January and February are quiet, contemplative months to enjoy wine, with most wineries less crowded than in other seasons and the new-vintage wines resting comfortably in barrels — yet sometimes available to taste. Wineries with caves and fireplaces are particularly worth seeking out. Wine writer Virginie Boone recommends these wineries for wintertime sojourns. They are open to the public, typically from 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, both red and white, Anaba’s tasting room is in 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).
Cairdean Vineyards & Winery, 3111 St. Helena Highway, St. Helena, 707-968-5434, cairdeanestate.com. New on the northern Napa Valley scene, Cairdean produces a great variety of wines from grapes grown in Napa and Sonoma. It also offers a sprawling empire of deliciousness, from The Farmer & the Fox gourmet gastropub, open for dinner until 10 p.m., to its well-appointed Butterscots Bakery, the perfect stop for cappuccino and croissants, with an outdoor fire pit as an additional perk. The tasting room is open daily until 8 p.m. for comfortable tastings, making it easy for folks to segue to dinner next door.
Castello di Amorosa, 4045 North St. Helena Highway, Calistoga, 707-967-6272, castellodiamorosa.com. Winter is a good time to revisit 13th-century Tuscany, the inspiration for this winery’s fanciful castle. It has an underground dungeon and torture chamber, defensive towers, moats, a drawbridge, high walls and caves, and took 14 years to build. The wines are also Italian-inspired, from Sangiovese to super Tuscan blends.
Cline Cellars, 24737 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 800-546-2070, clinecellars.com. Another beautifully set winery with roaming gardens, Carneros-based Cline offers complimentary tastings daily of five of its Rhone-style wines and, for $5, will add three reserve wines. The initial site of the final California mission in 1820, later moved to downtown Sonoma, the property includes a museum devoted to the state’s mission history and includes models of all 21 missions, originally built for the 1939 World’s Fair. Entrance is free to the museum, open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., though reservations for large groups are required.
Dutcher Crossing Winery, 8533 Dry Creek Road, Geyserville, 866-431-2711, dutchercrossingwinery.com. Cozy in winter with its tasting-room fireplace, Dutcher Crossing offers a range of wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel. On rainy days, warm the palate with the winery’s popular port (if it’s not already sold out), made from Zinfandel grapes and high-proof brandy and aged three years.
Emeritus Vineyards, 2500 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol, 707-823-4464, emeritusvineyards.com. Focused entirely on estate-bottled Pinot Noir, Emeritus invites tasters by appointment to its Hallberg Ranch for a 90-minute tour of the winery ($20) and tasting of current-release wines. Alternatively, visitors can sample through the Pinots in a 45-minute tasting ($10).
Etude Wines, 1250 Cuttings Wharf Road, Napa, 707-257-5300, etude-wines.com. Etude has long been a great name for Carneros Pinot Noir (and many other wines). Yet 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 Noir, but also several versions from Santa Barbara County (where Priest grew up), Sonoma Coast, Willamette Valley and, most unusually, New Zealand’s Central Otago region.
Fritz Winery, 24691 Dutcher Creek Road, Cloverdale, 800-418-9463, fritzwinery.com. Also known as Fritz Underground Winery, this winery is built into the side of a hill at the northern end of Dry Creek Valley. The underground part stays naturally cool. Gravity is used to gently move the wines, which run the gamut from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay to Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. The Late-Harvest Zinfandel ideal in winter.
Grgich Hills Estate, 1829 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford, 800-532-3057, grgich.com. The mighty Grgich Hills, a wonderful producer of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, offers a slew of fine visitor experiences, from barrel tasting every Friday from 2 to 4 p.m., to seated wine tastings with cheese ($40). On any day, the staff will order box lunches for visitors to enjoy on site, with advance notice.
Hall Wines, 401 St. Helena Highway, St. Helena, 707-967-2626, hallwines.com. Home to the gigantic silver bunny sculpture, Hall celebrates wine and art. Visitors can stroll through its winery enjoying works of modern art and sculptures while sampling its high-quality wines. Hall also has a winery in Rutherford that’s off the beaten track and can be visited too, for tours and tastings, by appointment.
Imagery Estate Winery, 14335 Highway 12, Glen Ellen, 707-935-4515, imagerywinery.com. Run by Joe Benziger, Imagery is as devoted to cool artwork as it is to producing great wines, including many made from unusual varieties such as Tempranillo and Lagrein. Its wine labels reflect its dual sensibilities. Check out the label gallery online and be sure to take the time to peruse the on-site art gallery as well.
Iron Horse Vineyards, 9786 Ross Station Road, Sebastopol, 707-887-1507, ironhorsevineyards.com. This sparkling wine producer in Green Valley of Russian River Valley makes a wide selection of special bottlings that are bubbly, as well as stellar still 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 4 people; $50 per 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 taste J’s increasing lineup of single-vineyard Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. The J Bubble Room pairs wines with exquisite, locally sourced dishes.
Jamieson Ranch Vineyards, 1 Kirkland Ranch Road, American Canyon, 707-254-8673, jamiesonranch.com. The Napa Valley’s southernmost winery, Jamieson Ranch is modeled after a Western lodge, relaxed and expansive — and surrounded by 300 acres of vineyards. Open daily, it offers tastes of wines under the Jamieson Ranch label (mostly Cabernet Sauvignon) and Reata, focused on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as Light Horse. Light Horse gained cred from its appearance on the “Today” show, where Leslie Sbrocco recommended its value-priced Pinot Noir.
Lancaster Estate, 15001 Chalk Hill Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-8178, lancasterestate.com. A premium producer of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Alexander Valley, near where it touches neighboring Chalk Hill and Knights Valley, Lancaster offers a daily tour and tasting experience that includes a look at its 53 acres of hillside vineyards, winery production area and caves, and a seated tasting of four estate wines ($35, reservations required), centered on Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc. A similar experience can be accompanied by artisan cheeses for $45.
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, as well as to taste what it all means in the glass. A traditional tasting of five wines is offered daily for $10; reserve ahead to take part in a tapas and wine pairing experience for $45. Tours are available weekdays at 11 a.m. or 2 p.m., by appointment.
Odette Estate, 5998 Silverado Trail, Napa, 707-224-7533, odettewinery.com. PlumpJack’s latest endeavor, Odette is open daily by appointment for tasting and an exploration of its 45 acres of prime real estate within the Stags Leap District AVA, the provenance of silky, mouth-filling Cabernet Sauvignons.
Paradise Ridge/Byck Family Winery, 4545 Thomas Lake Harris Drive, Santa Rosa, 707-528-9463, prwinery.com. Situated on 156 acres with outsized views looking west over Santa Rosa and to the coast, Paradise Ridge’s winery makes a range of worthy Russian River Valley and Rockpile wines. It’s also devoted to outdoor sculpture, a selection of which is featured throughout the property in Marijke’s Grove.
Patz & Hall’s Sonoma House, 21200 Eighth St. E., Sonoma, 877-265-6700, patzhall.com. In a well-appointed house in the Carneros region, this chic tasting spot highlights all the delights of Patz & Hall, a specialist in single-vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Taste four wines for $25 with truffle nuts, or go for the sit-down Salon Experience, a discussion and tasting of six wines with meticulously prepared mini-meals ($50). Chances are the day will start off with a glass of bubbly to open the palate. Friday through Sunday, enjoy the Terrace Tasting, an intimate tableside tasting of single-vineyard wines with local cheese ($40).
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). Its 5×5 Tasting ($95) in the caves provides the opportunity to try five estate-grown wines paired with small bites. In good weather, book a Taste on the Terrace ($50), a self-guided tasting of four wines with cheese and charcuterie, with views of the Stags Leap Palisades.
Quivira Vineyards & Winery, 4900 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-431-8333, quivirawine.com. A wonderland of natural beauty in all seasons, Quivira remains alive in winter and open for tours ($20, weather permitting) of its Zinfandel vineyards, beehives and Biodynamic gardens, where chickens freely roam. Be sure to try the winery’s sumptuous Sauvignon Blanc and small-production Grenache.
Ram’s Gate, 28700 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 707-721-8700, ramsgatewinery.com. The entry point into Carneros, Ram’s Gate offers indoor and outdoor fireplaces, perfect settings for enjoying 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 also by reservation.
Robert Biale Vineyards, 4038 Big Ranch Road, Napa, 707-257-7555, biale.com. A producer of elegant single-vineyard-designated Zinfandels and Petite Sirahs, Biale works with a wide range of historic vineyards throughout Napa and Sonoma to source grapes. Enjoy the cozy tasting room while pondering the views of the surrounding vineyards and tasting Biale’s fine wines, including its signature Black Chicken Napa Valley Zinfandel, an ode to bootlegging Prohibition days.
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, home to the oldest hillside vineyards in Napa Valley and some of the first caves dug for the 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.
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 county, St. Francis is a welcome place to relax and enjoy three distinct culinary adventures, from a seated multicourse food-and- wine pairing presided over by executive chef Bryan Jones ($50, reservations required), to a simpler cheese and charcuterie accompaniment, to a flight of limited-production wines ($30, walk-ins welcome). But the best-kept secret might be the private estate dinners, seven-course prix fixe meals with wine ($148, reservations required via 707-833-0255), offered six days a week by appointment.
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, 5766 Silverado Trail, Napa, 707-944-2020, cask23.com. The winery that shook the world by being the winning Cabernet Sauvignon at the 1976 Paris Tasting, Stag’s Leap has recently unveiled its new FAY Outlook and Visitor Center, overlooking the winery’s FAY and S.L.V. vineyards and in full view of the Stags Leap Palisades. Open daily, the center offers tours and estate collection tastings by reservation. More focused is its Fire and Water Tour and Tasting ($95), a dig into the estate property with discussion of its terroir, accompanied by wines and appetizers.
Three Sticks Wines, 143 W. Spain Street, Sonoma, 707-996-3328, threestickswines.com. Now settled into its new digs, known as The Adobe, the winery has completely renovated Sonoma’s 1842 Vallejo-Casteñada Adobe, one of the very few buildings left from the time of Mexican governorship of California. Open for tastings by appointment, its wines include around single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, a crisp Pinot Blanc and Bordeaux-inspired red blends.
Trefethen Family Vineyards, 1160 Oak Knoll Ave., Napa, 866-895-7696, trefethen.com. Having suffered damage to its historic winery building in the 2014 Napa earthquake, Trefethen powers on, with appointment-only visits to its hallowed spot in the Oak Knoll District. Classic tastings ($25) of estate-grown wines are available, as are Reserve tastings ($35), a chance to try older vintages as well as limited-release wines. The wines include a dry Riesling — a rare find in these parts — as well as Trefethen’s Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Dragon’s Tooth, a blend of Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon.