Where to Taste Pinot in the Town of Sonoma
There are many great opportunities to taste Pinot Noir in Sonoma - the City of Sonoma, that is, the historic pueblo founded in 1835 around the Mission San Francisco Solano.
Situated in the southeastern corner of Sonoma County, Sonoma is about an hour's drive, depending on traffic, from Pinot Noir-focused Russian River Valley wineries. But it sits on the border of the Carneros wine region (Sonoma County's other great Pinot Noir region besides the Sonoma Coast), where many Sonoma-area wineries have close relationships with top Pinot vineyards.
So if you just have a day in Sonoma, and other sights to see nearby, find some of the best Pinot Noir tasting at these area wineries:
Outside of Town:
Appropriately named for a wind that sweeps across the Carneros hills from the San Pablo Bay and cools the grapes, this small, independently owned winery pours Sonoma Coast and Carneros Pinot Noir at a remodeled farmhouse tasting room just off Highway 121, on the way to or from town.
A little advance planning will land you a seated tasting at the bar or a table at this winery's stylish new wine tasting salon.
Founded by two young couples in the 1980s, Patz & Hall has always focused on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and works with top growers and vineyards like Chenoweth Ranch, Gap's Crown and Dutton Family.
A husband and wife run this 'all Pinot Noir, all the time' outfit. Compare clonal variations from the same Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir vineyard at their corner Glen Ellen tasting salon, a few minutes north of town in the heart of the Sonoma Valley.
Sonoma Plaza and Side Streets:
This handsome little brick and half-timbered style cottage showcases Pinot Noir from around the West Coast, so you can compare Sonoma Coast Pinot to examples from the Central Coast and Oregon. WALT offers a small bar and window seating in the front, but the relaxed backyard area is where it's at in good weather, under the redwood trees.
For five decades, the Chappellet family has crafted world-class wines from fruit cultivated on the steep, rocky slopes of Napa Valley's renowned Pritchard Hill. They recently acquired the Sonoma-Loeb brand, which has been in business for more than 25 years. The acquisition included the tasting room in Sonoma's 'Vine Alley' south of the Plaza. It features an exclusive series of cool climate Sonoma County wines, including Pinot Noir.
A recent addition to the Pinot scene, stylish little Fulcrum offers plushly fruited Pinot from top vineyards like Gap's Crown at the bar or café-style seating in Vine Alley.
In a far corner of Vine Alley, here is a quiet tasting salon where you can expect a relaxed pace, but an informative, guided tasting of Pinot Noir and Rhone varietals from Westwood's estate vineyard in the Sonoma Valley. Pinot from this area is rare, and a discovery.
It won't take long to find Sojourn if you're in a rush - it's just a few steps east of the Plaza - but the lounge chair logo and winemaker Erich Bradley's sumptuous Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir may tempt you to slow down and enjoy the Pinot.
Written by Sonoma Insider James Knight.