The Most Beautiful Wine Castles of Sonoma County
Just one hour north of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, you find yourself in California's charming wine country — Sonoma County.
Over the years, inspired wine-sipping daydreamers have made good on their passion to make Sonoma County wines that rival the classic wines of Europe.
And then, they marked their triumph by building European-style wine country idylls, grand chateaux, villas, and — to most eyes — castles indeed, that are a pleasure to see and visit.
Home to more than 400 award-winning wineries, Sonoma County barrels a varietal for everyone. Down home hospitality resonates, from small family-run wineries to internationally heralded wine houses.
Chateau St. Jean, Kenwood
Nestled among acres of vineyard, and beneath the dramatic volcanic cones of Sugarloaf Ridge State Park in the Sonoma Valley, Chateau St. Jean might easily be mistaken for a monastery in the French Alps. The buff-colored walls and red tile roof of Chateau St. Jean evoke the monastic tradition of winemaking.
Built in the 1970s, the Chateau is named after a woman named Jean, so that's how "St. Jean" is pronounced. Savor wines in the main tasting room or sip limited releases in the reserve wines room of the chateau-style building itself, which is actually a 1920 vacation home that preceded the winery.
If you prefer to be outdoors, stroll the Mediterranean-styled gardens, considered some of the most beautiful in Sonoma County, and enjoy a flight of wines paired with delicious local cheeses on the romantic chateau patio.
Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Healdsburg
Draped in lush, green ivy and fringed with perfectly trimmed privets, Jordan very much appears like the Bordeaux chateau that Tom Jordan aimed to purchase before settling in the Alexander Valley.
It was a good move: Jordan's Cabernet Sauvignon often ranks among American restaurateurs' favorite brands. Take in the view from the upstairs library, then enter a dimly-lit parlor for a tasting seminar with wine paired with gourmet bites from the chef.
Thoroughly modern in their outlook, Jordan is now solar-powered, grows sustainable gardens, and offers the Estate Tour & Tasting, which includes a luxury van tour of the 1,200-acre property and al fresco tastings.
Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Geyserville
This Second French Empire-styled chateau is set among low, oak woodland hills in Alexander Valley.
There's a bit of Denmark here, too, in that director Francis Ford Coppola's renovation of the former Chateau Souverain called for an amusement park theme that echoes Copenhagen's famed Tivoli Gardens.
Under its mansard roof and towers, modified with glass pyramid peaks by Coppola, the winery houses the director's movie memorabilia like movie mobster Vito Corleone's desk, Apocalypse Now 'heads,' and the fully-rigged model warship from Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette.
The restaurant and terrace sport a smashing Alexander Valley view, and the poolside reservation system ensures that everyone is treated, if not like royalty, at least to their own chaise lounge and umbrella.
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, Sonoma
This elegant winery, set in the rolling hills of the Carneros region in southern Sonoma County, was designed to evoke both the historical California missions and the heritage of this Catalonian family, owners of the Freixenet cava brand.
Today, Gloria Ferrer makes some of Sonoma County's most popular sparkling wines. Explore them on the long stretch of terrace overlooking the estate's vines and far beyond, enjoying wine flights paired with lunch, caviar, or cheese and charcuterie.
Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery, Healdsburg
Wine castle Italian-style, Ferrari-Carano's pale pink "Villa Fiore" is one of the great jewels of the Dry Creek Valley, set far from the madding crowd about a mile from Lake Sonoma.
Formal and shaded pond gardens invite strolling on the grounds, while tasting on the Villa Terrace pair four Ferrari-Carano wines (such as their signature Fume Blanc) with a sweeping view of the winery's estate vineyards.
Ledson Winery & Vineyards, Kenwood
Ledson is one of Sonoma County's most dramatic wine castles, pairing Gothic spires and archways with the rugged, mountainous backdrop of a particularly scenic stretch of the Sonoma Valley.
The French Normandy-style mansion was originally built as a family residence, but so many would-be wine tasters drove up to check it out that the owner eventually took the hint and opened his winery's tasting room here.
The interior is handsomely furnished with dark-wood paneling, huge windows, and cozy fireplaces, and features several private tasting rooms, three tasting bars with plush seating areas, and a full-service deli. Picnic grounds lie under large, shady oaks.
Want to fly directly into Sonoma Wine Country? The STS - Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa offers non-stop flights from Los Angeles, Orange County, Portland, Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco and more.