When you’re thinking about exploring Sonoma Wine Country’s many wine tasting rooms, think about relaxation, entertainment, education, and safety. It’s easy, especially when you adventure out with a winery-savvy local guide and/or chauffeur.
There’s no need to filter through many hundreds of wineries — your touring company can customize destinations that match your interests. You’ll have a blast, riding in a limo, on bikes, a horse drawn carriage, a hot air balloon, or even enjoying your own two feet on a walking tour.
You’ll learn more, too, since your driver or guide can answer questions about the sights you see, the wineries you visit, the wines that interest you, and many other points of interest. Tour companies also have special access to meeting winemakers, getting behind-the-scenes visits, and allowing you into wineries otherwise closed to the public.
And there’s no need to worry about sipping as many wines as you like, either, since your guide does the driving.
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 package trips. On the five-hour Pure FUN! Tour you'll visit three wineries for private wine tasting, bocce, shuffleboard, and a seven-course wine-and-food pairing. The five-hour Pure TASTE! Tour visits three wineries, beginning with a luscious wine-and-food pairing, followed by a divine seven-course wine-and food pairing, and finishing the day with exclusive tastings of Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs.
A “discoveries page” on the website allows independent travelers a peek at some of this touring company’s favorite insider destinations. But even better, book a ride for a custom wine tour, where couples and small groups get premium treatment via personalized itineraries and personal-size vehicles.
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 the Sonoma Valley. Wine knowledge is a particular specialty of the staff here, as guides create wine country experiences that will both educate and entertain their guests, customized to people who are new to wine tasting, intermediate, or connoisseurs.
This company specializes in small, family owned wineries, and many that are not open to the public. In some cases, there aren’t even signs directing you to the tasting rooms, but these tour proprietors can arrange meetings with the winemaker, and up close and personal views of the wine production process. Barrel samples, anyone? Transport is via a large SUV for 8 to 14 adults, and tours typically visit four wineries.
Small-group guided tours include at least four charming, hidden gem winery visits per day, plus a picnic lunch. Each tour is customized for whatever you wish, be that an awesome chateaux and manicured grounds, or tastings at small, family-owned winemaker homes. Larger groups, from wedding parties to corporate retreats, can board the Platypus bus.
Pick your region, from Alexander Valley to Sonoma Valley, your emphasis, from barrel tasting to winemaker visits, and it’s yours for these private guided tours. Tasting fees are included, as are concierge services for hotel, restaurant and recreation coordination.
Learn about the industry, winemaking, terroir, climate, pruning, clones and barrels with these hands-on winery visits. Upon request, specialty tours include themes like Historical, Champagne, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Art & Wine, Family Wineries, Sonoma Valley, Alexander Valley, and the always popular Winemaker Luncheons.
Make it a complete package, with concierge-coordinated wineries, restaurants and accommodations. Your tour is enjoyed in the luxury of a Lincoln Navigator, under the guidance of a wine expert, with opportunity to visit with the winemakers at various stops.
Small groups are the specialty, with a limit of 8 guests per private or shared tour. The family owned company also focuses on “non-touristy” wineries, and The Ultimate Journey tour, where you enjoy more in depth wine tastings with food pairings. Hotel pick-up/drop-off and all the tasting fees are included.
Ride in a limo, SUV, or charter bus for your boutique winery visit. The family-owned company prepares your itineraries, schedules tastings, makes reservations for restaurants or overnight accommodations, and even helps ship your wine home.
On the Sonoma Wine Country Tour, ride leisurely through the beautiful rolling hills of the world famous Russian River Valley vineyards on relatively flat nature trails and quiet country roads. Stop at two to three family-owned and –operated wineries, sit in the vineyards, and possibly take a winery tour. Pack a light lunch to bring with you and eat at a winery’s outdoor seating. Distance is about eight miles each way.
Choose among day tours around Healdsburg (“The Big Red Wine Tour”), the Russian River Valley (“Pinot/Chardonnay Tour”), and Sonoma Valley (“Bike and Wine Tour”). The tours typically visit three or four family-owned wineries, and include a Wine Country lunch. The Pedal to Wellness Tour includes biking to visit three wineries, a healthy Wine Country picnic, and an hour-long massage. Tours are also available on electric bicycles.
Experience wine country on two wheels, with the gentle breezes cooling you under the warm sun. On the Healdsburg Sip ‘n’ Cycle tour you follow your guide to three or four wineries on a ride of about 10 to 12 miles, with a country picnic lunch. The Velo ‘n’ Vino Tour is geared toward riders looking to break a sweat on a 20- to 30-mile ride with a few climbs on beautiful, quieter roads, enjoy a gourmet picnic lunch, then reward themselves with exquisite wines when the ride is over. And on Sonoma on a Bike you’ll enjoy a luxury, six-day wine country bike tour with stays in the best hotels, dining in the finest restaurants, and tastings at family-owned wineries.
Take a half-day or one-day guided tour of boutique and family-owned wineries in the Sonoma Valley, with a relaxed trip of three to six miles between winery stops, and lunch. Follow your local expert to two wineries on the half-day tour, and three on the full-day trek. Or rent bicycles, and 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.
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 French picnic lunch is catered by girl & the fig.
The Wine Carriage: Wine Tasting by Horse & Carriage
The ride is slow and smooth, in a wagon outfitted with padded seats and a shade top, on a five-mile tour through rural Healdsburg, featuring stops at three boutique wineries, plus a tour of the dark, gorgeous wine caves at Alexander Valley Vineyards winery. The horses can stroll through the actual vineyards, letting you out for barrel tasting, cave tours, and chats with the winemakers (who will want to pet the horses), while your coachman-guide shares local lore and insider’s tips. Nibble a Wine Country picnic along the way, like crusty baguettes, artisan cheeses, herbed meats, assorted olives, French chocolate truffles and organic strawberries, plus wine if you choose.
Go aloft with Captain Chuck (airline pilot and company founder Chuck Arreola) for a three- to four-hour experience (about 45 minutes to 1.5 hours in the air), from filling the balloon with air to a champagne toast when the flight is over.
Soar above Sonoma Wine Country on a three- to four-hour personalized hot air ballooning experience, then celebrate with a champagne toast with your pilot.
Enjoy breathtaking views on a flight of an hour or more, then enjoy a post-flight farm-to-table breakfast from the Healdsburg SHED.
You’ll be transported to a launch site in Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, or Sonoma Valley (the choice depends on weather conditions), then sail off on gentle wind currents. Views can include the Pacific Coast. San Francisco’s skyline, redwood forests, mountains, the graceful Russian River, or lush rolling vineyards. Afterward, enjoy a made-to-order champagne brunch.
Learn about the area’s history and culture while sampling the finest food and wine the area has to offer on this 3-hour guided walking tour of the beautiful and friendly Wine Country town of Sonoma.
Experience four of the finest wine tasting rooms in downtown Healdsburg on this three-hour walking tour. All wine tasting fees are included.
Sample delicious food and boutique wines on this leisurely three-hour stroll of historic downtown Petaluma. Learn about the town’s history and food scene from local foodies, as you visit locally-owned establishments.
Explore Healdsburg’s celebrated food and wine scene on a 3.5-hour guided walking tour. It’s a progressive dining experience that lets you taste the flavors of Wine country.
Visit off-the-beaten-path food tasting locations around the town of Sonoma’s historic central plaza on this 2.5- to 3-hour food-and-wine tour guided by a local foodie.
Choose between a 4-hour daytime tour, or the 2.5-hour Sonoma Summer Evening tour (the perfect first course for a night in Wine Country), and sip, nibble, stroll, and savor exclusvie wine-and-food-pairings on a guided walking tour of charming downtown Healdsburg.
Written by Sonoma Insider Carey Sweet.