Visit some of Sonoma Wine Country’s outstanding wineries and spend time outdoors in the bargain. The free “Sonoma County Vineyard Adventures” program, started in 2010 by the Sonoma County Winegrowers, allows you to take no-appointment, self-guided vineyard tours. Please check availability and schedule with each individual winery before visiting as programs may change.
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While these tours are excellent during summer, they are available year-round. Not only do you get to stroll among the vines, but you’ll see up-close how they’re pruned and what the different varietals look like.
When you visit one of the eight participating wineries, stop in the tasting room to pick up a detailed walking-tour guide to the vineyard. Points of interest will be clearly marked along the route.
If you feel like it — there’s no obligation — you can stop in the tasting room after your walk and sample wines made from the vineyards you’ve just seen. Keep in mind that the tour is free, but there may be wine tasting fees.
In its early days, the program’s tours were offered at only four Sonoma winery vineyards, but it’s proven to be so popular that four more wineries have joined in. From south to north the eight participating wineries are:
1. Schug Carneros Estate Winery (Carneros/Sonoma Valley): Located at the intersection of three Sonoma County viticultural areas – Carneros, Sonoma Coast, and Sonoma Valley — family-owned Schug is a 50-acre wine estate. The half-mile-long walking tour at Schug includes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir winegrapes. Tour times run from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. No appointment is needed. Tour difficulty: Moderate.
2. Landmark Vineyards (Sonoma Valley): Kenwood’s Landmark Vineyards is also family owned and offers beautiful views. The quarter-mile-long walking tour takes about half an hour, and brings visitors through vineyards of Mourvedre, Viognier, and Grenache winegrapes. Tour times are 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily. Tour difficulty: Low.
3. Matanzas Creek Winery (Bennett Valley): Matanzas Creek Winery, in the northwest corner of Sonoma Valley, is built on the site of a former dairy. The scenic grounds showcase beautiful sculptures and a huge lavender garden. The half-mile walk will take you past plenty of Merlot, Malbec, and Grenache winegrapes. Check in at the tasting room to pick up your tour guide. Tour times: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily. Tour difficulty: Moderate.
4. Paradise Ridge Winery (Russian River Valley): Family owned, 156-acre Paradise Ridge Winery, on the northeastern side of Santa Rosa, is known for its stunning sculpture garden. On the quarter-mile walk here you’ll see Petite Sirah, Chardonnay, Grenache, and Zinfandel grapes. Tour times: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Tour difficulty: Low.
5. Balletto Vineyards (Russian River Valley): Situated in the lush Russian River Valley, Balletto Vineyards contains a “Field of Dreams” — a regulation-sized baseball field. You’ll pass beautiful scenery on your three-quarter-mile walk, as well as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Gris winegrapes. Tour times: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. Tour difficulty: Moderate.
6. Mauritson Winery (Dry Creek Valley): The Mauritson Family has grown grapes in the Dry Creek Valley, located in the northwest part of Sonoma County, since 1868. Your half-mile walk will take you past Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, and Merlot. Tour times: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Tour difficulty: Moderate.
7. Stryker Sonoma Winery (Alexander Valley): From this family owned 32-acre vineyard, Stryker Sonoma wines are made in small lots to produce balanced wines that include Semillon, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and Bordeaux varietals. The quarter-mile walk includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Petite Sirah grapes. Tour times: 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Tour difficulty: Low.
8. Francis Ford Coppola (Alexander Valley): The famous movie director purchased the former Chateau Souverain Winery in 2006. Now remodeled, the 88-acre wine estate includes a swimming pool, restaurant, family entertainment, and memorabilia from Coppola’s movie career. The one-and-a-quarter-mile walk includes Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc winegrapes. Tour times: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Tour difficulty: Challenging.