Hook & Ladder Winery

A few of Sonoma County’s top wineries won’t be found down some winding, one-lane back road—they’re set right in the middle of Santa Rosa.

Santa Rosa is Sonoma County’s largest city, with a population of more than 171,000. Long overlooked as the “flyover” area of wine country by travelers breezing through the center of town on Highway 101, Santa Rosa’s suburbs and historic neighborhoods are home to many of Sonoma County’s winemakers and winery personnel—as well as some of its most interesting wineries.

Santa Rosa wine tasting rooms are sprinkled throughout downtown, in “warehouse winery” clusters in light industrial areas of town, and in a rural area west of town that’s a prime subregion of the Russian River Valley AVA

Northwest Santa Rosa

Carol Shelton Wines

Described as a master of the “Zen of Zin,” pioneering winemaker Carol Shelton started her career in the 1970s, and has built a stellar reputation with her bold, ripe Zinfandels, Petite Sirahs, and flamboyant “Wild Thing” Rosé. The tasting room is a cozy little office in a no-nonsense warehouse winery.

Donelan Family Wines

Inside the tasting room a table is set with a chandelier overhead
Donelan Family Wines

In the same complex of looming, beige warehouses on Santa Rosa’s Coffey Lane, a number of individual wineries and a custom crush operation housing yet more small labels operate. Donelan may be a new name to anyone who hasn’t heard that “cult Syrah” is just a much a thing as “cult Cabernet” with many wine lovers and collectors. Sourcing Syrah, Grenache, and Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (as a “gateway drug” to their fantastic Syrah, they joke), this is just another example of a winery you mightn’t have known is open to the curious visitor, by appointment.

Old World Winery

This small, family-owned and -operated winery in the Russian River Valley region is based on the principle that exceptional wines are made better when created with a commitment to environmental and social responsibility. Using grapes from 100-year-old, sustainable, and organic vineyards, they craft Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, Zinfandels, and red blends with traditional winemaking practices including 100 percent native yeast fermentation and actually foot stomping every single grape. Although its mailing address is the tiny community of Fulton, the winery is actually located just off River Road in northwest Santa Rosa.

In Town

Trecini Winery

While the vineyards are located in the Russian River Valley, the tasting room is situated just two blocks east of the official boundary of the appellation, near Courthouse Square in downtown Santa Rosa.

D’Argenzio Winery

A decanter full of wine next to bottles of more wine and some cheese
D’Argenzio Winery

A row of commercial buildings on the purposeful frontage road Cleveland Avenue have been transformed into Santa Rosa Vintners Square, a special place to visit. D’Argenzio produces about 3,000 cases a year, including limited productions of Italian varietals like Sagarantino, Agliancio, Tocal Friulano, Montepulciano, Barbera, Moscato, and Sangiovese, plus many Sonoma County staples like Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc.

After visiting the square’s tasting room, look around a bit. Santa Rosa Vintners Square is the brain child of D’Argenzio Winery founder Ray D’Argenzio, who envisioned providing the culinary conversant of the community with all their wine and food needs in one central area—which means there’s lot to see and savor.

The Fogbelt Brewery taproom offers a handful of flagship release beers, along with a variety of seasonal and rotating experimental brews, as well as tasty seasonal pub fare. Cibo Rustico Pizzeria offers fine Italian and Sonoma County wines, local and imported beer, and Italian-style, thin-crust pizza made with authentic imported ingredients. And as the only cold-pressed juicery in Santa Rosa, Juice on the Square offers fresh, raw, all natural, organic, cold-pressed juice, as well as elixirs, wheatgrass shots, fresh juice to order, organic coffee, and tea.

West of Santa Rosa

Inman Family Wines

Thewinery building is surrounded by green vineyards
Inman Family Wines

Kathleen Inman is the force behind this boutique grower and producer, offering her own sparkling wine, as well as still Pinot Noir and Chardonnay—and EV (electric vehicle) charging!

Battaglini Estate

Several miles west of downtown Santa Rosa, Battaglini’s old vine Zinfandel vineyards are located in the heart of Russian River Valley Zinfandel territory. This was Zinfandel central around the turn of the twentieth century, and it continues to be a source of some of the county’s most deeply fruited and alluring wines. Battaglini’s small, homespun tasting room is one of a kind.

Harvest Moon Estate & Winery

The winery is surrounded by vineyards in the fall on a blue sky day
Harvest Moon Estate & Winery

The walkway to this small family winery’s tasting room doubles as its crush pad. Here, amid everyday operations in a courtyard setting, you’ll find familiar wines like Pinot Noir and Zinfandel with a novel, but old school low-alcohol twist, and sparkling wines that are now made entirely in-house-an artisanal rarity, even in Sonoma County.

Hook & Ladder Winery

An old fashioned fire truck sits at the entrance to the winery
Hook & Ladder Winery

Founded in 2003 by pioneering growers and vintners Cecil and Christine De Loach, and helmed today by their grandson, winemaker Jason De Loach, Hook & Ladder showcases the diversity of the appellation the family helped to define, in a portfolio of limited-production bottlings from their Russian River Valley estate vineyards. The name Hook & Ladder pays homage to Cecil De Loach’s 17- year career as a San Francisco firefighter.

DeLoach Vineyards

A patio and a garden outside of the winery
DeLoach Vineyards
A grandaddy of Russian River Valley wineries, at only forty-something, De Loach is now helmed by forty-something scion of a Burgundian winemaking family, Jean-Charles Boisset. Traditional tasting of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel up front, with educational appellation and blending experiences available, as well as a Biodynamic garden walk.
 
This is by no means a complete list of Santa Rosa area wineries. For more ideas, check our listings of Sonoma County Wineries and click on Santa Rosa. Many restaurants will have a good list of area wines, and you might discover new tasting rooms on a stroll through town, so give it a chance when in Sonoma County wine country. 
 

Written by Sonoma Insider James Knight.

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