs made by winemaker Robert Klindt, the Harmonique tasting room is within the John Hanes Fine Art Gallery, across from the Boonville Hotel. Enjoy the winery’s three 2007 Pinot Noirs and delightful unoaked Chardonnay.
Hartford Family Winery, 8075 Martinelli Road, Forestville, 707-887-8030, hartfordwines.com. Tucked away in the woods, Hartford is a consistent high-quality producer of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and old-vine Zinfandel, sourcing grapes from the Green Valley sub-appellation of the Russian River Valley, and from other cool locales such as Anderson Valley. Seated in-depth tastings, including some with food pairings, can be arranged by appointment.
J Vineyards & Winery, 11447 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg, 707-431-5400, jwine.com. A glass of bubbly is always a good thing, and this is a well-appointed spot at which to have it, as well as taste J’s Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Don’t miss having a sip of Pinot Gris, among the winery’s most popular, springtime-perfect wines. The J Bubble Room will pair wines with exquisite, locally sourced dishes.
Jordan Vineyard & Winery, 1474 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg, 800-654-1213, jordanwinery.com. By appointment, Jordan welcomes visitors for walking tours through its beautiful compound, which includes the estate’s gardens where executive chef Todd Knoll sources a cornucopia of produce for winery meals. Tours and seated tastings go Monday through Saturday throughout the year and also on Sundays starting in mid-April. Jordan also makes an estate extra-virgin olive oil.
Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards, 12747 El Camino Bodega, Freestone, 707-874-1010, josephphelps.com. On the way to the coast, stop by Freestone Vineyards for its cool-climate Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. The tasting room also pours selections from parent winery Joseph Phelps Vineyards, the Napa Valley producer of Cabernet Sauvignon and the famous Insignia proprietary red blend. On the second Sunday of every month, Freestone features local foods paired with the Sonoma Coast and Napa Valley wines.
Landmark Wine, 101 Adobe Canyon Road, Kenwood, 707-833-0053, landmarkwine.com. In the shadow of Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, Landmark makes Chardonnay (including the acclaimed Overlook bottling) and Pinot Noir, and is increasingly becoming known for its Rhone-inspired reds, including Syrah and Grenache. In addition to its tasting room, the winery offers picnic spots and bocce courts.
Merry Edwards Winery, 2959 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol, 707-823-7466, merryedwards.com. Winemaker Merry Edwards is a pioneer in Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, excelling at coaxing rich berry flavor and voluptuous texture from the grapes. She also produces some of the best Sauvignon Blanc in the state, and has recently added Chardonnay to her lineup. Don’t miss the opportunity to discover her skill and view some of the estate vineyards surrounding the winery.
Navarro Vineyards and Winery, 5601 Highway 128, Philo, 800-537-9463, navarrowine.com. The wide selection of crisp white wines and bright, mellow reds is worth the drive to Philo, where Navarro’s homey picnic grounds inspire taking one’s time. Plenty of picnic goodies are stocked in the tasting room, including daughter Sarah Cahn Bennett’s fine farmstead goat cheeses made down the road at Pennyroyal Farm. Vineyard tours are given twice a day, by appointment, and picnics are encouraged.
Odette Estate, 5998 Silverado Trail, Napa, 707-224-7533, odetteestate.com. Owned by the PlumpJack Winery guys (Gordon Getty, Gavin Newsom and John Conover), Odette is in Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District and on the path to becoming LEED-certified. With 18,000 square feet of caves, some of the first modern versions dug in Napa Valley, Odette makes for an intriguing visit, with great Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines on offer.
Porter Creek Vineyards, 8735 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-6321, portercreekvineyards.com. Here is an old-school tasting room in terms of its simplicity, but there’s nothing simple about Porter Creek’s wines, which are intriguing and complex, made from organically grown grapes from hillside vineyards. In addition to Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, enjoy Viognier, Carignane, Syrah and Zinfandel.
Ram’s Gate, 28700 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 707-721-8700, ramsgatewinery.com. Ram’s Gate was designed for lingering, with a host of spacious sitting areas, many of which are grouped around a fireplace. Then there’s the food, prepared to order by the on-staff chef for seated, guided tastings. Order a picnic lunch to take into the vineyard or out by the pond. The wines alone are a reason to stay, a collection of single-vineyard Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay and even a brut bubbly.
Ridge Vineyards / Lytton Springs, 650 Lytton Springs Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-7721, ridgewine.com. Revered Ridge is a worthy stop no matter the time of year, for its structured Zinfandels and Cabernet Sauvignons, but its location off a side road in Dry Creek Valley is also a pretty way to travel. The tasting room is open daily, but reserve ahead for a Century Tour and Library Tasting, which might include an older vintage of Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon, Ridge’s most famous wine, by request.
Rodney Strong Vineyards, 11455 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg, 800-678-4763, rodneystrong.com. For a comprehensive taste of Sonoma County with expansive views of vines, look no further than Rodney Strong, which offers an estate wine tasting daily as well as the option to try single-vineyard and reserve wines. From its staunch Alexander Valley Cabernets to Davis Bynum Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, there’s a lot to like. Outdoor picnics are also on order, on the winery’s lawn or vineyard terrace; picnic items are available for purchase.
Saracina Vineyards, 11684 Highway 101, Hopland, 707-744-1671, saracina.com. John Fetzer and his wife, Patty Rock, have created a lovely destination getaway on the outskirts of Hopland. Practitioners of biodiversity, they have 600 acres that include grapevines, olive groves and ponds, as well as comfortable outdoor tables under umbrellas. Bottlings include Malbec, Petite Sirah and an Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, but don’t miss the lovely Chardonnays, one of them unoaked.
Schramsberg Vineyards, 1400 Schramsberg Road, Calistoga, 800-877-3623, schramsberg.com. Among the first in California to specialize in sparkling wine, Schramsberg occupies hallowed ground, home to the oldest hillside vineyards in Napa Valley and some of the first caves dug for storing and aging wine. Take a tour by appointment, and don’t miss the Mirabelle Brut Rosé and other gorgeous sparklers before moving on to taste the J. Davies Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.
Sequoia Grove, 8338 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford, 800-851-7841, sequoiagrove.com. Aptly named, this Cabernet Sauvignon producer lives in a 150-year-old barn beneath an impressive stand of Sequoias, where tables await in the shade.
Stark Wine, 439 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-431-8023, starkwine.com. Husband-and-wife-run Stark is off the main square in Healdsburg in a swank, open tasting room. Live music plays every Friday from 6 to 8 p.m.; on Saturday, the tasting room is open until 7 p.m. Try the Viognier, a wine just right for the season.
Stonestreet Alexander Mountain Estate, 7111 Highway 128, 707-473-3333, stonestreetwines.com. Located near Alexander Valley’s popular Jimtown Store, Stonestreet excels in mountain-grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and invites visitors to taste through its single-vineyard bottlings. Carve out extra time to take the two-hour Mountain Excursion and Picnic ($90; 10:30 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday), a revelatory traipse through Stonestreet’s 6,000-acre estate, with lunch and wine.
Tricycle Wine Partners, 23568 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 707-255-4929, tricyclewineco.com. The newest addition to Cornerstone Gardens, Tricycle makes a range of high-quality wines, from its rich Obsidian Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon from Lake County, to Kazmer & Blaise Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Carneros, to the Molnar Family single-vineyard wines from Napa Valley.
Valdez Family Winery, 113 Mill St., Healdsburg, 707-433-3710, valdezfamilywinery.com. Ulises Valdez is a highly sought-after, Sonoma County-based vineyard manager with access to some mighty fine grapes, so it’s no wonder he’s now producing his own lineup of stellar wines, with a special focus and place in his heart for Zinfandel. If your own heart beats for Rockpile, don’t pass up the Valdez Botticelli Vineyard Zin, an excellent expression of the rocky appellation high above Lake Sonoma.
Vigilance Winery, 13888 Point Lakeview Road, Lower Lake, 707-994-9656, vigilancewinery.com. Sustainably farmed by longtime vineyard manager Clay Shannon and his team of grass-fed lambs, Vigilance offers gorgeous vistas of Clear Lake and Mount Konocti and access to the Anderson Marsh sanctuary. A day at Vigilance isn’t complete this time of year without a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
VJB Vineyards & Cellars, 60 Shaw Ave., Kenwood, 707-833-2300, vjbcellars.com. In an Italian-inspired, courtyard-centered villa in the heart of Sonoma Valley, VJB serves steaming coffee and pastries in the morning, panini, pasta and pizza during the day, and samples of its Italian-inspired wines. The winery also stocks co-proprietor Maria Belmonte’s line of sauces, pestos and tapenades, and houses a shop for gelato and specialty chocolates.