Winery Tasting Rooms from A to Z

Great spots to swirl and sip for the holidays

Night falls on the Francis Ford Coppola Winery, near Geyserville, on Thursday, February 3, 2011.

The wineries listed are open for public tastings, typically from around 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Contact the individual winery to confirm or for more details.

Arista Winery, 7015 Westside Rd., Healdsburg, 707-473-0606, Meander through the winery’s Japanese gardens before stepping into the warmth of the tasting room to sample Arista’s silky, sensuous, single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, some from estate-grown grapes, in addition to well-made Zinfandel and Gewürztraminer.

Bella, 9711 West Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg, 866-572-3552, Duck into Bella’s cozy caves to taste, and on the weekends, enjoy small bites from the winery’s stellar chef, Bruce Frieseke. Cave and vineyard tours can be arranged by appointment with one week’s notice.

Buena Vista, 18000 Old Winery Rd., Sonoma, 800-926-1266, Historic Buena Vista has refashioned its wine caves into a darkened, romantic spot for barrel tasting and touring, and a section of the cave can be reserved for private, by-appointment tastes of library wines and barrel samples. Don’t miss the Champagne Cellars (kid-friendly and there is no charge) where the winery’s history can be further explored.

Cuvaison, 1221 Duhig Rd., Napa, 707-942-2455, Take a vineyard walk in Cuvaison’s Carneros vineyards, Friday through Monday, where the winery grows its estate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, then sit down to enjoy tastes of the wines from the sleek, modern tasting room with spectacular views of Carneros.

DeLoach Vineyards, 1791 Olivet Rd., Santa Rosa, 707-526-9111, Producer of predominantly Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, DeLoach affords visitors the opportunity to learn the philosophies of biodynamic farming and take part in two unique experiences available daily. The M.F.S. Blending Experience ($100) is a 90-minute lesson in blending, bottling and labeling your own Pinot Noir. The Magic of Wine and Mustard ($40) explores the history of mustard in Burgundy, France, and includes a stroll through the vineyard and garden, the chance to make your own mustard from Dijon seeds, and a pairing of mustard-inspired food with a flight of DeLoach wines.

Dry Creek Vineyard, 3770 Lambert Bridge Rd., Healdsburg, 707-433-1000, Dry Creek is maker of an impressive lineup of Zinfandel, but it’s always good to start with the winery’s dry Chenin Blanc, a rare, refreshing find in these parts.

Dutcher Crossing Winery, 8533 Dry Creek Rd., Geyserville, 866-431-2711, Quiet, cozy Dutcher, with a fireplace in its tasting room, overlooks its own magnificent Dry Creek Valley vineyards, and produces a slew of fine wines, from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to Port and Petite Sirah. You might find winery dog Dutchess lounging near the fire or hanging out in the garden picnic grounds.

Francis Ford Coppola Winery, 300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville, 707-857-1462, A stellar spot in summer with its Hollywood-size pool, Coppola also excels at hospitality no matter the time of year or weather. It’s an ideal spot to duck in and enjoy the wines, the homey Italian fare at the onsite restaurant, Rustic, and view Coppola’s movie memorabilia, including his well-earned Oscars.

Fritz Underground Winery, 24691 Dutcher Creek Rd., Cloverdale, 707-894-3389, Step into Fritz’s subterranean winery, complete with cozy fireplace, and enjoy its red blends, award-winning Zinfandels, fine estate rosé and late-harvest wines. By reservation, winemaker Brad Longton will even show you how to blend your own Pinot Noir ($175/person).

Handley Cellars, 3151 Highway 128, Philo, 707-895-3876, The stomping ground of Mendocino County wine pioneer Milla Handley, Handley is the place to taste Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Alsatian whites, including Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. The tasting room includes Handley’s impressive collection of international folk art. The first weekend of every month takes a page from her collection, offering “Culinary Adventures,” a pairing of Asian, African and New World cuisine with her wines.

Hartford Family Winery, 8075 Martinelli Rd., Forestville, 707-887-8030, Tucked away in the woods, it seems, Hartford is a consistent high-quality producer of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and old-vine Zinfandel, sourcing from the Green Valley sub-appellation of the Russian River Valley where it is based, and from other cool-climate locales such as the Anderson Valley. Seated in-depth tastings, including some with food pairings, can be arranged by appointment.

Heitz Wine Cellars, 436 St. Helena Highway, St. Helena, 707-963-3542, Open since 1961, Heitz is a Napa Valley legend in Cabernet Sauvignon and will also share tastes of its Sauvignon Blanc and rare Grignolino and Grignolino Rosé from its mahogany-accented room. On a cold winter’s day, don’t miss the Ink Grade Port made from Portuguese varieties planted on Howell Mountain.

Inman Family Wines, 3900 Piner Rd., Santa Rosa, 707-293-9576, From organically farmed grapes grown on the estate Olivet Grange Vineyard, Kathleen Inman makes elegant Russian River Valley Pinot Noir in addition to other Pinots, a Pinot Gris and her acclaimed Endless Crush Sparkling Brut Rosé. A vineyard farmhouse is available as a “bed-and-get-your-own-breakfast,” as the Inmans like to say.

J Vineyards & Winery, 11447 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg, 707-431-5400, A glass of bubbly is always a good thing, and this is a well-appointed spot at which to have it, as well as taste J’s Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, and the very rare, wintery J Pear Liqueur. The J Bubble Room will pair wines with exquisite three-course, locally sourced dishes.

Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards, 12747 El Camino Bodega, Freestone, 707-874-1010, On the way to the coast, Freestone Vineyards makes what you would expect – cool-climate Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, and the tasting room will also pour selections from parent winery Joseph Phelps, the Napa Valley producer of Cabernet Sauvignon and the famous Insignia proprietary red blend. On the second Sunday of every month, Freestone features local foods paired with the Sonoma Coast and Napa Valley wines. Upcoming dates feature clam chowder and crab cakes paired with Chardonnay.

Lambert Bridge, 4085 West Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg, 707-431-9600, Cozy Lambert Bridge offers comfort and warmth in the wintertime, with a fieldstone fireplace roaring in the redwood-paneled tasting room. Then there are the dogs, a motley crew usually on hand, and the Barrel Room Wine and Food Pairings, during which one can taste Lambert Bridge’s richly elegant Cabernet Sauvignons and Zinfandels with seasonal bites to match. Do a Signature Tasting on the weekend and you’ll be seated in the candlelit barrel room for a sampling of five small-lot wines.

Landmark Wine, 101 Adobe Canyon Rd., Kenwood, 707-833-0053, In the shadow of Sugarloaf State Park, Landmark makes Chardonnay (including the famous Overlook bottling) and Pinot Noir, and is increasingly becoming known for its Rhone-inspired reds, including Syrah and Grenache. In addition to its tasting room, Landmark offers picnic spots and bocce, and has an onsite guest cottage and a suite above the winery, each available for booking.

Merry Edwards Winery, 2959 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol, 707-823-7466, Winemaker Merry Edwards is a pioneer in Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, excelling at coaxing rich berry flavor and voluptuous texture from the grapes. She also produces some of the best Sauvignon Blanc in the county, and has recently added Chardonnay to her lineup. Don’t miss the opportunity to discover her skill and view some of the vineyards surrounding the winery.

Navarro Vineyards, 5601 Highway 128, Philo, 707-895-3686, An always popular destination for picnics, Navarro makes great wines at great prices, from Anderson Valley Pinot Noir to late-harvest Gewürztraminer. Try them all and pick up picnic eats from the tasting room, which also carries local Pennyroyal Farm cheeses that are made by the winery founders’ daughter.

Portalupi Wine Co., 107 North St., Healdsburg, 707-395-0960, Occupying a storefront near the Raven Theater in downtown Healdsburg, Portalupi brings Wine Country to town, pouring its selections of Pinot Noir, Barbera, Zinfandel and other Italian-inspired blends, some of them sourced from other parts of California including Lodi and the Sierra Foothills. It also offers a 1.89-liter (the equivalent of 2½ regular 750-milliliter bottles) rustic red called Vaso di Marina.

Preston of Dry Creek, 9282 West Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg, 707-433-3372, Longtime grower, farmer and winemaker Lou Preston maintains this lovely Dry Creek outpost for all his agricultural bounty, which includes wine, bread and olive oil. Look for Madam Preston, a blend of Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier and Grenache Blanc.

Ram’s Gate, 28700 Arnold Dr., Sonoma, 707-721-8700, Ram’s Gate was designed for lingering, with a host of spacious areas, many of which are grouped around a fireplace. Then there’s the food, prepared to order by the on-staff chef for seated, guided tastings. Order a picnic lunch to take into the vineyard or out by the pond. The wines alone are a reason to stay, a collection of single-vineyard Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay and even a brut sparkling wine.

Robert Sinskey Vineyards, 6320 Silverado Trail, Napa, 944-9090, This stalwart Napa winery along the Silverado Trail makes delicious Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, a wine type not easy to find in the valley, and offers a Farm to Table Tour ($75) by appointment. Visitors can also grab a plate of small bites from the Vineyard Kitchen ($25), without an appointment. Other wines to expect include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Commander Zinskey.

Round Pond Estate, 875 Rutherford Road, Rutherford, 888-302-2575, Set in the heart of Rutherford in grand style, Round Pond makes Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and olive oil, and has bites prepared onsite from its organic gardens. The Olive Mill can be visited for tastes of oils and vinegars. The winery’s open-air terrace lounge is set for daily Il Pranzo lunches, an opportunity to enjoy the estate’s bounty and other local products. During inclement weather, the lunches are moved indoors.

Schramsberg Vineyards, 1400 Schramsberg Rd., Calistoga, 800-877-3623, Among the first in California to specialize in sparkling wine, Schramsberg occupies hallowed, historic ground, home to the oldest hillside vineyards in the 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.

Sheldon Wines, 1301 Cleveland Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-865-6755, Tiny Sheldon makes mighty, playful wines, calling itself a micro-winery. The wines are eclectically delicious, ranging from Pinot Noir and Grenache to Graciano, and the energizing Weatherly Rosé, made from the Graciano grape and offering notes of watermelon Jolly Rancher candy and pomegranate.

Stonestreet Alexander Mountain Estate, 7111 Highway 128, 707-473-3333, Near Alexander Valley’s popular Jimtown Store, Stonestreet excels in mountain-grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and invites visitors to taste through its single-vineyard bottlings. Carve out extra time to take the two-hour Mountain Excursion and Picnic ($90; 10:30 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday), a revelatory traipse through Stonestreet’s 6,000-acre estate with lunch and wine.

Stuhlmuller Vineyards, 4951 West Soda Rock Lane, Healdsburg, 707-431-7745, Hidden away in the heart of the Alexander Valley, once part of Cyrus Alexander’s original ranch, Stuhlmuller has picnic grounds and a modern tasting room: perfect conditions for trying its high-scoring Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Chardonnay, produced by winemaker Leo Hansen.

Thomas George Estates, 8075 Westside Rd., Healdsburg, 707-431-8031, Set in a converted 1920s-era hop kiln, the father-son team behind Thomas George specializes in Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from specific, sought-after sites, and limited amounts of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Zinfandel and Syrah. Expect to see dogs and sheep while you visit.

VJB Vineyards & Cellars, 60 Shaw Ave., Kenwood, 707-833-2300, In an Italian-inspired, courtyard-centered villa in the heart of Sonoma Valley, VJB serves coffee and pastries in the morning, panini, pasta and pizza during the day, and sips of its Italian-inspired wines. The winery also sells co-proprietor Maria Belmonte’s line of sauces, pestos and tapenades, and houses a shop for gelato and specialty chocolates.

Woodenhead Vintners, 5700 River Rd., Santa Rosa, 707-887-2703, This small winery is a respected producer of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, and a recently introduced Russian River Valley French Colombard. Nikolai Stez, who learned the ropes from Burt Williams of legendary Williams Selyem, makes the wines.

ZD Wines, 8888 Silverado Trail, Napa, 800-487-7757, Having just celebrated its 45th harvest, ZD is a Napa Valley mainstay, known for its Cabernet Sauvignons, Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, most notably the Abacus limited-production Cab. The Abacus Tour focuses on the winery’s reserve wines, pairing the Abacus with cheese and chocolate.