Winemaker Jesse Katz has an impressive resume, capped by the opening of a beautiful new facility where he can show off his skills. Plenty of outdoor and indoor spaces allow for intimate tasting experiences to enjoy Katz’s portfolio of fine wines, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, and a Bordeaux-style red blend of Malbec and Merlot.
Katz has experience working at Petrus in Bordeaux, and also in Argentina. Closer to home, he had a hand in the production of Screaming Eagle wines in Napa Valley and at Lancaster Estate in Sonoma County.
He sources his fruit for the Aperture label, which was under development for 11 years, from approximately 140 acres of vineyards in Sonoma County, including 32 planted acres on the estate site.
The new 4,000-square-foot tasting room, which opened earlier this year, takes advantage of natural light and has a gallery-inspired atmosphere.
A collection of photographs taken around the world by Katz’s father, renowned photographer Andy Katz, surround visitors. The outdoor terrace overlooks the estate vineyards, facing west toward the Russian River, and the indoor spaces include vineyard views through floor-to-ceiling windows.
“We are delighted to show guests and friends a transportive hospitality experience,” explains Jesse. “This new space is stunning — it’s the Aperture story in building form.”
At press time, Aperture was offering two tasting experiences: the Soil Series tasting ($50) featuring Bordeaux-inspired blends, and the Site Series ($75) showcasing the vineyards of Alexander Valley, with wines produced from single-vineyard locations.
12291 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg, 707-200-7891, aperture-cellars.com. By appointment only; reservations available online.
Christopher Creek Winery
Daily tastings here can include sips of the Foppoli family’s Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Viognier, served poolside (weather permitting) or in the rustic indoor tasting room. The pool area grants spectacular views of surrounding vineyards and hillsides. Mitch Cuadros, the winery’s director of hospitality, says a new release of Barbera is planned for November. “We’ll also be offering our ‘mystery boxes’ for the holidays, which are deeply discounted library wines, and they’ll include a raffle ticket for a chance to win a three-night stay at a castle in Italy.”
641 Limerick Lane, Healdsburg, 707-433-2001, christophercreek.com
Dutcher Crossing Winery
Dutcher Crossing has a long legacy of making exceptional wines, and under the ownership of proprietor Debra Mathy and the winemaking expertise of Nick Briggs, the winery has expanded production from five wines to more than 30. Seated tastings by appointment ($35) last about 90 minutes. “We’re planning special varietal or vintage weekends for the holiday months, where we present a different wine flight from the regular tasting that focuses on one varietal or one vintage, and even a barrel tasting opportunity,” says manager Miranda Hagedorn.
8533 Dry Creek Road, Geyserville, 707-431-2700, dutchercrossingwinery.com
Eric Flanagan planted his first vineyard almost 20 years ago in Bennett Valley, which yielded 150 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon. He later added Syrah to the label, then Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Flanagan sources his grapes from vineyards he owns around the region, including Platt Ranch in Bodega and Gap’s View in the Petaluma Gap AVA. The label also bottles a Viognier made from Bennett Valley AVA fruit, and a Merlot. The by-appointment-only tasting experience ($40) is available three times per day and lasts 60 to 90 minutes.
435 W. Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-723-8800, flanaganwines.com
Fog Crest Vineyard
James and Rosalind Manoogian developed a fascination with great wine when James was a restaurateur in San Francisco. The couple found a 30-acre parcel in Sonoma County in 1997, and their grapegrowing and winemaking adventure was underway. Rosalind Manoogian reports that their tasting room has been “very busy” since reopening. “A few days ago we had more reservations than we’ve ever had. Our visitor numbers are basically the same as last year at this time.”
7606 Occidental Road, Sebastopol, 707-829-2006, fogcrestvineyard.com
The Pour House is the first tasting room to spotlight Goldschmidt wines, and it’s also a collective of three family-operated wineries (the others are Optima and Lago di Merlo). Winemaker Nick Goldschmidt has a portfolio of several labels, having been in the wine business for many years and in many places, including Chile and New Zealand. Goldschmidt received two gold medals in the 2020 North Coast Wine Challenge, for Cabernet and Chardonnay. A flight of four tastes is $10.
4791 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-0100, thepourhouse707.com, goldschmidtvineyards.com
Hanna may be best known for winemaker Jeff Hinchliffe’s perennially award-winning Sauvignon Blanc, but he also produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Malbec, and many others. The winery was founded by heart surgeon Dr. Elias Hanna and is now run by his daughter Christine Hanna. Take in the spectacular Alexander Valley scenery with tastings from $35 to $45, or visit the Russian River Valley location adjacent to the winery’s production hub, with tastings starting at $30.
9280 Highway 128, Healdsburg, 707-431-4310; and 5353 Occidental Road, Santa Rosa, 707-575-3371, hannawinery.com
Highway 12 Vineyards & Winery
Friends and winemakers Michael Sebastiani and Paul Giusto founded this label together several years ago, focusing on Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. (They also bottle the Highwayplanted man and Carneros Highway labels.) Their flagship Bordeaux-style blend is made with equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.
23564 Arnold Drive, Sonoma (at Cornerstone Sonoma), 707-935-8815, highway12winery.com
Imagery Estate Winery
Joe Benziger founded Imagery Estate more than three decades ago, and today his daughter Jamie is winemaker, producing Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Tempranillo. More unusual Albariño and Lagrein may also be on the tasting menu ($30 for five tastes). “Guests who come for a seated tasting during the holiday months will get a bonus pour of our newly released sparkling brut rosé,” says Hilary Clair, tasting room manager. Imagery was awarded several gold medals at the 2020 North Coast Wine Challenge, including for its Malbec and its ‘Tusca Brava’ red blend.
14335 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen, 877-550-4278, imagerywinery.com
Larson Family Winery
More than 10 varietals are bottled at this 5,000-case winery, which sits on land that has been in the Larson family since 1877. The Larsons initially raised cattle and ponies here; the first grapevines were in the 1970s. They are known for excellent Pinot Grigio, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Tempranillo, Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer. The family’s Pinot received a gold medal in the 2020 North Coast Wine Challenge. In a tribute to their winery dogs, they also bottle ‘Three Lab Cab’ and ‘Three Lab Chard.’
23355 Millerick Road, Sonoma, 707-938-3031, larsonfamilywinery.com
Mayo Family Winery
Founded in 1994, the winery owned and operated by the Mayo family produces more than 20 different single-vineyard wines every year. The tasting choices can range from sparklers and Chardonnay to Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. The main tasting room in Glen Ellen is open daily; the Reserve Room has a food-pairing focus, and reservations are required. President Jeffrey Mayo says visitors during the holiday months can expect to sip at least two new sparkling releases. “We’ll be pouring our 2012 reserve brut and the 2015 regular brut,” he explains. “Both are Chardonnay and Pinot blends, and they are delicate, fruity, and incredible.”
13101 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen, 707-938-9401; and the Reserve Room, 9200 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707-833-5504, mayofamilywinery.com
Seghesio Family Vineyards
Five generations of the Seghesio family have farmed grapes and bottled fine wine over the past 125 years, a legacy that’s hard to match elsewhere in Sonoma County. They produce Zinfandel, Chardonnay, a white wine made from Vermentino grapes, and such Italian heritage varietals as Aglianico and Barbera. “Venom” is the name of their 100% Sangiovese. The classic seated tasting ($25) features a flight of current release Zinfandels and Italian varietals.
700 Grove St., Healdsburg, 707-433-3579, seghesio.com
Wilson of Dry Creek
The Wilson family made their bones at this winery, one of several they own and operate in Sonoma and Mendocino counties. They know what they’re doing: this winery picked up 18 gold medals at the 2020 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and many more golds at the 2020 North Coast Wine Challenge. Wilson specializes in Zinfandel and also bottles Petite Sirah, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. A signature deck tasting includes a flight of four wines served at a private table ($25, by appointment only).
1960 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-4355, wilsonwinery.com