12 Tour Ideas for Exploring Sonoma Wine Country
Planning to explore Sonoma Wine Country? For an extra relaxing experience, consider adventuring out with a winery-savvy local guide and/or chauffeur.
Your touring company can plan an excursion that's perfect for you, with customized destinations that match your interests. And as you tour along the highways and byways of Sonoma County, your guide or driver can answer questions about the sights you see, the wineries you visit, the wines that interest you, and many other points of interest.
Your mode of transportation isn't just limited to cars, vans, or limos, either. You might choose bikes, Segways, a horse drawn carriage, a hot air balloon, or a vintage biplane.
First, figure out what you'd like to see. Do you want to spend an entire day in the Dry Creek Valley? Are you intrigued to meet an actual winemaker? Or perhaps you're interested in visiting wineries specifically known for great Pinot Noir. You may want to focus on wineries with an art collection, on-site restaurants, great views or sensational wine and food pairing. Or how about visiting wine castles in Sonoma Valley, or the oldest premium winery in all of California?
And when you leave the driving to a professional in wine country, there's another great advantage: safety. That's because your driver refrains from wine tasting throughout the tour.
With one of California's largest chauffeured fleets - ranging from hybrid sedans, Lincoln Navigators, and stretch limos to 56-passenger motor coaches - it's fair to say that Pure Luxury Transportation is a true full-service transportation company. It provides service for everything from airport pickups and wedding celebrations, to large corporate group event needs.
With a concierge on staff, Pure Luxury will put together a private tour to match your requirements. 'Our tours are unusual,' said chief operating office Jennifer Buffo. 'The experiences our guests have range from private meetings with winery owners or winemakers, to visiting a winery that's not open to the public. Guests can have an experience they can't have somewhere else.'
Pure Luxury also offers a few package trips. For example, the Pure Fun! Wine Tour includes private wine tastings at three Sonoma County wineries, playing bocce ball or shuffleboard, and a seven-course wine and food pairing. And for foodies, the Pure Taste! Wine Tour offers visits to three wineries, beginning with a wine and cheese pairing, followed by a seven-course wine and food pairing, and ending with an exclusive tasting of Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs.
Pure Luxury Transportation (4246 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma, 800-626-5466)
With a large fleet of new Mercedes and Cadillac sedans, SUVs, limos, vans, and buses, Beau Wine Tours can handle transportation needs for everything from a couple on their honeymoon, to a corporate conference.
Perhaps you want to explore the Russian River wine region, or Sonoma Valley. The staff specializes in wine knowledge, and your guide will create a wine country experience that will both educate and entertain you, whether you are new to wine tasting, at an intermediate level, or a connoisseur.
You can opt for one of the many private tour packages, as well, letting you immerse yourself in the Sonoma Valley, Dry Creek Valley, or other notable Sonoma County wine regions. You'll be picked up in a private stretch limousine and taken to some of the area's finest wineries, or you can make your own selection.
Beau Wine Tours & Limousine Service (21707 Eighth St. E., Sonoma, 707-938-8001)
Lin Durling, founder of Sonoma-based Artisan Wine Tours, says he 'seeks to redefine luxury travel in Wine Country.' For more than a decade, Durling owned and operated a niche aviation company and now focuses on creating customized wine tours and 'dream adventures.' for discerning travelers. His specialty is relationships - with wineries, restaurants, planning coordinators, transportation providers, and guides - for bringing his customers authentic behind-the scenes experiences. The vehicle? A six-passenger Lincoln Navigator, custom designed for private-jet style and comfort. The details? The car includes sparkling wine, bottled water, and soft drinks. The destinations? Wherever you can dream of, from exclusive wineries, to cooking schools, organic vineyards, local cheese producers, or Michelin-star restaurants.
Artisan Wine Tours (Sonoma, 707-235-9050)
Venture through the Sonoma Wine Country on two wheels, with the gentle breezes cooling you under the warm sun. On the Healdsburg Sip 'N Cycle tour, take a relaxed 10- to 12-mile ride along the quiet country lanes of the Dry Creek Valley. Taste wines along the way, stop on rural back roads and enjoy the scenery, and keep your energy going with a Wine Country picnic lunch. For more advanced cyclists, the Velo 'N Vino' tour offers a challenging 20- to 30-mile morning ride through Healdsburg and the Dry Creek Valley, followed by a picnic lunch and afternoon wine tasting traveling in a van to small, family-owned wineries.
A separate division of Getaway Adventures, Sonoma on a Bike offers multi-day, relaxed, hassle-free, guided bicycle tours along the back roads of Sonoma County with gourmet meals and luxury accommodations. A six-day, five-night tour for four to eight participants is offered about once a month, and the company also creates private, customized tours for six to eight people.
Enjoy the scenery and discover boutique and family-owned wineries at a casual pace with frequent stops on the Full Day Classic Sonoma Valley Bike Tour. Pedal an average of three to six miles between each winery visit, on this tour led by a knowledgeable and local guide.
And if your schedule is tight, the Half Day Classic Sonoma Bike Tour provides an abbreviated version of the classic tour, pedaling along scenic roads to visit two Sonoma Valley wineries. Or plan your own adventure with a self-guided bike tour, supported by the experienced Sonoma Valley Bike Tours team, plus a box picnic lunch and wine purchase pick-up service.
Sonoma Valley Bike Tours (1254 Broadway, Sonoma, 707-996-2453)
Take a leisurely ride through the rolling hills of the world famous Russian River Valley wine region on the Sonoma Wine Country Tour, biking on relatively flat nature trails and quiet country roads, and visiting two to three award-winning family wineries.
Or, enjoy riding on backroads with stunning scenic vineyard views on the Healdsburg Cycling Wine Tour, which starts in downtown Windsor and heads out into the country, with stops at J Winery and Rodney Strong Winery in Healdsburg (and possibly a third winery, if there's time).
And if wine isn't you're thing, experience craft beers at their finest on the Santa Rosa Bike 'N Brew Tour, with visits to local taverns and brew pubs.
Ace It Bike Tours (367 Windsor River Road, Windsor, 707-687-5152)
Get together nine of your favorite cycling friends and eat, drink, and pedal your way through downtown Healdsburg on an all-inclusive party bike tour. Looking a bit like a small bus or trolley, a party bike is a group bicycle powered by the pedaling of 10 people.
There are also four non-pedaling seats (two over the back wheels, and a back bench that holds two). Choose from four different tours: Morning Exercise; a Progressive Lunch; Wine & Nibbles; and a Gourmet Progressive Dinner.
Bike Healdsburg (Healdsburg, 707-385-1477)
The views can be even more magical through open-air windows, and the journey becomes almost as much fun as the destination. While this trolley car is an authentic, old-fashioned replica of vintage 1890s San Francisco cable car, it has modern appointments like an iPod dock and rockin' sound system, meaning six hour, four-winery tours can become rolling parties.
The tour guides tend to be playful, cracking jokes and keeping everyone laughing, all the while pointing out landmarks and sharing Sonoma County stories. Tastings are at boutique retreats like Tin Barn, plus bigger favorites like Imagery Estate Winery, and a picnic lunch is catered by girl & the fig.
Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley (Sonoma, 707-938-2600)
On a Segway
Glide along paths and country roads on a Segway, with stops for wine tasting, behind-the-scenes tours, and a picnic lunch. Segway of Healdsburg offers treks through Russian River vineyards and wineries, or through the towering trees at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Preserve. And in addition to wine tasting at several wineries, Segway tours by Sonoma Adventures in the Sonoma Valley include a private tour and tasting at the award-winning Vella Cheese Factory. Both companies begin their tours with an introductory training and safety session.
On a Horse
Whether it's riding alongside neat rows of grapevines, on a hillside with stunning views, or on a sandy beach, exploring Sonoma County on the back of a horse is a wonderful way to get close to nature while exploring Wine Country. Several Sonoma County companies offer guided horseback rides, in a wide variety of settings.
Chanslor Stables (2660 N. Highway 1, Bodega Bay, 707-589-5040)
Horse N Around Trail Rides (18797 Highway 1, Bodega Bay, 707-875-3333)
The Ranch at Lake Sonoma Horseback Riding (100 Marina Road, Lot A, Geyserville, 707-494-4449)
Rollin F Ranch (100 Sparkes Road, Sebastopol, 707-480-0800)
Sonoma Valley Trail Rides (Sonoma, 707-343-5511)
Thunderbird Ranch (9455 Highway 128, Healdsburg, 707-433-3729)
Triple Creek Horse Outfit (2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, 707-887-8700)
Up In The Air
Many of us have dreamed about soaring in a hot air balloon over Sonoma Wine Country, and really, what better way is there to take in a birds-eye view of gardens, rolling hills, forested mountains and vineyards thriving in emerald green grape leaves?
Seen from above, it's remarkable how huge Sonoma County looks from the sky. Vineyards that already seem large from the ground are lattice works of intricate trellising, rolling across hills and Valley. Sheep, cows, goats, and horses, and even the occasional bison or llamas look like toys. The sun dapples across lakes, creeks wind like ribbons through the landscape, and old barns dot the fields. Most flights finish with a champagne toast, and possibly brunch.
Go "over and above" the typical tourist experience with this company that combines wine tasting with a ride for two in a 1926 biplane. You'll get a birds-eye view of the vineyards and wineries you're going to visit. Owner and operator Bruce McKay says guests get "the sensation of seeing this incredible, majestic landscape quilt below them, and when they visit each place there's a connection with what they saw from the air. This makes it especially memorable." McKay is dedicated to an innovative approach to creating tours with insider connections, attention to detail, extensive knowledge of the area and the wine industry, and a dedication to quality.
For example, the Over the Moon tour includes a 30-minute biplane flight over Moon Mountain; visits to two exclusive wineries on that mountain; tastings in a wine cave, on the mountaintop, and in a mountainside retreat; and a gourmet al fresco picnic.
Vin de Luxe Tours (Sonoma, 707-799-4148)
Clearly, with the guidance of Sonoma County's many experienced tour operators you can tailor your exploration of Sonoma Wine Country to fit your individual interests. For even more options, check our listings of Sightseeing & Tours.