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Find Holiday Magic at Ferrari-Carano Winery

Ferrari-Carano Winery Sonoma County

The arrival of winter brings the magic of the holidays season to Sonoma Wine Country. It's a time when wineries and vineyards sparkle and shine.

The last time I was at Ferrari-Carano Winery in Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley, I thought, now here is the winery that has everything:

      • A grand villa.
      • Estate vineyards, 900 acres stretching from the fog-damp Carneros to the sun-baked red slopes high above Alexander Valley, with panoramic views all around.
      • Its own full-time crew.
      • Experimental winery.
      • And an owner, Don Carano, who could call in the Sauvignon Blanc harvest while roaring above the Dry Creek Valley in a twin-engine airplane.

If you haven’t been back to the magnificant villa in a similarly long time, take a look at what the winery that had everything got for Christmas.

Now, there’s a separate mountain winery just for red wines, extensive caves, 1,400 acres of vineyard, and new visitor experiences at the “Villa Fiore.”

When you consider Ferrari-Carano’s no-expense-spared approach, both their wines and wine tasting here are excellent values. Oh, and the Caranos have moved up to a jet for their Reno-to-Healdsburg commute.

More than a pretty view

Ferrari-Carano is a good bet if you, or your holiday visitors, are looking for a traditional wine-tasting experience in an elegant setting. Parking is plentiful, the walkway to the tasting room and gift shop on the villa’s east wing allows legs to be stretched, and the grounds — manicured by nine full-time gardeners — are splendid.

After tasting, stroll through the shade of the extensive Japanese-style gardens. Rhonda Carano oversees planting, making sure that flowers bloom year-round.

Paths meander here and there, bridges arch over burbling streams, and little gazebos invite a moment of meditation, quiet conversation, or canoodling.

The “Tulip Hotline” at 707-433-5349 gives you the scoop on when to expect spring color.

Take a sip

A host introduces visitors to the options: “Classic Wines” like the 2012 Fumé Blanc ($14), a bright pineapple-flavored fumé that’s not oaky, has a spot-on, crisp finish, and accounts for 50 percent of the winery’s production, are poured at the main bar.

Down a few flights of steps, descend into an observation deck overlooking the atmospherically-illuminated barrel room — trimmed with holiday lights and a tree. New down here — as of 2006, anyway — is the Enoteca reserve tasting bar. Table service is available on weekends and, on any day, winery-exclusive offerings like the cool, caramel and fresh Granny Smith 2011 Carneros Reserve Chardonnay ($36) may be sampled at the spacious, gleaming bar.

The 2008 Prevail ($55) is a mountain-grown Cab-Syrah blend that sticks to the palate, with Syrah’s sultry smokiness and Cab’s bold Cab tannins.

In the super-cool cobalt blue Prevail Room, intimate groups of up to six or so sit down to a wine education seminar, by reservation. Every tasting has a name and a theme: “Passion for Pinot,” “White Wine Lovers,” “King of Reds,” and “Matchmaker” — explore varietals, aroma identification, and small-plate food pairings. 

Hit the road

Just a little further down Dry Creek Road, the Lake Sonoma recreational area offers views, picnicking and boating, and the Lake Sonoma Visitors Center & Fish Hatchery. Just make sure you’ve picked up your picnic fixings at the Dry Creek General Store on the way up the valley.

Back towards Santa Rosa, the John Ash & Co. restaurant, also owned by the Caranos, is an acclaimed innovator of Wine Country cuisine, and continues to be one of Sonoma County’s top restaurant destinations. Need a place to spend the night? The Caranos have you covered at the Vintner’s Inn.

Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery, 8761 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448. Daily, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; guided tours Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. Tasting fee, $5–15; private tastings. 

Find more info about wineries & wine, restaurants, things to do, and hotels & lodging in Sonoma County. Get a free Visitors Guide and Wineries Map here.

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