Guide to Wine Tasting in Sebastopol, California
While the eclectic West Sonoma County town of Sebastopol still celebrates its apple heritage not once but twice a year - with the Apple Blossom Festival in spring and Gravenstein Apple Fair in late summer - wine lovers can pay tribute to the grape all year long thanks to a burgeoning Sebastopol wine tasting scene.
Sebastopol is located within both the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast viticultural areas, and is situated at the crossroads of Highway 116 (which leads to the north to the river and the redwoods at Guerneville) and Highway 12 (on the way west to Bodega Bay and the Sonoma Coast beaches). Here's a round-up of wineries in Sebastopol.
Wine tasting in town is centered in The Barlow, a production and retail development created from older warehouses and a former apple processing plant. It's an easy walk from Sebastopol's Main Street and additional parking near the town plaza, and is also easy to get to by bike path from both Santa Rosa and Forestville.
Region at the Barlow
In a space as unique as the wine, Region showcases 25 Sonoma County wine producers across 14 appellations. Visitors can choose from 50 different wines at self-serve WineStation machines in one room, while in another room, visitors can enjoy traditional wine tasting experiences from the winemakers themselves. Every week, the wine tasting bar rotates to 1 of 25 wineries.
Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere in this rustic-hip wine lounge, Sebastopol's hotspot for the "new California wine." Founded by Pax Mahle, Pax Wines offers seasonal wine tasting flights of current releases as well as wines by the glass or bottle, wines on tap, and growlers to go.
Wineries in the Sebastopol Neighborhood
Primus front man Les Claypool discovered a love for wine when he moved to the Russian River Valley area. What started as an attempt to fill his own wine cellars has turned into a boutique winery, focused on Pinots and led by winemakers Ross Cobb and Katy Wilson.
Don't be wary of the humble, homey setting of this Sebastopol-area tasting room, a 30-minute drive south of the Healdsburg area. This is the home tasting room of a family that supplies Sonoma County winemakers with some of the best, and the oldest, Chardonnay in the region. It's inviting and worth a stop.
Perched on the Sonoma coast and flanked on the west by the slopes to the Pacific Ocean, Halleck Vineyard is known for its award-winning Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and white wines. Here, you can enjoy the afternoon learning about and tasting small production wines.
This winery features a modern look that still embraces the land and all it has to offer. Its grounds include a sleek and elegant tasting room with clean lines and soaring overhead beams; an expansive courtyard with magnificent views of rolling vineyards and gardens; and a rustic redwood grove, with a wood-fired oven set among majestic trees.
Located at the corner of Graton Road and Highway 116, this tasting room pours wine born of a lasting partnership formed in the 1990s between outdoorsy chemist-turn-winemaker Dan Goldfield, who has made Pinot Noir at La Crema, and grapegrower Steve Dutton, who farms over 1,000 acres of vineyards in Sonoma County. Single vineyard Pinot Blanc, Zinfandel, and Syrah, too.
Red Car Wine
Neighboring Dutton-Goldfield, Red Car has turned a former tractor supply shop into a spacious and stylish tasting room with many decorative details. The focus here is on Pinot, Chardonnay, and Syrah from what vintners call the 'true' Sonoma Coast - and even a rare Cabernet Sauvignon from the coastal Fort Ross-Seaview wine region.
Heading west out of town, Graton Road passes through a narrow, less-traveled valley lush with apple orchards and vineyards. Just past the farmhouses of the Dutton clan, you'll find the Catalan-styled winery of Marimar Torres, cookbook author and scion of a Spanish wine dynasty. The tasting menu features the key varietals of this region, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but also the Spanish varietal Albariño - a rare treat.
Fog Crest Vineyard
This handsome little villa was built on a hill overlooking the Laguna de Santa Rosa wetlands. Take in the view from the patio and sample silky, caramel-scented Chardonnay and spicy, supple Pinot Noir.
Taft Street Winery
Tucked into the trees on the outskirts of Sebastopol, Taft Street's old apple canning facility setting, fair prices, and well-made Sonoma County wines - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel in particular - have endeared it to many new fans over the years.
Horse & Plow
Husband-and-wife team Chris Condos and Suzanne Hagins pour all-organically grown Pinot Noir and hard apple cider at their rustically styled, barn-like tasting room on the north edge of town, on Gravenstein Highway. In fair weather, enjoy wines poured fresh from the keg and relax in the garden setting, or take a growler of toothsome Carignane to go.
Freeman Vineyard & Winery
By appointment, Freeman ushers visitors into a quiet cave for the contemplation of Pinot and Chardonnay amidst the redwood forest.
On hilly acreage west of Sebastopol, Littorai offers a personalized tour of their Biodynamic farm and tasting of Biodynamically grown wines by appointment only. An in-depth look at what founders Ted and Heidi Lemon believe is the future of environmentally conscious wine farming.
Learn more about the Sebastopol area by reading 5 Fun Things to Do in Sebastopol, Get to Know The Barlow Culinary and Arts Center, and Cruising the Back Roads of West Sonoma County.
Written by Sonoma County Insider James Knight.