Swirl, Sniff and Sip Your Way Into Spring

Wineries we recommend you check out this spring.

The 37th Annual Wine Road Barrel Tasting in the Russian River, Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys. (Photo by John Burgess)

Spring is a time of renewal and wild growth in vineyards and the surrounding gardens and grounds of many wineries. Inside, it’s a time for barrel-tasting wines that are still aging, and for sampling exciting new releases, which include crisp, lighter whites, reds and rosés. Wine writer Virginie Boone recommends these wineries for springtime visits. They are open to the public, typically from around 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Contact the individual tasting room to confirm.

Anaba Wines, 60 Bonneau Road, Sonoma, 707-996-4188, anabawines.com. A specialist in Rhone-inspired wines, red and white, Anaba has its tasting room inside a 100-year-old farmhouse overlooking the Carneros hills. It’s a fine place to learn about wine, beginning with the Friday through Monday Beyond the Label experience, a one-hour discussion that varies from week to week. Tuesday through Thursday, enjoy the Salon Tasting, a sit-down guided tasting of several wines ($30, reservations required).

Arista Winery, 7015 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707-473–0606, aristawinery.com. Japanese-inspired gardens with babbling waterfalls accentuate any visit to Arista, where Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Gewürztraminer are the stars. Vegetable gardens also figure in, used enthusiastically by the in-house chef for special food-and-wine pairings.

Beringer Vineyards, 2000 Main St., St. Helena, 707-302-7592, beringer.com. Founded more than a century ago, Beringer is so vast and historic that it operates as a small village, with nooks and crannies throughout its sprawling, tree-filled property. It offers wine and food tastings of all stripes, as well as live music and other special events. The first tour to take is the Taste of Beringer, a chance to learn about the early history of Napa Valley and about Beringer itself, offered three times a day for $40. The winery’s coolest feature is its tunnels, built for aging barrels in the late 1870s and 1880s by Chinese laborers; tastings are sometimes held within.

Bouchaine, 1075 Buchli Station Road, Napa, 707-252-9065, bouchaine.com. A longtime producer based in the heart of Carneros, Bouchaine makes elegant Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, sourcing grapes from its 100 acres of estate vineyards. Overlooking the Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area, the tasting room affords views of San Francisco and San Pablo Bay. Wander through Dee’s Garden and take a Safari tour of the vineyards.

Cairdean Vineyards & Winery, 3111 St. Helena Highway, St. Helena, 707-968-5434, cairdeanestate.com. New on the northern Napa Valley scene, Cairdean makes a variety of wines from grapes grown in Napa and Sonoma. Its The Farmer and the Fox gastropub is open for dinner nightly, and the well-appointed Butterscots Bakery is the perfect stop for cappuccino and croissants. The outdoor fire pit is an additional perk. The tasting room stays open until 8 p.m., making it easy to segue to dinner next door.

Cline Cellars, 24737 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 800-546-2070, clinecellars.com. A beautiful location with stunning gardens, Carneros-based Cline offers complimentary tastings of five of its Rhone-style wines and, for $5, a flight of three reserve wines. The original site of the last California mission (begun in 1820 and later moved to downtown Sonoma), the property includes a museum devoted to mission history, including handcrafted models of all 21 missions originally built for the 1939 World’s Fair. Entrance to the museum, open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is free; reservations are required for large groups.

DeLoach Vineyards, 1791 Olivet Road, Santa Rosa, 707-755-3309, deloachvineyards.com. The visitor experience at DeLoach is always a good one. Owner Jean-Charles Boisset celebrates nature here and the bounty of biodynamic farming, as he does at sister property Raymond Vineyards in Napa Valley. Take part in the M.F.S. (My Finest Selection) Blending Experience, an opportunity to play with Pinot Noir, available daily by appointment, at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Domaine Carneros, 1240 Duhig Road, Napa, 707-257-0101, domainecarneros.com. Enjoy exquisite bubbly on the winery’s well-appointed terrace overlooking Carneros. Table service is offered, and caviar and artisan cheeses pair prominently with the range of wines. In addition to sparkling-wine samplers ($30), the winery can put together a sampling of its four Pinot Noirs, or do a Grande Tasting ($40) of both bubbles and reds.

Etude Wines, 1250 Cuttings Wharf Road, Napa, 707-257-5300, etudewines.com. Etude is a great name in Carneros Pinot Noir (and many other wines). In 2012, Etude winemaker Jon Priest decided to take on the world, offering wine lovers the chance to come to one place and taste not only Carneros Pinot but also several from Santa Barbara County (where Priest grew up), the Sonoma Coast, Willamette Valley and, most unusually, New Zealand’s Central Otago region. Don’t miss tasting through these wines, a pointed and seductive study of the wine world.

Ferrari-Carano, 8761 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-6700, ferrari-carano.com. At the northern edge of Dry Creek Valley, Ferrari-Carano is as known for its stunning 5 acres of gardens as it is for its wines, a wide selection of whites and reds that includes its highest-end Cabernet Sauvignon, PreVail. In spring, more than 10,000 tulips and daffodils erupt, providing a sensory explosion so popular that the winery has a flower hotline, 707-433-5349.

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, 10701 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707-473-2909, garyfarrellwinery.com. With one of the best views in the Russian River Valley, Gary Farrell produces some of its best wines in recent memory, from its single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs to Zinfandel, and more. This time of year, take in a Terrace Tasting ($25), a hosted sampling of six single-vineyard wines outdoors, or book ahead for the two-hour tour, tasting and lunch ($75) on the more private Woodland Terrace.

Hall Wines, 401 St. Helena Highway, St. Helena, 707-967-2626, hallwines.com. Home to the gigantic polished stainless steel bunny sculpture, Hall celebrates wine and art, offering opportunities to walk through the winery and view works of modern art and sculpture while sampling exceptionally high-quality wines.

Hanzell Vineyards, 18596 Lomita Ave., Sonoma, 707-996-3860, hanzell.com. One of Sonoma Valley’s most prestigious producers, Hanzell pours tastes of its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay by appointment only. It’s worth the effort. A 90-minute sit-down tasting of new releases ($45) is accompanied by a traipse through the property’s prized vineyards, including the original Ambassador’s 1953 Vineyard. Hanzell’s well-earned reputation for ageworthy wines can also be tested in a seated tasting of rare vintages from the winery’s own library ($150).

Imagery Estate Winery, 14335 Highway 12, Glen Ellen, 707-935-4515, imagerywinery.com. Run by Joe Benziger, Imagery is devoted to cool artwork and making great wines, offering unusual varieties such as Tempranillo and Lagrein. The artistic labels reflect the winery’s dual sensibilities. Check out the label gallery online and take the time to peruse the art gallery at the winery, too.

Iron Horse Vineyards, 9786 Ross Station Road, Sebastopol, 707-887-1507, ironhorsevineyards.com. The noted sparkling wine producer in Green Valley of Russian River Valley also makes stellar Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. There’s a gorgeous view from the outdoor tasting bar, which is covered in case of rain. A tour and tasting with winemaker David Munksgard happens every Monday at 10 a.m. (limit four people; $50/person) and should not be missed.

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 one, as well as J’s lineup of single-vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The J Bubble Room pairs wines with exquisite, locally sourced dishes.

Keller Estate, 5875 Lakeville Highway, Petaluma, 707-765-2117, kellerestate.com. The best vantage point in the Petaluma Gap, where the meandering Petaluma River and vibrantly green pastures that provide nourishment to bouncing baby lambs can be seen in the distance, Keller is a lovely place to while away the day. Taste estate-grown Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays with a plates of cheese and charcuterie. Open Friday-Sunday, and other days by appointment.

Lynmar Estate, 3909 Frei Road, Sebastopol, 707-829-3374, lynmarestate.com. Among the finest garden sites in the region, springtime visits to Lynmar mean enjoying the natural beauty of the site, from the herb and vegetable gardens to the estate vines just beginning to bloom. Savor the Pinot Noirs, Syrahs and Chardonnays made by this producer, as well as its crisp, fruity rosé.

Marimar Estate, 11400 Graton Road, Sebastopol, 707-823-4365, marimarestate.com. A leader in cool-climate winemaking and viticulture, as well as organic and biodynamic farming, Marimar Estate is a beautiful place to visit and learn about diurnal temperature shifts along the western Sonoma Coast. A traditional tasting of five wines is available daily for $10; reserve ahead to enjoy a tapas and wine pairing experience for $45. Tours are available weekdays at
11 a.m. and 2 p.m., by appointment.

Medlock Ames, 13414 Chalk Hill Road, Healdsburg, 707-431-8845, medlockames.com. Come spring, the thing to do is take a tour of the winery’s Bell Mountain Ranch. Walk through the sheep-tended vineyards, olive groves and organic gardens, and finish with a sit-down tasting of the wines paired with seasonal bites. Reservations are required ($35).

Merry Edwards Winery, 2959 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol, 707-823-7466, merryedwards.com. Arrive at this winery in the heart of Russian River Valley and get a taste of Merry Edwards’ crisp, spring-centric, acclaimed Sauvignon Blanc. What follows is a tasting of her exquisite Pinot Noirs, including single-vineyard, estate and regional bottlings.

Paradise Ridge/Byck Family Winery, 4545 Thomas Lake Harris Drive, Santa Rosa, 707-528-9463, prwinery.com. Situated on 156 acres with impressive views west over Santa Rosa and toward the coast, Paradise Ridge makes a range of worthy Russian River Valley and Rockpile wines. Its sculpture collection is a bonus, a selection of which is featured throughout the property in Marijke’s Grove.

Pine Ridge Vineyards, 5901 Silverado Trail, Napa, 800-575-9777, pineridgevineyards.com. Within the Stags Leap District, Pine Ridge makes wines from a handful of Napa Valley appellations (Carneros, Howell Mountain, Oakville, Rutherford and Stags Leap), and invites visitors to enjoy its 5×5 Tasting ($95) in its caves. It’s an opportunity to try five estate-grown wines paired with small bites from the in-house chef. In good weather, book a Taste on the Terrace ($50), a self-guided tasting of four wines with a platter of cheese and charcuterie.

Preston of Dry Creek, 9282 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-3372, prestonvineyards.com. From its secluded outpost on a dead-end road, Preston is a stalwart farm and winery and a devotee of organic farming, which it has practiced for some 40 years. In addition to wine grapes, Preston grows olives, grains, vegetables, fruits and nuts, and has pastures for many animals, including chickens and sheep. In the tasting room, enjoy Rhone-inspired wines and blends, plus Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc.

Quivira Vineyards, 4900 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-431-8333, quivirawine.com. A wonderland of natural beauty in all seasons, Quivira comes alive in spring. It’s open for tours ($20, weather permitting) of its Zinfandel vineyards, beehives and biodynamic gardens, where chickens roam free. Be sure to try the winery’s sumptuous Sauvignon Blanc and hard-to-find Grenache.

Ramey Wine Cellars, 25 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-433-0870, rameywine.com. A master of many wines, David Ramey’s tasting venue is open by appointment only, Monday through Saturday, at either 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. The experience is worth booking; it’s a one-hour, sit-down exploration of several wines ($25), from Sonoma Coast Chardonnay to Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ram’s Gate Winery, 28700 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 707-721-8700, ramsgatewinery.com. The entry point into Carneros from the southwest, Ram’s Gate offers both indoor and outdoor fireplaces from which to enjoy its luxurious wines, from single-vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to burly Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Tasting flights are offered, by reservation, with a chef’s selection of cheese, charcuterie and other accompaniments Thursday through Monday. Or go for the Palate Play seated food and wine pairing of four wines (90 minutes, $60), available by reservation.

Ravenswood Winery, 18701 Gehricke Road, Sonoma, 707- 933-2332, ravenswoodwinery.com. Tours and tastings of this storied Zinfandel producer occur daily, as do special tours and barrel tastings. But the experience to look for is the Blend Your Own “No Wimpy Wine” day, a chance to craft one’s own California field blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Carignane and take home your personal blend (reservations required, $50).

Schramsberg Vineyards, 1400 Schramsberg Road, Calistoga, 800-877-3623, schramsberg.com. Among the first in California to specialize in sparkling wine, Schramsberg occupies hallowed, historic ground. It is 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.

Sojourn Cellars, 141 E. Napa Street, Sonoma, 707-938-7212, sojourn cellars.com. From a cozy historic home refashioned into a tasting salon in downtown Sonoma, Sojourn pours a world of well-crafted Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in a relaxed, sit-down environment ($25). Tastings must be scheduled ahead of time but are offered daily.

St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, 100 Pythian Road, Santa Rosa, 707-538-9463, stfranciswinery.com. With one of the best food-and-wine pairing experiences in the region, St. Francis is a welcome place to relax and enjoy a seated food and wine pairing ($50, reservations required), a simpler cheese and charcuterie accompaniment, or a flight of limited-production wines ($30, walk-ins welcome). But the best-kept secret might be the private estate dinners ($148, reservations required, 707-833-0255).

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, 5766 Silverado Trail, Napa, 707-944-2020, cask23.com. The winery that shook the world, responsible for the winning Cabernet Sauvignon at the 1976 Paris Tasting, Stag’s Leap recently unveiled its FAY Outlook and Visitor Center, overlooking the winery’s FAY and S.L.V. estate vineyards and in full view of the Stags Leap Palisades. Open daily, the winery offers tours and estate collection tastings, by reservation. Its Fire and Water Tour and Tasting ($95) digs into the characteristics of the estate property, accompanied by wines and appetizers.