terraces along lake with views of green hills
Notre Vue Estate Winery and Vineyards

5 Sonoma County Wineries off the Beaten Path

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To get the best view you must climb, of course, and a road trip in the rugged hills of Sonoma County occasionally rewards the intrepid traveler with another welcome sight: wine tasting!

Many of the wineries in Sonoma County are located along scenic rural roads and off the main highways, like sections of routes 12 and 116, which are officially designated as California Scenic Highways. But there are miles and miles of less-traveled roads to explore. Roll the windows down, take in the scent of California bay from the forest, and round a bend around a lonely, chaparral-studded mountainside to find one of these verdant vineyards suddenly come into view.

Annapolis Winery

The coastal fog usually clears by the time it reaches Annapolis, which is an eight-mile drive from misty Sea Ranch on the edge of the continent. In a sunny clearing surrounded by mixed redwood and fir forest Russian immigrants, not long after the Fort Ross era, cleared the land for apple orchards a century and a half ago — the Scalabrini family hand-watered a vineyard into existence in 1978. Annapolis will clear your head of conventional thinking about what is Sonoma Coast wine, too: Sonoma Coast Cabernet? You'll find it here, as well as popular Gewürztraminer and Barbera. If this rustic and bucolic vineyard feels like the ideal wedding spot, ask about it-they do 'em!

Bob Dog Wines

Who knows, there may be one other winery that has a talking dog on their website, but there's no other winery in the new Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak viticultural area. At 2,000 feet, Bob Dog awaits visitors faithfully at the estate's Sky Pine Vineyards high above Alexander Valley. Big, mountain-grown Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc at this out-of-the-way destination, with 30-mile views and a folksy sense of humor. What more could you want on a Sonoma County joyride?

Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery 

The rolling hills of vines are shrouded by coastal fog in Sonoma County
Fort Ross Vineyard, Winery & Tasting Room

Nothing remains of the vineyard that the Russian-American Company planted in 1817 at Fort Ross. This Fort Ross was founded in the 1990s, high above that historic site, by South African émigrés Linda and Lester Schwartz. Thanks in large part to their efforts, the region was recognized as the Fort Ross-Seaview viticultural area in 2012. Appearing out of the forested hills like a mountain lodge, this tasting room does offer Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grown in sometimes extreme, maritime conditions, but also something special for South African wine fans: Pinotage!

Notre Vue Estate

wine glass and bottles on table for wine tasting
Notre Vue Estate

"Our View, Our Life, Our Wine." Preserving the natural beauty of the land is at the heart of Bob & Renée Stein's vision for Notre Vue Estate Winery and Vineyards. The road to enter is not too far from the freeway, but once on Estate Lane, the drive alongside rolling green hills and natural flora and fauna feels like a world away. At the estate, which includes 350 acres of protected open space land, take in the natural environment and stunning vistas. Enjoy a Lakeside Lunch Tasting or a Terrace Tasting for beautiful views of the Russian River Valley. 

Pride Mountain Vineyards

Some people may think of this critically acclaimed winery as a Napa producer, but the family takes pride in the fact that the ranch is split between the counties  indeed, regulations require that a line be drawn down the crush pad to separate the two! A winery and vineyard at various times since 1869, Pride Mountain is known today for its Sonoma-Napa Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Seated tastings and tours available.

Written by Sonoma Insider James Knight.

Find delicious places to eat or great hotels, vacation rentals & B&Bs to stay in on your next trip to Sonoma County.