From self-guided vineyard tours, to eco-hiking, to bicycling between wineries, to viewing outdoor art exhibits, Sonoma County wineries have a lot more to offer than just wine tasting.
Interested in sipping some world-famous Chardonnay, award-wining Pinot Noir, or great Merlot, and sampling a bit of outdoor adventure at the same time? Here’s a selection of wine-related activities and wineries with unique outdoor fun:
Kunde Family Estate
Family owned and operated for five generations, Kunde Family Estate produces ultra-premium, 100 percent estate-grown wines in Northern California's renowned Sonoma Valley. The family is committed to the creation of wines that are unique to their land, while farmed with an ethical and sustainable pedigree.
Explore the property on an eco-hiking tour designed for hiking and wine enthusiasts, with an emphasis on sustainable winegrowing practices. Learn how distinct ecosystems and native habitats contribute to the process of sustainable winegrowing. Taste wines along the way, in the vineyards where the grapes were grown.
Conducted by longtime winery employee John Hardman, the approximately four-mile hike is moderately strenuous, taking guests from the Sonoma Valley floor to 1,400 feet into the Mayacamas Mountain range. ($30; $15 wine club members; 9825 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707-833-5501)
Sonoma County Vineyard Adventures
On any given day and with no advance reservation, you can take self-guided vineyard tours at seven wineries in Sonoma County: Balletto Vineyards & Winery, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Paradise Ridge Winery, Matanzas Creek Winery, Schug Carneros Estate Winery, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, and Stryker Sonoma Winery.
Along the way, learn what goes on in a vineyard during the year, sustainable farming practices, and other interesting tidbits of information. The vineyard tours are short in length — varying from 0.25 to 1.25 miles — and are created for all ages to enjoy. After the walks, you can taste wines from the vineyards. The tour is free; any wine tasting fees will depend on the wineries visited. (Sonoma County Winegrowers, 3637 Westwind Blvd., Santa Rosa, 707-522-5860)
Paradise Ridge Winery
Paradise Ridge Winery offers its visitors far more than fine wine; it is also a paradise for the senses. Guests are invited to wander through life-size sculptures in Marijke’s Grove. This unique wine country sculpture exhibit is nestled among four acres of ancient, gnarled oaks.
Within these wooden glens are “galleries” connected by simple footpaths. Sculptures are displayed among mossy rocks and small grassy clearings in this natural outdoor gallery. Rather than setting up a permanent sculpture collection, Marijke’s Grove supports the arts by changing the exhibit every one to two years. (4545 Thomas Lake Harris Drive, Santa Rosa, 707-528-9463)
Ride a bicycle on some of Sonoma County’s most beautiful roads on the Healdsburg Sip ’n Cycle Tour. Spend the day surrounded by the hills around Dry Creek Valley, traveling country lanes, and cycling about 10-12 miles on relatively flat roads.
Dry Creek Valley is known for its spicy reds and great white wines; the tour will visit three to five wineries to sample fine wine created from the vines you are cycling past. Enjoy a gourmet picnic lunch at one of the winery stops. ($149, 2228 Northpoint Parkway, Santa Rosa, 800-499-2453)
Sonoma on a Bike
Pedal the back roads of Sonoma County on a relaxed, six-day, five-night, guided bicycle tour and let the folks at Sonoma On a Bike take care of all the details, which include boutique winery tastings, gourmet meals, and luxurious accommodations. Discover the unique vintages, farm-to-table treats, unique events, and hidden adventures that Sonoma County offers.
Depending on your preferences and the season, you might picnic under 1,400-year-old redwood trees, go crab fishing along the coast, or come face-to-face with a herd of goats while tasting artisan cheese. The biking routes are typically considered moderate, but more challenging rides can be arranged, or tired guests can hitch a ride in the support van. ($3,400 per person, double occupancy; 2228 Northpoint Parkway, Santa Rosa, 707-568-3040)
Wine Country Trekking
Enjoy four days and three nights of hiking and wine tasting, on the self-guided Sonoma Valley Wine Tasting Trek as arranged by Wine Country Trekking. Traverse the vineyards and mountains surrounding the historic towns of Sonoma and Glen Ellen, while enjoying wine tasting at world class wineries and private winery estates, with lodging in luxury inns ($1,050-$1,200 per person double occupancy).
For a more strenuous adventure, the Sonoma Valley Runner's Trek provides a five day getaway for the serious runner looking for a luxurious wine country experience. The 8- to 13-mile runs are designed to begin and end at your luxury inn, and include both street and trail running; shorter, trail-only runs can be arranged. (starting at $1,450 per person double occupancy; P.O. Box 938, Glen Ellen, 888-287-8735)