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Guide to Wine Tasting in Sonoma

Vine Alley in Sonoma is just about as fun as it is beautiful to stroll along in downtown Sonoma.

Sonoma County’s original “wine city,” the historic city of Sonoma is enjoying a wine tourism renaissance today. Dozens of tasting rooms can be found on a leisurely stroll around the shaded square, Sonoma Plaza, where a monument marks the “Bear Flag Revolt” of 1846, and more are reachable by a short bicycle ride or drive.

The Plaza itself is a popular picnic destination, while the day’s activities, whether combining shopping with history, or wine tasting with cycling, can be plotted over coffee and a croissant at coffee shops like Basque Boulangerie Café.

 

Around the Plaza

Sigh Sonoma

sign sonoma wine tasting bar

Start the day with sparkling wine, as we call the bubbly stuff, and imported Champagne at this stylish “bubble bar.” Its new location sports a central bar, window nook, and cushy lounge area.

Adastra Wines

An art gallery and tasting room with a sense of whimsy, Adastra offers Carneros Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from certified organic grapes and affordable Ed’s Red — which pairs well with mammoth, they say.

Bump Wine Cellars

Peruse the gallery at Bump, a husband-and-wife owned adventure in wine and art. Sonoma Valley Zinfandel.

Jeff Cohn Cellars

New to the Plaza but not to making bold, flavorful Zinfandel, this small winery offers Rhône-style wines as well.

Lake Sonoma Winery

Wander down one of the Plaza’s several “hidden” alleyways and sample Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon in this bright, contemporary-styled tasting room.

three sticks wines

Three Sticks Wines

Design, history and wine buffs will find plenty to interest them in the meticulously restored Vallejo-Casteñada adobe, which was originally built of mud and straw bricks circa 1842. Period-style furniture and details; Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Rhône-style blend from the Durell Vineyard.

Roche Winery & Vineyards

A few steps off the plaza in a little house with shaded, front yard seating, this is a favorite with wine tasters. Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Noir, and Merlot.

WALT Wines

The cozy brick and half-timbered cottage serves to showcase Pinot Noir from around the West Coast. Contemplate a glass of Gap’s Crown Pinot Noir under the redwoods out back or in the front yard.

Highway 12 Vineyards & Winery

In the spirit of old Sonoma, the first taste is free at Highway 12, in the historic Mission Hardware building.

Pangloss Cellars

pangloss cellars wine tasting in sonomaThis high-style wine lounge opened a new perspective on the Plaza wine in 2015, with the renovation of this 1902 building. Private tasting rooms, wine bar, and a variety of seating in this spacious hangout, inspired by Voltaire’s Candide. Charcuterie and cheese pairings.

Kamen Estate Wines

Screenwriter Robert Kamen penned hits like the Karate Kid — and wine country-themed A Walk in the Clouds. Fun, film-themed t-shirts, and mountain-grown Cabernet.

Sojourn Cellars Tasting Salon

The logo is a lounge chair, and you can’t help but relax with a glass of winemaker Erich Bradley’s sumptuous Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.

That’s not all—more tasting rooms may be discovered on the Plaza or a few steps down side streets.

 

Vine Alley

On the south side of Sonoma Plaza, the Sonoma Court Shops, aka Vine Alley, evokes a European scene with its fountain, pastel stucco walls and tiled walkway.

Passaggio

passagio wines tasting in sonomaA white wine lover’s haven: not only Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, but Pinot Grigio, Roussanne, Riesling, and Chenin Blanc — even Trousseau Gris, a rare grape grown in the Russian River Valley.

Fulcrum Wines

This recent addition, opened in June 2016, plays to the Pinot Noir crowd. Compare wine from appellations to the north and south of Sonoma County with top local vineyards like Gap’s Crown.

Galatea Effect Fine Wine

Triathlon-competing entrepreneur brings high energy style to this new tasting lounge, where the top offering is a “super Syrah.”

Sonoma-Loeb

sonoma loeb wine tastingCentrally located at the end of the main alley, by a courtyard and fountain. Sonoma-Loeb has been in the Pinot business for more than 25 years, but this is their first tasting room.

MacLaren

Syrah with a Scottish accent at MacLaren, where “Drouthy Neebors,” or thirsty neighbors, are welcome.

Westwood Estate

Instead of a walk-up bar, expect an informative, guided tasting with table or sofa seating at this out-of-the-way little salon. Estate wines from the biodynamically farmed Annadel Gap vineyard include Syrah, Pinot Noir and rare Counoise.

Enkidu

Mythology buffs will enjoy the reference to wild man Enkidu, the wingman to King Gilgamesh in the ancient epic, while Shamhat Rosé should have a civilizing effect on anyone. Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, and Zinfandel.

 

In the Sonoma Neighborhood

These notable wineries are located within walking distance, bicycling distance, or a short car trip from Sonoma Plaza.

sebastiani winery sonoma Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery

A pleasant walk a few blocks east of the Mission San Francisco Solano leads to one of Sonoma’s oldest wineries, Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery. Picnic area and Cherry Block Cabernet Sauvignon.

Buena Vista Winery

At the end of Old Winery Road, you’ll find a very old winery, indeed. Legendary vintner “Count” Agoston Haraszthy founded Buena Vista in 1857. In recent years, Jean-Charles Boisset restored the “Champagne cellars” and created an engaging exhibit that features wine tools.

Ravenswood Winery

The Zin abides at the original home of “No Wimpy Wines,” and staff are always on the ball at this fun, friendly Zinfandel-centric hangout.

bartholomew park wineryBartholomew Park Winery

Taste amid historical displays at “Bart Park,” which is located on Haraszthy’s old estate and is filled with stories — and the wines are notable, too.

Gundlach Bundschu Winery

Adventuresome visitors can tour the vineyards in an open-air Pinzgauer military vehicle, peer in the wine caves, and then order wines from the outdoor bar overlooking the valley, or taste in the stone cellar.

 

Where to Stay in Sonoma

fairmont sonoma mission inn spa

Sonoma makes it easy to stay the night and walk to dinner, shopping, and wine tasting.

Check our listings for Hotels & Lodging and Restaurants in the town of Sonoma.

Written by Sonoma Insider James Knight. 

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