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Grand Cru, Windsor: This Windsor co-op and custom crush facility is home to 19 boutique wineries, including Smith Story Wines, Eric Kent, Laurel Glen and Gros Ventre Cellars. Located just next door to the new Russian River Brewing Company facility, this is a great location to sample a variety of small-production wines. Guests can make an appointment to taste with a specific winery or sample a “Vintners’ Selection,” featuring wines from several wineries located at the Grand Cru facility. grandcrucustomcrush.com. (Photo by Beth Schlanker)
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Hospitality manager Nicole Yasinsac, right, pours a glass of Black Kite 2015 Kite's Rest Pinot Noir for guests Katie and Danny Fay (owners of Hill of Tara Wines) during a tasting at Grand Cru Custom Crush in Windsor. (Photo by Beth Schlanker)
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Gros Ventre Cellars, a small, family-owned winery operating out of Healdsburg, can be found at the Grand Cru Custom Crush in Windsor.
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Punchdown Cellars, Santa Rosa: Another winemaking facility that is home to several small wineries. Many of the wineries host events at the custom crush as well as winemaker dinners and events all over the country. Raft Wines can be found at Chez Panisse in Berkeley and Lowell's in Sebastopol, as well as Bottle Barn and Miracle Plum in Santa Rosa. Anthill Farms Winery has an extensive mailing list for their pinot noir, chardonnay and syrah wines. Enfield Wine Co. sells out of their wine collaborations every year via their mailing list; the wines can also be found at Napa Valley restaurants such as Farmstead and Cadet Wine Bar. Other wineries like Cartograph Wines and Lioco Wine Company make their wines here, but have their own tasting rooms in Healdsburg. punchdowncellars.com. (Photo by Conner Jay)
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Raft Wines uses Punchdown Cellars, a Santa Rosa-based custom crush facility, to craft their wines. (Photo courtesy of Raft Wines)
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Ryme Cellars, Forestville: Ryan and Megan Glaab met in Australia while working as seasonal cellar hands at Torbrech Winery - they fell in love, married, and continued to explore the wine world working at notable wineries such as Pax Wine Cellars, Peay Vineyards, Sine Qua Non, and Marcassin. In 2007, they started their own winery and began producing "intriguing wines" of varieties that they enjoyed - vermentino, ribolla gialla, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, aglianico, chardonnay and pinot noir. The couple hosts tastings by appointment at their Forestville location. rymecellars.com. (Photo by Erik Castro)
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La Pitchoune Winery, Healdsburg: "La pitchoune" means "the little one" in French and, in the case of this Healdsburg winery, it signifies small production and small lots. Inspired by a small family property in southern France, the winery makes pinot noir, chardonnay, rosé and chenin blanc wines - lovers of pinot and chardonnay can taste these at a private barrel tasting ($25), which includes a behind-the-scenes tour of the winery (reservations required). La Pitchoune wines can also be found at local retailers and restaurants, including Forestville's Backyard, Santa Rosa's Bird and the Bottle, Guerneville's Boon Eat + Drink and Yountville's French Laundry. lapitchounewinery.com.
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Paul Mathew Vineyards, Graton: Winemaker Mat Gustafson honed his craft working at reputable restaurants and wineries in Sonoma County: he was sommelier at John Ash & Co in Santa Rosa, he opened the Oakville Grocery store in Healdsburg, he crushed his first vintage of chardonnay at Dutton Estate Winery in Sebastopol, he was head winemaker at Merry Edwards. Today, he makes wines using "low-input winemaking techniques" - as little sulfur dioxide as possible, indigenous yeast and bacteria for fermentation, and bottling without filtration. You can taste Gustafson's Russian River Valley pinot noir and other varieties at his Graton tasting room Thursday through Sunday. paulmathewvineyards.com
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Schermeister Winery, Glen Ellen: This small family winery, operated by husband-and-wife team Robert and Laura Schermeister, makes limited-production wild fermentation wines from Sonoma and Napa Valley. Robert, who has previous winemaking experience from Australia and New Zealand, produces only 600 cases of wine per year. Schermeister wines can be purchased online and sampled at the couple's Glen Ellen tasting room, located in the historic Jack London Village. The tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday and Wednesdays by appointment. Make reservations for a private wine tasting with winemaker Robert, which includes a flight of five wines. schermeister.com.
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Enriquez Estate Wines, Forestville: This family-owned Russian River Valley winery focuses on limited-production pinot noir and tempranillo from the Sonoma Coast and the Russian River Valley. Founded by Eduardo, his wife Ana and their daughter, Cecilia, the winery was borne out of a serendipitous encounter with a winemaker/real estate agent during the family's first trip to wine country - they ended up buying a Petaluma property and relocating from the East Coast. Today, the family handcrafts 500-700 cases annually at their new Forestville property with the help of winemaker Mike Brunson. The winery doesn’t have a tasting room, but they offer tours of the estate and have an Airbnb where guests can stay in a renovated milk barn. enriquezwines.com
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La Rochelle Wines, Kenwood: This Kenwood winery is popular among those with a passion for pinot. Visitors to the winery can taste its boutique collection of single-vineyard pinot noir and chardonnay in a barn-turned-tasting room, open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last seating at 4 p.m.) by appointment. For a more intimate and educational tasting, make reservations for the Reserve Tasting & Po·lyph·o·ny, a pinot noir experience that includes a winery tour and an introduction to the winemaking practices. Chuck Easley, the proprietor of La Rochelle Wines, also hosts the La Rochelle Experience, an in-depth, all-day introduction to winemaking that includes lunch, food and wine pairings, as well as hands-on winemaking experience. lrwine.com. (Photo by Jeremy Portje)
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Leo Steen Wines, Healdsburg: The man behind Leo Steen Wines, Leo Hansen, was born and raised in Denmark and explored the world of wine in France's Alsace, Loire, Champagne and Burgundy regions, as well as Spain and Italy. A certified sommelier, he moved to California in the late '90s. Hansen honed his winemaking skills here and eventually became winemaker at Stuhlmuller Vineyards in the Alexander Valley. Today, he is known for his chenin blanc, which has been named among the 100 best wines in Sonoma County. Fans of Leo Steen Wines can look forward to a new tasting room opening this fall. leosteenwines.com
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Lucky Rock Wine Co., Santa Rosa: Brothers Aaron and Jesse Inman were raised "on the river" in Northern California by gold-mining parents. They spent their twenties pouring wine in local tasting rooms and, after working with their uncle at August Briggs Winery in Napa Valley, decided to start making their own. Today, the brothers produce a sauvignon blanc and a pinot noir, both are blends from different local vineyards. You can find their wines at local grocers such as Big John's Market in Healdsburg, Oliver's Market across Sonoma County and Andy's Produce in Sebastopol. luckyrockwineco.com.
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Rootdown Wine Cellars, Healdsburg: Winemaker Mike Lucia has been part of the wine scene since he moved to Healdsburg as a teenager in the early '90s - first as a restaurant and harvest worker and later as a winemaker at Goldeneye Winery in the Anderson Valley and Copain Wines in the Russian River Valley. His own wine brand, Rootdown, began as a side project in 2014 and became a full-time endeavor two years later. Rootdown focuses on varietal wines made from grapes that are relatively rare in California: trousseau, sangiovese, mourvèdre, chenin blanc, grenache blanc, and pinot blanc. The wines are available online and at local restaurants such as Chalkboard in Healdsburg and Crocodile French Cuisine in Petaluma. rootdownwinecellars.com.
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Jolie-Laide Wines, Sebastopol: Winemaker Scott Schultz makes only 500 cases of wine each year under his wine label, Jolie Laide. Working in the wine industry since 2007, he also helps craft wines for Sophie James Winery. The name Jolie-Laide loosely translates into “pretty-ugly,” a French term of endearment for something that is unconventionally beautiful. Each bottle of wine is adorned with a label created by students at the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland. Those interested in getting their hands on one of Schultz's rare bottles, should sign up to the winery's mailing list. jolielaidewines.com
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Idle Cellars, Santa Rosa: This micro-winery was founded by Ari Heavner, a Berkeley native and entrepreneur, and Ben Lark, an artist from Los Angeles, who met while "working crush" (harvest) in Sonoma. Their first wine, a cabernet sauvignon, reflected "a balanced yin and yang" between city-dwelling Heavner and country-living Larks. Today, they produce ten wines - sauvignon blanc, viognier, chardonnay, grenache blanc, grenache, sangiovese, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah, cabernet franc - which can be found online and at local retailers and restaurants such as The Girl and The Fig in Sonoma, the Kenwood Inn and Spa, and Wilibees in Petaluma and downtown Santa Rosa. idlecellars.com.
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Hill of Tara Wines, Sonoma: This small Sonoma Valley winery is run by a family team of three - husband and wife Danny and Katie Fay and Danny's brother-in-law Matt Simpson. Their inaugural vintage of 2015 Moon Mountain District cabernet sauvignon was released - and sold out - in March of this year and the wine is already a favorite among local sommeliers and wine industry insiders. If you want to know what all the fuss is about, head to the Glen Ellen Star restaurant and order a bottle - one of the few restaurants that serve this sought-after wine. Or submit an interest form to receive an allocation of wine - the next vintage will be released on St. Patrick's Day 2020. hilloftarawines.com
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Peterson Winery, Healdsburg: Peterson Winery has been producing wine in Dry Creek Valley for 30 years. Owner Fred Peterson combines an old world winemaking philosophy with a reverence for sustainable farming - his son Jamie became an assistant winemaker in 2002, and took over the main winemaker role four years later. The father-and-son team employ a winemaking process they call "Zero Manipulation," using "the most gentle, traditional winemaking practices possible to maximize the flavors, aromatics and texture of the wines." The Peterson tasting room is housed at Healdsburg collective Timber Crest Farms, alongside other popular winemakers Papapietro Perry Winery and Kokomo Winery. petersonwinery.com.
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Dane Cellars, Glen Ellen: Bart Hansen began his professional career as a winemaker in 1986, crafting vineyard-designated zinfandels and cabernets at Kenwood Vineyards. In 1998, he joined the Benziger Family wine-making team where he was introduced to biodynamic and organic farming practices. He then joined Lasseter Family Vineyards, where he continued to produce wine from organically-grown grapes. In 2007, he opened his own winery - Dane Cellars - named after his newborn son. Hansen's winery doesn't have a tasting room, but you can taste his Sonoma Valley grenache and rhone blend at Bottle Barn and Stark’s Steak & Seafood in Santa Rosa, Enoteca Della Santina in Sonoma, and at the Glen Ellen Star. danecellars.com.