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This Local Tasting Room Has Been Named Best in the US

It "takes the intimidation out of wine tasting," said USA Today.

A tasting room in downtown Sonoma has been named the best in the country. Corner 103 received the distinction earlier this week from 10Best, which is published by USA Today.

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to pick the initial nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Corner 103 was the only Sonoma Valley tasting room to be nominated — though the list comprised seven tasting rooms in the North Bay.

Owner Lloyd Davis, who was recently featured in a Sonoma Magazine article about Black winemakers in Sonoma County, said he was “blessed” to receive the distinction.

“Given the current environment with Covid-19 and the fires, it is great to have something so positive happen,” he said this week. “I have worked very hard to build Corner 103 and it is amazing to have my vision recognized as being the best in the [United States].”

Lloyd Davis, owner of Corner 103 in Sonoma. (Courtesy of Corner 103)

In their description of Corner 103, 10Best editors cited the tasting room’s approachability as its most appealing quality. Since Davis opened the tasting room in April 2015, he has strived to cultivate a down-to-earth atmosphere, creating an elegant setting that is not intimidating.

This vision has translated into seated tastings only, with five wines per person — now taking place at beautifully appointed tables on the sidewalk out front. Normally, the standard Corner 103 tastings take place inside and include food pairings with every wine. Due to Covid-19, however, the winery is currently offering more scaled-back options in the interest of public health.

“From the beginning, my vision has been to break down the walls of intimidation about wine and celebrating the finer things in life,” Davis said. “All of our tastings are seated and one-on-one to give my guests a more intimate experience.”

Davis, who left New York and moved to Sonoma in 2008, is no stranger to the wine business. Before he opened Corner 103, he owned and operated Viansa Winery, off Highway 121 in Sonoma. Prior to that, he was a partner at a New York hedge fund.

It was the experience at Viansa that sparked Davis’ passion for wine. When he took over Viansa Winery in 2008, pulling it out of bankruptcy, he fell in love with the business while trying to fix it. When he finally sold the winery in 2013, he was committed to staying in the wine industry. So he retired from his first career and launched a second one as vintner.

Today, winemaker Ron Goss produces Corner 103 wine using grapes from 12 different vineyards across the county. One of the winery’s most popular wines, the Corner Cuvee, comprises grapes from four different sites.

Back in the Sonoma Valley, Corner 103’s recent award certainly has turned some heads.

Tim Zahner, executive director of the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau, was ecstatic that a local tasting room had received national recognition.

“As the birthplace of California’s modern wine country, Sonoma Valley has no shortage of excellent tasting rooms and wineries,” Zahner wrote in a recent email. “Lloyd Davis and his team at Corner 103 should be rightly proud of being named the top tasting room in America.”

Other Bay Area wineries on the list included Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga (No. 2), Davis Family Vineyards in Healdsburg (No. 3), Louis M. Martini Winery in St. Helena (No. 5), Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena (No. 6), Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery in Healdsburg (No. 8), and Smith Story Wine Cellars in Philo (No. 9). The thee remaining entries on the list were from Paso Robles; Walla Walla, Washington; and Dayton, Oregon.

For more about Corner 103, visit corner103.com

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