Early spring is a time of renewal in the vineyards, with naked vines beginning to sprout. It’s a beautiful season to enjoy what’s in bloom and the beginnings of longer days and sunshine. Wineries offer new releases as well as barrel sampling, a spring ritual sure to make you feel like a connoisseur. Wine writer Virginie Boone recommends these wineries for springtime exploration. Some require an appointment. Contact the wineries for hours of operation and details.
Bump Wine Cellars, 521-A Broadway, Sonoma, 707-228-9214, bumpwine. com.
A relaxing, intimate tasting space right off the Sonoma Plaza, Bump is also an art gallery with rotating exhibitions. The tasting room often hosts evening artist receptions to introduce people to the works. On the wine side, expect Sauvignon Blanc, red blends and hearty Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma Mountain.
Ceja Vineyards, 22989 Burndale Road, Sonoma, 707-255-3954, cejavineyards.com.
The Ceja family offers an in-depth dive into Carneros wines at its tasting room, where a sampling of five wines ($20) from its portfolio is available Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Reservations are recommended. Also visit the family’s Carneros Brewing Co. next door, a microbrewery founded by four Ceja brothers. Its taproom and beer garden are open daily.
Cline Cellars, 24737 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 800-546-2070, clinecellars.com.
A sprawling property with picnic tables and outdoor tasting experiences, Cline is a chameleon of choices and prices, with something for everyone. In addition to its single-vineyard wines (particularly Zinfandels), seek out its Ancient Vines wines, which include Mourvedre and Carignane. Book ahead for the Syrah Hill Tasting ($45), a two-hour tasting and tour of the property that makes its way through the estate’s vineyards to the top of Syrah Hill, where reserve wines and cheese await.
Dutton-Goldfield, 3100 Gravenstein Highway N., Sebastopol, 707-8233887, duttongoldfield.com.
A producer of cool-climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah, as well as Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Zinfandel and a fine Pinot Blanc, Dutton-Goldfield offers visitors a taste through several of the wines at a leisurely pace. There are more specific tastings, including Wine & Cheese ($30), Beast & Pinot ($40), and a popular choice, Bright Whites & Sushi ($35). These tastings must be booked ahead online.
Gundlach Bundschu, 2000 Denmark St., Sonoma, 707-938-5277, gunbun. com.
This venerable winery has a wealth of wines on hand to sample, and spring is a good time to enter the caves for a tasting. A close look at the vineyards is also an option. The producer’s Sonoma Coast Gewürztraminer is a particularly fun wine to drink, along with its Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo.
Hawkes Wine, 383 First St. W., Sonoma, 707-938-7620, hawkeswine.com.
Based in Alexander Valley, Hawkes maintains a casual tasting room off the Sonoma Plaza, too, inviting visitors to explore its wines, many of them made from estate-grown grapes. A vin gris made from Tempranillo is in short supply but well worth trying, as are the Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Also visit Hawkes at 6738 Highway 128, Healdsburg, 707-433-4295.
Iron Horse Vineyards, 9786 Ross Station Road, Sebastopol, 707-887-1507, ironhorsevineyards.com.
This family- run sparkling wine producer also makes outstanding still wines. The estate-grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are noteworthy, and there is an unoaked Chardonnay for fans of a lighter style. A flight of five wines ($20) is a good way to start, with tours available daily, by appointment, at 10 a.m. ($25), which also includes a tasting. Book ahead for a private truck tour through the vineyards and a private tasting with winemaker David Munksgard, offered Mondays at 10 a.m. ($50).
Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, 24724 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 707-931-7575, jacuzziwines.com.
In the heart of Carneros and with bay views, Jacuzzi celebrates its Italian roots and early days in California, when the Jacuzzis of whirlpool bath fame purchased a 121-acre farm in Contra Costa County in the 1920s. The family eventually found its way to Sonoma, where it produces a host of Cal-Ital wines including Nebbiolo, Aglianico and Arneis, and a very popular Pinot Grigio. Complimentary tastings of five nonreserve wines are offered daily, and be sure to visit to The Olive Press next door, a shop devoted to all things olive and oil.
Keating Wines, Cornerstone Sonoma, 23564 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 707939-6510, keatingwines.com.
This is a small producer within Cornerstone’s array of shops and services, specializing in Bordeaux varieties and Zinfandel. Wines are made from both Napa and Sonoma county grapes, including Rockpile and Dry Creek Valley and the mighty Beckstoffer Georges III vineyard in Rutherford.
Kokomo Winery, 4791 Dry Creek Road at Timber Crest Farms, Healdsburg, 707-433-0200, kokomowines.com.
A producer of small-lot wines, Kokomo is open daily for $10 tastings of its wide range of red wines, including Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. For seekers of white wines, it also produces Chardonnay, Muscat Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc, in addition to a late-harvest Muscat Blanc. Many of its fans, however, come for the crisp Grenache rosé.
Larson Family Winery, 23355 Millerick Road, Sonoma, 707-938-3031, larsonfamilywinery.com.
Book a picnic table ahead of time and enjoy a relaxing afternoon at Larson, where a bocce court figures prominently. The family makes a range of wines, including two sparklers, a brut and a rosé. It also makes red and a white jug wines, including Wingo White, a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Gewürztraminer designed with picnics in mind.
MacLaren Wine Co., 27 E. Napa St., Suite E, Sonoma, 707-938-7490, maclarenwine.com.
A tiny, one-man operation, MacLaren produces a crisp, delightfully complex Sauvignon Blanc called Lee’s (named after winemaker Steve Law’s mom) and a slew of heady, cool-climate-inspired Syrahs from throughout the county. The tasting lounge on Vine Alley is relaxed and intimate, with Law usually on hand to pour. It’s open Monday and Thursday, noon to 5 p.m.; Friday through Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.; and Tuesday and Wednesday, by appointment.
MacRostie Winery and Vineyards, 4605 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707-473-9303, macrostiewinery.com.
New to Westside Road, the MacRostie Estate House is an elegant place to enjoy elegant wines, including single-vineyard designated Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, most from Russian River Valley and with a few options from Carneros and the Sonoma Coast. Daily tastings are available on three patios or indoors, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. ($15-$25), with reservations recommended.
Meadowcroft Wines, Cornerstone Sonoma, 23574 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 707-934-4090, meadowcroftwines.com.
Meadowcroft makes a wide selection of wines, from Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir to Oak Knoll District Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as a few crisp whites such as Viognier and Riesling. Owner Tom Meadowcroft is a longtime vineyard manager and makes the wines. The tasting room also carries Thomas Henry Wines, named for Meadowcroft’s father and meant to reflect a more European style.
Passaggio Wines, 25 E. Napa St., Sonoma, 707-934-8941, passaggiowines.com.
Owned and operated by winemaker Cindy Cosco, Passaggio aims to make food-friendly wines inspired by her Italian heritage. Among the offerings are Pinot Grigio, unoaked Chardonnay, several Sauvignon Blancs, blends and a couple of interesting rosés made from Barbera and Mourvedre. The signature red wine is Unmarked Repeat Offender Sangiovese, a nod to Cosco’s former life in law enforcement.
R2 Wine Co, 654 Broadway, Sonoma, 707-933-1330, r2winecompany.com.
The brand of brothers Richard and Roger Roessler, once of Roessler Cellars (which became Walt Wines), R2 (R Squared) focuses on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with an eye to affordability. The Red Birds and Black Pine Pinot Noirs are probably its best known, and it also makes a Grenache Blanc, rosé and vin blancs, ideal for spring.
Ravenswood Winery, 18701 Gehricke Road, Sonoma, 707-938-7292, ravenswoodwinery.com.
Before there was a pursuit of balance, there was Ravenswood’s rallying cry of “No Wimpy Wines,” a philosophy it continues to hold to this day. The Zinfandel specialist offers daily tastings of its newest releases, as well as more specialized looks at rare, small-lot Zinfandel and Cabernet blends ($18). Add an artisan cheese or charcuterie plate for $17 each. A more hands-on approach is available via the Blend Your Own No Wimpy Wine experience. At $65, it’s an opportunity to create one’s own field-blend wine and take it home in a 375-ml bottle.
Scribe Winery, 2100 Denmark St., Sonoma, 707-939-1858, scribewinery.com.
The brothers Mariani preside over a wide range of casually cultivated events at their outpost on the hill, where unusual wines such as Sylvaner, Riesling and skin-fermented Chardonnay rule. They also make an estate Carneros Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon from a vineyard they farm on the eastern slopes of Atlas Peak in Napa Valley. Reservations are required.
Sebastiani Vineyards and Winery, 389 Fourth St. E., Sonoma, 707-9333230, sebastiani.com.
This historic winery maintains a sprawling tasting room and visitor center that’s popular with crowds, and where antique redwood tanks surround a lively tasting bar. Daily tours are offered at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. ($5), while more in-depth offerings include a Historical Vines and Wines Tour, with much of the time spent in the vineyard (daily at 11 a.m., $45). A Wine and Chocolate tasting is conducted daily, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. The cost is $10 to $20, depending on the level of wines chosen. Wine and cheese seminars are also available.
Three Sticks Wines, 143 W. Spain St., Sonoma, 707-996-3328, threestickswines.com.
Enter Three Sticks’ renovated Vallejo-Casteñada adobe for an elevated experience with a thrilling array of wines, many of them vineyard designates. Open for tastings by appointment, Three Sticks offers single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, a crisp Pinot Blanc and Bordeaux-inspired red blends.
Walt Wines, 380 First St. W., Sonoma, 707-933-4440, waltwines.com.
An outstanding specialist of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Walt is the sister brand of Hall Wines in St. Helena. The wines hail from throughout Sonoma, Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley, the Sta. Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County and Oregon’s Willamette Valley, providing a taste of the varying terroirs. The tasting room is homey, just off the Sonoma Plaza.
Westwood Estate, 11 E. Spain St., Suite 3, Sonoma, 707-933-7837, westwoodwine.com.
Guided tastings are held by appointment at this new producer, now settled into downtown Sonoma. The wines are made by Ben Cane, previously of Twomey Cellars, and with the consulting guidance of David Ramey. The emphasis is on Rhone grape varieties. The Estate Tasting ($25), a seasonal offering of four wines, is a good introduction; aim higher with the Rhone Flight ($40) tasting of five wines. The winery’s estate is called Annadel Gap Vineyard.
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