Planning to explore Sonoma Wine Country? For an extra relaxing experience, consider adventuring out with a winery-savvy local guide and/or chauffeur.
Your touring company can plan an excursion that’s perfect for you, with customized destinations that match your interests. And as you tour along the highways and byways of Sonoma County, your guide or driver can answer questions about the sights you see, the wineries you visit, the wines that interest you, and many other points of interest.
Your mode of transportation isn’t just limited to cars, vans, or limos, either. You might choose bikes, Vespas, Segways, a horse drawn carriage, a hot air balloon, or a vintage biplane.
First, figure out what you’d like to see. Do you want to spend an entire day in the Dry Creek Valley? Are you intrigued to meet an actual winemaker? Or perhaps you’re interested in visiting wineries specifically known for great Pinot Noir. You may want to focus on wineries with an art collection, on-site restaurants, great views or sensational wine and food pairing. Or how about visiting wine castles in Sonoma Valley, or the oldest premium winery in all of California?
And when you leave the driving to a professional in wine country, there’s another great advantage: safety. That’s because your driver refrains from wine tasting throughout the tour.
With one of California’s largest chauffeured fleets — ranging from hybrid sedans, Lincoln Navigators, and stretch limos to 56-passenger motor coaches — it’s fair to say that Pure Luxury Transportation is a true full-service transportation company. It provides service for everything from airport pickups and wedding celebrations, to large corporate group event needs.
With a concierge on staff, Pure Luxury will put together a private tour to match your requirements. “Our tours are unusual,” said chief operating office Jennifer Buffo. “The experiences our guests have range from private meetings with winery owners or winemakers, to visiting a winery that’s not open to the public. Guests can have an experience they can’t have somewhere else.”
Pure Luxury also offers a few package trips. For example, the five-hour Eco-Friendly Wine Tour (for six people in an SUV, or six to eight in a limo) takes you to three award-winning wineries in Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys that use sustainable farming practices and biodynamic agriculture. Stops include Moshin Vineyards, Everett Ridge, and Quivira Vineyards & Winery.
Pure Luxury Transportation (4246 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma, 800-626-5466)
With a large fleet of new Mercedes and Cadillac sedans, SUVs, limos, vans, and buses, Beau Wine Tours can handle transportation needs for everything from a couple on their honeymoon, to a corporate conference.
Perhaps you want to explore the Russian River wine region, or Sonoma Valley. The staff specializes in wine knowledge, and your guide will create a wine country experience that will both educate and entertain you, whether you are are new to wine tasting, at an intermediate level, or a connoisseur.
You can opt for one of the many private tour packages, as well — the four-hour and six-hour Sonoma Valley wine tours, for example. You’ll be picked up in a private stretch limousine and taken to some of Sonoma Valley’s finest wineries, or you can make your own selection.
Beau Wine Tours & Limousine Service (21707 Eighth St. E., Sonoma, 800-387-2328)
Lin Durling, founder of Sonoma-based Artisan Wine Tours, says he “seeks to redefine luxury travel in Wine Country.” For more than a decade, Durling owned and operated a niche aviation company and now focuses on creating customized wine tours and “dream adventures.” for discerning travelers. His specialty is relationships - with wineries, restaurants, planning coordinators, transportation providers, and guides - for bringing his customers authentic behind-the scenes experiences. The vehicle? A six-passenger Lincoln Navigator, custom designed for private-jet style and comfort. The details? The car includes sparking wine, bottled water and soft drinks. The destinations? Wherever you can dream of, from exclusive wineries, to cooking schools, organic vineyards, local cheese producers, or Michelin-star restaurants.
Artisan Wine Tours (Sonoma, 707-235-9050)
It’s such a civilized way to venture through the Sonoma Wine Country, with the gentle breezes cooling you under the warm sun.
On the Healdsburg Sip 'N Cycle tour, you'll be outfitted with a Marin hybrid bike including a helmet, bag, and comfortable gel-seat before heading out on a relaxed ride along the quiet country lanes of the Dry Creek Valley. Taste wines along the way, stop on rural back roads and enjoy the scenery, and keep your energy going with a Wine Country picnic lunch.
For more advanced cyclists, the Velo 'N Vino' tour offers a challenging 20- to 30-mile morning ride on Specialized Allez road bikes through Healdsburg and the Dry Creek Valley, followed by a picnic lunch and afternoon wine tasting traveling in a van to small, family-owned wineries.
Getaway Adventures (2228 Northpoint Parkway, Santa Rosa, 800-499-2453)
Pedal your way along the back roads of Sonoma County on a multi-day, relaxed, hassle-free, guided bicycle tour with gourmet meals and luxury accommodations. Company co-founder Randy Johnson says the customer's only job is to show up; Sonoma on a Bike takes care of the rest. "Our tours are designed for people who can really savor the experience," Johnson says. "It's not just point-to-point cycling. Our customers are interested in the wine, the food, and the cycling."
Sonoma on a Bike is a separate division of Getaway Adventures. A six-day, five-night tour for four to eight participants is offered about once a month, and the company also creates private, customized tours for six to eight people.
Sonoma on a Bike (2228 Northpoint Parkway, Santa Rosa, 707-568-3040)
Enjoy the scenery and discover boutique and family-owned wineries at a casual pace with frequent stops on the Full Day Classic Sonoma Valley Bike Tour. Pedal an average of three to six miles between each winery visit, on this tour led by a knowledgeable and local guide.
For an extra dose of adventure, go off-road and literally through the vineyards on the Cycling in the Vineyards Tours, a mountain bike journey through the rolling hills of the Carneros district, at the southern end of the Sonoma Valley.
And if your schedule is tight, the Half Day Classic Sonoma Bike Tour provides an abbreviated version of the classic tour, pedaling along scenic roads to visit two Sonoma Valley wineries. Or plan your own adventure with a self-guided bike tour, supported by the experienced Sonoma Valley Bike Tours team, plus a box picnic lunch and wine purchase pick-up service.
Sonoma Valley Bike Tour (520 Broadway, Sonoma, 707-996-2453)
The views can be even more magical through open-air windows, and the journey becomes almost as much fun as the destination. While this trolley car is an authentic, old-fashioned replica of vintage 1890s San Francisco cable car, it has modern appointments like an iPod dock and rockin’ sound system, meaning six hour, four-winery tours can become rolling parties.
The tour guides tend to be playful, cracking jokes and keeping everyone laughing, all the while pointing out landmarks and sharing Sonoma County stories. Tastings are at boutique retreats like Tin Barn, plus bigger favorites like Imagery Estate Winery, and a picnic lunch is catered by girl & the fig.
Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley (Sonoma, 877-946-3876)
On a Vespa:
No one can resist saying “ciao,” as they cruise on their state-of-the-art Vespa, and why try? It’s simply too much fun. You can pick your stops for an all-day trip, in all areas ranging from Carneros to Dry Creek Valley, perhaps, or Alexander Valley to Bodega Bay.
Another option is for your guide to plan your schedule, customized around your chosen theme. Putter from winery to winery, then enjoy a picnic wherever you choose to linger.
Wine Country Vespa (317 D St., Santa Rosa, 707-523-2371)
9. On a Segway:
Glide along paths and country roads on a Segway, with stops for wine tasting, behind-the-scenes tours, and a picnic lunch. Segway of Healdsburg offers treks through Russian River vineyards and wineries, or through the towering trees at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Preserve. Segway of Petaluma provides a fun and cool way to explore this historic community. And in addition to wine tasting, tours by Sonoma Segway in the Sonoma Valley include a private tour and tasting at the award-winning Vella Cheese Factory.
All three companies begin their tours with an introductory training and safety session.
Segway of Healdsburg (707-953-3477)
Segway of Petaluma (222 Weller St., Suite 2, Petaluma, 707-799-6049)
Sonoma Segway (707-938-2080)
Behind a Horse:
Cody and Cheyenne are big, beautiful blond tour guides – and okay, they are Belgian draft horses, but they still love flirting with their guests. The ride is slow and smooth, in a wagon outfitted with padded seats and a shade top, on a five-mile tour through the Alexander Valley, starting at Alexander Valley Vineyards in Healdsburg and featuring stops at family-owned wineries.
The horses can stroll through the actual vineyards, letting you out for barrel tasting, cave tours, and chats with the winemakers (who will want to pet the horses), while your coachman guide shares local lore and insider’s tips. Nibble a Wine Country picnic along the way, like crusty baguettes, artisan cheeses, herbed meats, assorted olives, French chocolate truffles and organic strawberries, plus wine if you choose.
The Wine Carriage (8644 Highway 128, Healdsburg, 707-849-8989)
Up In The Air:
Many of us have dreamed about soaring in a hot air balloon over Sonoma Wine Country, and really, what better way is there to take in a birds-eye view of gardens, rolling hills, forested mountains and vineyards thriving in emerald green grape leaves?
Seen from above, it’s remarkable how huge Sonoma County looks from the sky. Vineyards that already seem large from the ground are lattice works of intricate trellising, rolling across hills and Valley. Sheep, cows, goats, horses, llamas and even the occasional bison or llama look like toys. The sun dapples across lakes, creeks winds like ribbons through the landscape, and old barns dot the fields.
With Sonoma Valley Balloons of Santa Rosa, the flight can stretch up to four hours, finished off with a champagne toast.
And there’s no reason everyone can’t enjoy an adventure. Up & Away of Windsor was the first hot air balloon company in the United States to offer a wheelchair accessible basket flown free-flight (not tethered to the ground). Special fold down ramps and harnessing make it easy and safe. Then, after journey, guests nibble on treats like hand-crafted quiche, strawberries hand-dipped in chocolate, fresh fruit, local cheeses, coffee cake and sparkling wine.
A Balloon Over Sonoma (109 Wikiup Meadows Drive, Santa Rosa, 707-546-3360)
Above the Wine Country Balloons (397 Aviation Blvd., Santa Rosa, 800-759-5638)
Sonoma Valley Balloons (269 Aviation Blvd., Santa Rosa, 707-861-6006)
Up & Away Ballooning (2200 Airport Blvd., Santa Rosa, 800-711-2998)
Go "over and above" the typical tourist experience with this company that combines wine tasting with a ride for two in a 1926 biplane. You'll get a bird-eye view of the vineyards and wineries you're going to visit. Owner and operator Bruce McKay says guests get "the sensation of seeing this incredible, majestic landscape quilt below them, and when they visit each place there's a connection with what they saw from the air. This makes it especially memorable." McKay is dedicated to an innovative approach to creating tours with insider connections, attention to detail, extensive knowledge of the area and the wine industry, and a dedication to quality.
For example, the Over the Moon tour includes a 30-minute biplane flight over Moon Mountain; visits to two exclusive wineries on that mountain; tastings in a wine cave, on the mountaintop, and in a mountainside retreat; and a gourmet al fresco picnic.
Vin de Luxe Tours (Sonoma, 707-799-4148)
Clearly, with the guidance of Sonoma County's many experienced tour operators you can tailor your exploration of Sonoma Wine Country to fit your individual interests. For even more options, check our listings of Sightseeing & Tours.