The pleasures of wine tasting in Sonoma County include savoring our wineries’ gorgeous scenery and amenities, from lavish gardens to fine art displays and creative tours. Here are just a few of the special ways Sonoma County wineries can keep you entertained.
This elaborate European-style villa from one of Hollywood’s famous writers and directors lends a great dose of glam to the vineyard-draped edge of Geyserville. Topped with a glass pyramid, the sprawling property features a giant (seasonal) swimming pool that’s open to the public, and a museum that fairly brims with movie memorabilia. Be sure to plan some time to enjoy an Italian meal in the on-site Rustic restaurant, too.
The magic begins when you pull up to Benziger’s lavishly planted garden entrance in the Sonoma Mountain foothills, which unfurls to a green, rolling sea of vineyards. Love of the land is paramount here, and the winery’s four estate vineyards—as well as their wines—are certified Biodynamic.
There are 85 acres to explore, but the Biodynamic Vineyard Tram Tour makes it as easy as hopping on an open-air shuttle pulled by a shiny tractor. The 75-minute tour takes you through the grapevines, stops by the winemaking facility, and concludes with a wine tasting. Advance reservations are required.
The two tasting rooms here, Villa Fiore and Enoteca-Prevail, are decorated in grand Renaissance style, with luxury touches like mahogany wood, black granite, and ornate murals, enabling you to all but travel back in time. Outdoors, you can stroll through an elegant five acres of gardens bloom with more than 10,000 tulips and daffodils in the spring, and wow year-round with fountains, sculptures, Italianate geometric plantings, more than 2,000 species of trees and shrubs, and rare-to-the-area specimens like Portuguese cork trees.
This Tuscan-inspired hilltop estate overlooks the breathtaking beauty of Sonoma Valley, dotted with its own vineyards, olive groves, and wetlands. The architecture fits Sonoma’s lovely Mediterranean weather and just as in Italy, there’s plenty of delicious food to go with Viansa’s great wine.
Stop into the winery’s Marketplace to pack a picnic of gourmet sandwiches, salads, and charcuterie boards made with estate-produced ingredients like preserves, oils, vinegars, tapenades, honey, and mustards. Enjoy your spoils on the patio, which perches on the edge of the winery’s wetlands, a migratory preserve for more than 500 species of birds. The Private Outlook Tasting, held in a cozy cabana overlooking these wetlands, includes a flight of reserve wines paired with locally sourced cheeses.
Founded in 1857, this is the oldest commercial winery in California, complete with caves that are actual historical landmarks. The aging tombs have recently been renovated for modern safety measures, and now feature dramatic lighting, period-costumed mannequins, and elaborately gilded tasting bars.
Buena Vista’s Barrel Tasting and Winery Tour is an ideal way to explore everything, where your host—often a fellow dressed as “The Count,” in honor of the winery’s 19th-century founder—guides you throughout the winery’s small museum and extensive caves. In the latter, he’ll offer you wine straight from the barrel, then in its finished form, explaining its evolution as you taste.
One of the first wineries established in the Russian River Valley back in 1975, this longtime favorite now features fun touches like Instagram backdrops and fancy chandeliers. Aside from DeLoach’s focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, though, their biggest attraction is the Theater of Nature, an elaborate garden designed to illustrate how biodiversity creates sustainable farms and vineyards. Visit with the resident sheep and goats, breathe in the garden’s herbal aromas, and read placards about grapevines and farming as you sip wine and even enjoy a snack (from the onsite market) along the way.
At this Biodynamic and organic farm in the Dry Creek Valley, a few miles from downtown Healdsburg, Rhone- and Piedmont-style wines are only some of their delicious products. The Preston family have owned this diverse operation since the 1970s, and remain committed to quality produce, environmentalism, and community activism, as well as traditional farming and winemaking techniques.
Their on-site market offers the roots, fruits, and greens of the season, and you’ll often find their breads, olives, oils, vinegars, apple cider, eggs, sausages, and more. Wine tastings and picnic tables must be reserved in advance, or you could simply shop for wine and produce, then take a stroll (with or without some of the resident cats) around the farm’s 125 acres of beauty.
Be sure to leave some extra time and come hungry to this expansive Kenwood winery. In addition to a large wine tasting bar, you’ll find a Tuscan-style courtyard marketplace with a deli and espresso bar; a Neapolitan- style pizza salon with an outdoor wood-fired oven; a gelato and chocolate shop; a pasta kiosk; a clothing boutique; and a gourmet grocery.
Matriarch and executive chef Maria Belmonte makes her own tomato sauces and pestos to complement dishes like a panino stuffed with prosciutto cotto and Jarlsberg, wood-fired chicken, and cheese or salumi boards decorated with olives, crostini, nuts and fruit. Sip and snack on the courtyard piazza, and keep an ear out for (if you’re lucky) opera singers serenading you from a second-story balcony.
On this 1,850-acre volcanic and largely vertical property, you can enjoy a guided hiking-and-tasting experience designed to appeal to outdoor and wine enthusiasts. The winery’s fun, casual four-hour hikes, led either by fourth-generation winegrower Jeff Kunde or longtime employee John Hartman, are moderately strenuous, taking you 1,400 feet up from the Sonoma Valley floor to the Mayacamas Mountains. A dog-friendly version of this hike is led by Jeff and Roberta Kunde and their two dogs, and both treks end with a wine tasting and Wine Country lunch.
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet.
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