Korbel Champagne Cellars

Many a thirsty traveler has taken the winding, redwood-shaded drive up Highway 116,  crossed the Russian River, and arrived in downtown Guerneville only to wonder, “So, where are all the Russian River Valley wineries here?”

Long a sleepy hideaway on the Russian River, Guerneville has surged with crowds of vacationers every summer for a century, and has since become a popular dining and shopping destination for weekenders. But though it’s situated on the western edge of the Russian River Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA), until recently there’s been little opportunity to taste wine along downtown Guerneville’s half-mile stretch of Main Street.

Along Main Street in Sonoma County's downtown Guerneville, the window of the Equality Vines wine tasting room bears a sign reading, "Love Wins"
Equality Vines 

Now you can reserve a spot at (or just stop by) the Main Street tasting room of Equality Vines, which makes a limited-release collection of wines to benefit the Human Rights Campaign and the non-profit One Glass for Equality. One of their most popular wines, Love Wins Sparkling Rose, celebrates 2015’s Supreme Court Marriage Equality Decision. 

While on the Main Street drag, you can also taste wine at the retro, foodie-friendly Big Bottom Market, and at restaurants like the contemporary bistro boon eat + drink. Big Bottom in particular offers a rotating selection of local wines from small producers, as well as their own in-house labels benefitting causes like the Sonoma Land Trust. 

Just outside of town, two more wine tasting opportunities reflect Guerneville’s eclectic mix of mainstream tourism and alternative paths: American’s favorite sparkling wine producer, Korbel Champagne Cellars, and little Biodynamic and family-owned Porter-Bass Winery.

The ivy covered exterior of Korbel Champagne Cellars in Sonoma County
Korbel Champagne Cellars

Free tours of Korbel Champagne Cellars start at the visitor center, which was once a station on the San Francisco and North Pacific Railroad. Inside the iconic brick winery building you’ll learn all about the property’s redwood logging days; get a tutorial on the Champagne method of winemaking; see a short, fun film; and end up at the old-school tasting room for sips of sparkling brut, extra dry, and winery-exclusive brut premier sparkling wine. There’s a deli onsite and you can picnic under the massive, second-growth redwoods.

At Porter-Bass Winery, owner Luke Bass works happily among a variety of Chardonnay clones, a flock of chickens, and a coonhound dog. Some of Northern California’s finest restaurants feature Porter-Bass on their wine lists, but the highly acclaimed wines from this tiny, 1,000-case winery are available for retail only in Guerneville.

When it’s time to taste wine at Porter-Bass, guests gather beneath a walnut tree on a gentle slope overlooking breathtaking views of vineyards and forest. The winery’s tasting bar is just a slab of wood resting on two barrels, and the menu is hand-drawn on a board tacked to that lovely tree.

After wine tasting in Guerneville, you won’t have to travel much farther to enjoy your wine in the great outdoors: tuck a chilled bottle in your knapsack to enjoy on the beach while watching canoes go by, or slip a few nips in a canteen for a hike through the redwoods in the 805-acre Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve or an exploration of the adjacent 5,683-acre Austin Creek State Recreation Area.

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