It’s so darn romantic, a Sonoma County wedding at a winery with a wine cave. The ceremony might be out on the lawn, but what’s cooler than wine tasting and hors d’oeuvres in a cool barrel retreat tucked into a mountain?
Robert Young Estate
This is home of a pioneer of Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and producer of one of the industry’s most iconic Chardonnays. Tours of the historic vineyards are enjoyed in a tractor-pulled gondola, leading to wine cave where guests can savor a private pairing of rich artisanal chocolate and beautiful wines.
Details: Robert Young Estate, 4960 Red Winery Road, Geyserville, 707-431-4811.
Deerfield Ranch Winery
The expanse is impressive – more than 23,000 square feet of wine caves spanning the heart of winery, and cut in the shape of a wine glass. Tucked behind beautiful Redwood portal doors sit hundreds of barrels, leading to the Grand Room furnished in overstuffed couches and chairs. Such comfortable seating is a good idea, considering tasting flights can include up to 20 wines (try the standouts of super Tuscan style “Super T Rex” red and the Old Vine Zinfandel). For quieter escapes, more intimate seating areas are scattered about, too, and your host will find you, bringing your glasses right to your table.
Details: Deerfield Ranch Winery, 10200 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707-833-5215.
Kunde Family Estate
More than 32,000 square feet of wine caves tunnel through ancient volcanic lava flows, tucked into a steep hillside just behind the winery set on 1,850 contiguous acres. They burrow 175 feet below the earth, welcoming with a deep perfume of aging wine and oak barrels.
And they encourage all kinds of special celebrations, such as private meals in the dining room that sits encased in five million year old volcanic rock, complete with a volcanic rock stage and elegant redwood tables. Comfort is guaranteed, too - the caves are ideal for aging premium wines, with year-round temperatures of 58°F and a natural humidity of 78 percent, which decreases evaporation of wine from the barrels.
Details: Kunde Family Estate, 9825 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707-833-5501.
Gundlach Bundschu Winery
You pop in one side of the cave, through the heavy wood doors tucked in a tunnel off the courtyard from the tasting room, and when you’re done, you pop out the other, to find yourself overlooking the vineyards and an enormous lake. That’s just one of the unique aspects of this historic site, carved into a gentle hillside. Throughout the year, “GunBun” hosts a variety of activities relative to the winemaking season, including a guided Farming Tour & Cave Tasting, a Harvest Tour & Cave Tasting, and a Barrel Cave Tour & Tasting. Each adventure ends with a seated wine tasting in the Barrel Cave Dining Room.
Details: Gundlach Bundschu Winery, 2000 Denmark St., Sonoma, 707-938-5277.
Buena Vista Winery
As the oldest commercial winery in California, the Buena Vista boasts caves that speak of ancient history. Built in 1857, the caves are an official historic landmark. Renovated for modern safety measures, they remain elegantly dark and mysterious, and it’s a must to enjoy a tasting straight from the barrels. Paired tastings are the best way to explore, where a host will first offer the barrel wine, then the finished wine, and explain the evolution.
For extra impact, be sure to ask about seeing “The Count.” This is where a costumed gentleman complete with stovepipe hat, brocade vest and lavish gray beard with sideburns will lead you on a 45-minute tour into the cellars, followed by a tasting – he plays Agoston Haraszthy, who first founded the winery centuries ago. Learn about grape growing and winemaking history through a tasting and tour of the winery’s unique Wine Tool Museum.
Details: Buena Vista Winery, 18000 Old Winery Road, 800-926-1266.
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Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet