While some people consider “13” unlucky, your luck will change by experiencing any of these Sonoma County wineries and their amazing wines.
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This list doesn’t tout the most visited or the most awards won; it’s simply favorites that locals love to share with out-of-town guests. A quick poll netted more than 30 wineries, of which this list of 13 was culled, and none were repeated. That says a lot about the amazing variety of experiences to be had in Sonoma County’s 400-plus wineries.
Sonoma County is home to 17 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), each with its own distinctive characteristics. Its amazing range of terroir and microclimates distinguishes Sonoma County as one of the most diverse and special winegrowing regions in the world. The Pacific coastline, redwood forests, fertile valleys, and mountains produce an array of exceptional wines.
Proceed with caution. As you read, your mouth will start watering and you’ll get an uncontrollable urge to visit each winery for yourself.
Rodney Strong Vineyards
There are many reasons to visit this winery. Not happy to produce good wines, Rodney Strong created a “boutique winery within a winery” that offers premium, small-lot wines. But don’t-miss is its iconic Summer Concert Series. There’s no need for a backstage pass here; there is no backstage. You’re in the middle of the action. Great vineyard location, enjoying top acts, and sipping sublime wine — can a summer evening get any better?
Details: 11455 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg, 707-431-1533
Paradise Ridge Winery
Paradise Ridge owners are such proponents of public art; they’ve created a sculpture garden on the property — Marijke’s Grove. If the wine and art doesn’t suffice, maybe the stunning views will. During the summer and early autumn, Paradise Ridge holds Wines & Sunsets every Wednesday night. Pack a picnic or purchase dinner from one of the food trucks there, buy a bottle of wine, and enjoy the stunning vistas until, as the name suggests, sunset.
Details: 4545 Thomas Lake Harris Drive, Santa Rosa, CA 95403, 707-528-9463
Buena Vista Winery
Buena Vista is California’s oldest commercial winery and the birthplace of the state’s modern wine industry. Count Agoston Haraszthy built a stone winery on the property in 1857 and introduced cuttings from Europe’s best vineyards to California. Sign up for the "Be the Count Experience," wine blending as the Count might have done it, or taste a flight while touring the new Wine Tools Museum. If you run into the Count himself, don’t be surprised; it’s all a part of the experience.
Details: 18000 Old Winery Road, Sonoma, 800-926-1266
Fort Ross Vineyard and Tasting Room
Floating above the fog in the hills above the crashing waves lies the closest vineyard to the Pacific Ocean in California — Fort Ross Vineyard. It’s located in one of Sonoma County’s newest AVAs, Fort Ross-Seaview. The new tasting room looks like one of the many historic barns that dot the landscape. Taste Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinotage, made from grapes grown exclusively on the estate. Bring a lunch, relax, and look at the spectacular views.
Details: 15725 Meyers Grade Road, Jenner, 707-847-3460
Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards
There’s organic. Then you have sustainable. Kick it up a notch for biodynamic and there you’ll find Joseph Phelps. Biodynamics is a holistic approach to farming, treating the vineyard as an entire ecosystem, not just for growing grapes. Dedicated to using estate-grown grapes, Phelps chose this Freestone location to grow spectacular Pinot and Chardonnay. Visit on any second Sunday of the month for gourmet bites that will bring out the true flavor of the wine.
Details: 12747 El Camino Bodega, Freestone, 707-874-1010
Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery
If wine tasting evokes an image of refined elegance, this is the place to visit. Don’t let the manicured lawns and opulent chateau-style winery fool you; here, it’s all about the wines. That begins with being good stewards of the land. “We don’t just grow grapes, we grow wine.” This is evident in all of the tasting options, which include private tours, flights of a single varietal, best of the bunch, and more.
Details: 8761 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-6700
Yes, there is an actual Dry Creek that runs through the same-named AVA. One of the best places to experience it is at this down-to-earth, essentially Sonoma County winery. A biodynamic vineyard, this is one place to take in fish, ducks, sheep, olives, heirloom veggies and fruits, as well as beneficial insects — all while sipping fantastic wines. Bring a picnic, buy a bottle at the tasting room, find a spot by the creek, and enjoy.
Details: 5610 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-9545
Matanzas Creek Winery
This out-of-the-way winery, tucked into the middle of Bennett Valley, boasts gorgeous grounds where lavender fields compete with vineyards for your attention. Its park-like setting makes this a great picnic location. Take in the scenery of oaks, olive trees, and native grasses while enjoying a bottle of the wonderful Merlot. The Sauvignon Blanc has quite the reputation, too. Stop by the gift shop for lavender soaps, lotions and more — made from lavender grown at the winery.
Details: 6097 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa, 707-528-6464
St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
When is the top restaurant in America not a restaurant? When it’s St. Francis’ food and wine pairing. OpenTable.com users named the winery the top restaurant in the U.S. And they aren’t wrong. The pairing features a six-course tasting menu prepared by the winery’s own executive chef, who uses produce and herbs grown on the estate, paired with wines from St. Francis’ artisan collection. The stunning Sonoma Valley view just adds to the experience.
Details: 100 Pythian Road, Santa Rosa, 707-833-0242
Ram’s Gate Winery
The wines and the architecture here offer visitors a strong sense of place. The winery, opened in 2011, resembles the weathered farmsteads that dotted the landscape 100 years ago. Wines are crafted from grapes locally sourced, imbuing each sip with the taste of place. Food and wine pairing options are available, from a simple chef-packed picnic to pair perfectly with the wine choice, to the “Behind the Gate” experience that’s part tasting, part cooking class/demo. By appointment only. Please call.
Details: 28700 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 707-721-8700
Korbel Champagne Cellars
Discover how the Korbel brothers bought land in western Sonoma County to make cigar boxes out of redwood. Cigar boxes and other ventures gave way to vineyards of Pinot Noir grapes and sparkling wine made the traditional méthode champenoise technique. Enjoy a history tour, wine tasting, or grab lunch at the deli to and sit on the deck shaded by towering redwoods overlooking the vineyards. In the spring, visit for the garden tour.
Details: 13250 River Road, Guerneville, 707-824-7316
At Lynmar, terroir, that special “taste of place,” is found in the estate-produced wines and the onsite kitchen gardens that make the culinary program so spectacular. Pairings range from a reserved, in-depth seated lunch, to a picnic, to a bar menu that includes cheese plates, nuts and olives, and even gourmet popcorn. Make it a complete Wine Country experience by booking an overnight stay at the winery’s cottage, Bliss House.
Details: 3909 Frei Road, Sebastopol, 707-829-3374
Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Not content on just producing enjoyable wine, Francis Ford Coppola showcases it, complete with Hollywood magic, in Alexander Valley. Film memorabilia — including the Godfather’s desk, a Tucker car, scripts, and Oscars — enchant visitors. The estate is not just a winery, it’s a resort that includes a full-service restaurant, snack bar, full bar, and pool. Yes, pool; complete with cabines to rent for the day — be sure to reserve your spot early; it fills up fast.
Details: 300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville, 707-857-1427