Sipping award-winning wines is amazing, but to enhance the experience, wine tasting in Sonoma County can also mean embracing its farm-to-table, slow-food movement in the form of exquisite wine-and-food pairings.
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Many Sonoma wineries create their own recipes to complement their wines, and some grow their own organic vegetables or use hot stone ovens as part of their food preparation. Here are nine of Sonoma County’s most delicious wine and food pairings at selected wineries. Be sure to call ahead for reservations.
Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery
As one of Healdsburg’s most spectacular wineries, Chalk Hill spans 1,477 acres. It's crowned by a hilltop chateau tasting room that offers stunning views over the natural amphitheater of mountains along the eastern edge of the Russian River Valley.
The Culinary Tour & Tasting begins with a brief excursion through the estate vineyards and the organic culinary gardens. Guests are then led to the Pavilion, a conservatory overlooking the Olympic-caliber equestrian dressage center, for a tasting of wines paired with small plates prepared by the estate's executive chef. The Estate Luncheon includes a driving tour around the estate, ending at the Pavilion for a decadent meal prepared by the executive chef, using many fresh foods from the culinary garden, and expertly paired with Chalk Hill wines.
10300 Chalk Hill Rd., Healdsburg, 707-657-4837
J Vineyards & Winery
Conveniently located just south of Healdsburg in the Russian River Valley, J Vineyards & Winery specializes in sparkling wines, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. They offer three unique food and wine experiences throughout their sleek Visitor Center, earning them the award for “Best Food & Wine Experience” from Cellar Pass.
The Bubble Room, opened in 1999 as one of the first food and wine pairings in Sonoma County, is the jewel of the winery. This culinary adventure dazzles the palate with five courses of seasonal, locally-sourced dishes paired with small-production wines. J’s Legacy Tasting offers a flight of five reserve wines and can be paired with a selection of local and international cheeses and charcuterie. The Terrace Tasting, open during the summer months, provides a relaxing, alfresco experience overlooking beautifully landscaped grounds, vineyards and a stream. It includes a tasting of four varietal or sparkling wines paired with four small appetizers. Reservations are strongly recommended.
11447 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg, 707-431-5430
Jordan Vineyard & Winery
This Alexander Valley winery offers three distinctive and intimate tours and food-and-wine tastings on its nearly 1,200-acre property.
For the one-hour Library Tasting, guests enjoy an intimate seated tasting in the winery's private library, featuring Jordan Wines, estate olive oil, and food pairings by the winery chef. The 1.5-hour Winery Tour & Library Tasting adds a walking tour of the iconic Jordan chateau. And guests on the three-hour Estate Tour & Tasting journey to remote corners of the serene estate to enjoy a farm-to-table, wine-and-food-tasting excursion showcasing foods grown on the property.
1474 Alexander Valley Rd., Healdsburg, 800-654-1213
Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates & Gardens
Farm-to-table wine and food pairings are offered daily at Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates & Gardens. In this seated wine-and-food experience, you'll taste limited-production wines paired with original bites created by the Executive Chef and his culinary team. Options include a Reserve Wine & Food Pairing, a Wine & Cheese pairing, and a Wine and Chocolate Pairing.
5007 Fulton Road, Fulton, 707-576-3810
Lambert Bridge Winery
Tucked on an easy hillside off West Dry Creek Road, this gorgeous winery features a dark, rough-cut wood structure with a wraparound porch, gabled shingle roof, moss-lined rock foundation walls and a stone chimney. Lavish grounds include cascading vines, colorful flowers and an expansive lawn set with teak picnic tables beneath arbors overlooking vineyards and forests.
Inside, the tasting room charms with wooden walls and vaulted ceilings, and a glass wall looking into the barrel room. This makes a beautiful setting for the Chef’s Table series — an intimate food-and-wine pairing featuring a seasonally-themed menu of locally grown ingredients prepared by a visiting chef, and paired with Lambert Bridge wines.
4085 W. Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-431-9600
This Russian River Valley winery offers the Lynmar Lunch, a 90 minute, three course, farm-to-table meal thoughtfully pairing select wines with delightful creations made from estate-grown and locally sourced ingredients. And from May to October, Lambert Bridge hosts Pinot & Pizza, a classic two-hour pairing experience under the shade of towering trees in the winery’s redwood grove. The seasonally inspired artisan pizzas are made with estate-frown vegetables prepared in a brick pizza oven, and are paired with an array of Lynmar wines. Reservations required for both tasting experiences.
3903 Frei Road, Sebastopol, 707-829-3374
Mayo Family Winery/Mayo Family Reserve Room
This small, family-owned winery in the heart of the Sonoma Valley specializes in single-vineyard wines that provide a match between terroir and varietal. Its Reserve Room, located in the village of Kenwood, operates as a mini-café of sorts, complete with chairs and food from chef Sam Frumkin. Tastings in the comfortable and intimate Reserve Room are extensive adventures, featuring seven wines, each paired with a separate dish, prepared specifically to match the wine. A sample menu might include Feta and Leek Crème Brulee, Seared Scallop Succotash, Beet and Goat Cheese, Mushrooms, Spring Lamb Meatball, Grilled Chicken with Blueberry Gastrique, and Strawberries and Cream.
9200 Sonoma Hwy., Kenwood, 707-833-5504
Ram’s Gate Winery & Estate Vineyards
Located in the Carneros region at the southern end of the Sonoma Valley, Ram's Gate makes great Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and a rainbow selection of other wines under winemaker Jeff Gaffner. Its setting is spectacular, with 30-foot ceilings, walls made of reclaimed snow fence, and massive floor-to-ceiling glass walls that open to sweeping vineyard and bay views.
The Palate Play Wine & Food Pairing begins with an in-depth winery tour with glass of wine in hand before adjourning to a private room for a guided, seated tasting featuring four single-vineyard wines with delicious culinary pairings designed by Executive Chef Taylr Behnam. Allow 1.5 to 2 hours for the experience.
You can also get a wine-paired picnic for two; start with a tour of the winery and a sampling of Ram's Gate appellation wines to select a bottle to be tucked into a wicker basket along with an assortment of mouthwatering delicacies. Wander through the vineyards to pick your favorite site, where a personal valet will help set up your picnic.
And in the most intimate, behind-the-scenes way to experience this winery, the Vineyard Table includes a sommelier consultation before your visit, to customize your experience. This three-hour adventure includes a tour of the most exclusive areas of the winery, followed by a tasting of five single vineyard and library wines chosen to match your preferences, with five food pairings designed to accompany the wines. By appointment only. Call for reservations.
28700 Arnold Dr., Sonoma, 707-721-8700
St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that St. Francis Winery & Vineyards in Santa Rosa has been named the No. 1 restaurant in all of America (2013 and 2015), courtesy of Open Table. The one-and-a-half-hour long seated pairing features a six-course tasting menu prepared by the winery's executive chef, paired with wines from St. Francis’ artisan collection.
Presented as small tasting plates, each meal is hosted by a St. Francis wine expert, to describe the recipes and why the wines work with the ingredients. Reservations are strongly recommended, and are required for groups of six or more. Three seatings are offered Fridays to Sundays, with two seatings on Mondays and Thursdays.
A sample menu might include Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Arugula, Red Onion, and Pine Nuts; Chicken with Spring Vegetables, and a Parmesan-Lemon-Thyme Biscuit; Pan Seared Artic Char with House-made Spanish Chorizo, Grilled Onions, and Smoked Paprika Aioli; Snake River Farms Zabuton with Beets Three Ways, Blue Cheese Flan, and Green Garlic Salsa Verde; and Elderflower Panna Cotta with Sous Vide Vanilla Apricots and a Pistachio Lace Cookie, with each course carefully designed to pair with a specific St. Francis wine.
100 N Pythian Road, Santa Rosa, 707-538-9643
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