Wine tasting is moving out of doors at Sonoma County tasting rooms. Everywhere, wineries are upgrading their patio experience so that visitors can take in views with a flight of wines. But if you just want to have one glass of wine, sit down, and enjoy the view, it gets a little more complicated.
Pleasant patios and great views do not go hand-in-hand with wine-by-the-glass.
Because tasting room permits vary, each winery seems to be allowed a slightly different set of activities. During a recent search for Sonoma County wineries that offer wine by the glass, however, one theme was common: this simple amenity is exceedingly rare.
Here’s our short list of options for times when you just want to enjoy a wine by the glass with a view — of scenery or the scene.
Bubbly by the Glass
This venerable Sonoma County house of sparkling wine has been popular for its terrace views of the Carneros region for decades. A recent remodel updates the interior and enhances the experience. Sparkling wines by the glass, $6–$19.
Bringing fun and style to an urban sparkling wine experience, this Healdsburg bubbly specialist pours rosé, brut, and blanc de blancs. They’re served from a bar window in their freestanding tasting room, which was made from shipping containers by a welder who’s created work at the annual Burning Man festival. Landscaping makes a little oasis in this light industrial district, just steps away from Healdsburg’s downtown. By the glass, $12.
Pinot by the Glass
Looking for certified organic wines? That’s the only kind of wine at Sebastopol’s Horse & Plow, where a rustically styled “tasting barn,” made with some recycled wood, is set back far enough from busy Highway 116 to enjoy a peaceful view of apple trees and an organic garden on the patio. Wines like rosé, skin contact Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and old vine Grenache are available on tap from kegs — heirloom apple cider, too. By the glass, $6–$12. Cider, $4.
This newer, Mediterranean-style tasting room was built with patio tasting in mind — the terrace looks out over the Laguna de Santa Rosa, and on clear days the view spans the Petaluma Gap region to the Mayacamas mountains. Chardonnay $8–10, Pinot Noir $10–$12.50.
Cabernet Country by the Glass
An historic Sonoma Valley winery that first got going in 1859, this graybeard is more popular than ever with young wine tasters today. To accommodate the crowd, the folks at “Gun-Bun” set up an outdoor bar they call the “donkey bar.” Enjoy a variety of wines by the glass while looking out over a placid pond and the Sonoma Valley — they’re particularly proud of their Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blends. By the glass, $10–12.
Refreshing Sauvignon Blanc, hearty Alexander Valley Cabernet, and Zinfandel are tops at this winery, opened by the folks who once owned Geyser Peak Winery during one of its several heydays. Picnic tables and bocce courts. Wine by the glass, $8–15.
The deck and gardens at this Alexander Valley tasting room are just the right setting for a drink in the waning light of late afternoon — lucky thing that when one door closes, another opens.
When the Medlock Ames tasting room closes, the Alexander Valley Bar (nestled behind the tasting room) opens at 5 p.m. Inside it’s all stamped-tin ceilings and tobacco-colored walls, while in pleasant weather outdoor seating is available with wine, beer, and cocktails made with herbs and citrus grown onsite.
People Watching by the Glass
The wines are made at Repris, the former Carmenet Winery that’s perched high in the Sonoma Mayacamas. While Repris wines are highly allocated and the winery is quite remote, stylish Pangloss is plunked down right on Sonoma Plaza, where picture windows in a remodeled brick building provide a view of the comings and goings of locals and tourists. Look for the pony. A variety of wines by the glass, $10–$22.
Urban rusticity awaits at Sebastopol’s hotspot for the “new California wine.” Foot-stomped, then fermented in the adjacent winery, varietals like Chenin Blanc, ultra-rare Trousseau Gris, a blend of Syrah with Viognier, Rosé, and of course, Pinot Noir, are available on tap at this hip new hangout in Sebastopol’s Barlow center. By the glass, $7–$14.
Boutique by the Glass
This little boutique outfit shares the courtyard of Kenwood Village with several other tasting rooms and a gastro pub, and doubles as an art and sculpture gallery. It makes a nice stop in-between the town of Sonoma and the Russian River area. Making the most of their rare permit to serve by the glass, Orpheus offers the choice of Zinfandel, “Red Over Heels” red blend, or Sauvignon Blanc on tap, plus a “spritzer” cocktail made with their own craft vermouth. $6–$13.
Written by Sonoma Insider James Knight.