There are more than 425 wineries in Sonoma County and each and every one is scenic in its own way. Still, some have views that are real standouts. Here, moving south to north, is a sampling of wineries to visit if you crave a vineyard vista as you taste an exceptional vintage.
At the southern end of Sonoma County, the Italian-style Viansa Winery commands a hill overlooking acres of protected wetlands. It’s a particularly fine perch for bird watchers during spring and summer migrations, and in the winter when the wetlands are at their wettest and full of happy waterfowl. Special “outlook” structures are available to sip and view in style. (25200 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 800-995-4740)
Further north up Highway 12, Kunde Winery’s vineyards roll for miles along Highway 12. And although the tasting room is nestled picturesquely in the foothills of the Mayacamas range, visitors can arrange an excursion that’s all about the view — a Mountaintop Tasting van whisks you up to a small olive grove with a magnificent panorama of Sonoma Valley and beyond. (9825 Sonoma Highway 12, Kenwood, 707-833-5501)
In late spring, nothing can match the view from Matanzas Creek Winery when their extensive lavender fields are in full bloom, a bit of a change from the typical corduroy rows of vineyards. (6097 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa, 707-528-6464)
The Russian River wine-growing region has gorgeous views around every bend, but Gary Farrell Vineyards and Winery, open by appointment only, is renowned for its vineyard vistas and “glamping” woodlands experience. (10701 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707-473-2909)
Gustafson Family Vineyards offers breathtaking 30-mile panoramic vienws in three directions. This unique mountain vineyard perches at 1,800 feet above sea level in the Dry Creek Valley. Gustafson pours bright, refreshing Riesling at their stunning, ridge top estate as well as Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. It's a bit off the beaten path, but it's worth the drive. There's a lovely picnic area, so be sure to bring a picnic lunch. The estate tasting room is open Saturday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., no appointment necessary. Appointments are available Friday, Sunday, and Monday from 11 a.m.–3 p.m. (9100 Skaggs Springs Road, Geyserville, 707-433-2371)
Furthest north and west, Fort Ross Vineyard and Winery (15725 Meyers Grade Road, Jenner, 707-847-3460; open daily 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; entry gate closes at 5 p.m.) has a tasting room with a view of vineyards, of course, but also the Pacific Ocean. It’s the only tasting room along the coast in the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA. So you can sip a Pinot Noir, smell the sea air, and watch the distant waves.
Whichever winery you visit, close your eyes to better taste the wine, and then open them wide for the full Sonoma County experience.
Written by Julie Vader.