Sipping award-winning wines is amazing, but to enhance the experience, wine tasting in Sonoma County can also mean embracing its farm-to-table, slow-food movement in the form of exquisite wine-and-food pairings.
As one of the first wineries to offer upscale food pairings, this elegant place just keeps getting more impressive.
Renovated in 2016, the new space is spectacular with silver-gray leather furniture, hand-blown glass bubble chandeliers, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a garden.
The signature is a five-course tasting menu (led in with multiple amuse bouches) from former Meadowood Resort chef Carl Shelton, all paired with fine sparkling and/or still wines, that’s actually a bargain at $125 per person.
Menus change frequently, but you might enjoy oysters, a colorful platter of grilled beets over quinoa and smoked sturgeon, and a pretty plate of pheasant with black truffle, spaghetti squash, roast cauliflower and walnuts. Other pairing options include a terrace tasting with four wines and small bites, or wines with charcuterie.
Details: 11447 Old Redwood Hwy., Healdsburg, 707-431-5400
As one of Healdsburg’s most spectacular wineries, the 1,477-acre Chalk Hill is crowned by a hilltop chateau tasting room that offers stunning views over the natural amphitheater of mountains along the eastern edge of the Russian River Valley.
The Culinary Tour & Tasting begins with a brief excursion through the estate vineyards and the organic culinary gardens. Guests are then led to the Pavilion, a conservatory overlooking the Olympic-caliber equestrian dressage center, for a tasting of wines paired with small plates prepared by the estate's executive chef.
For an even more lavish experience, the Estate Luncheon includes a driving tour around the estate, ending at the Pavilion for a decadent meal showcasing ingredients from the culinary garden, all paired with Chalk Hill wines.
Or enjoy a private Estate Dinner with family, and friends,which includes a driving tour of the estate followed by a prix fixe menu expertly paired with Chalk Hill wines. (Estate Luncheons and Estate Dinners available by appointment only.)
Details: 10300 Chalk Hill Road, Healdsburg, 707-657-4837
Established in the 1980s, Gloria Ferrer was the first sparkling wine house built in the Carneros region. Its Vista Terrace offers scenic views of sun-drenched estate vineyards and the rolling hills of the Carneros.
The Bubbles and Bites food and wine pairing tour offers an in-depth 1.5-hour experience that leads through the different areas of the winery. It’s a chance to learn about the history of the Ferrer family and the intricate sparkling wine process. Then enjoy a seated tasting in the Vista room, pairing the winery’s award-winning wines with special seasonal bites.
On the A Taste of Spain tour, explore the wines and tapas of Spain in this private food and wine pairing in the Vista Room. This experience includes four varietals from around Spain carefully paired with tapas, plus a special Freixenet cava.
Details: 23555 Carneros Highway 121, Sonoma, 707-933-1917
This Alexander Valley winery offers three distinctive and intimate food-and-wine tastings/tours on its nearly 1,200-acre property.
For the one-hour Library Tasting, guests enjoy an intimate seated tasting in the winery's private library, featuring Jordan Wines, estate olive oil, and food pairings by the winery chef.
The 1.5-hour Winery Tour & Library Tasting adds a walking tour of the iconic Jordan chateau.
And guests on the three-hour Estate Tour & Tasting ride to remote corners of the serene estate to enjoy a farm-to-table, wine-and-food-tasting excursion showcasing foods grown on the property.
Details: 1474 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg, 800-654-1213
In the premium, seated Reserve experience, you'll taste limited-production wines paired with original bites from the winery chef – menu items might include delights like Dungeness crab cakes with carrot, persimmon and radish slaw, or sunchoke soup stocked with Liberty duck confit, dried cherries and mushroom.
Other options include a wine & cheese pairing, and a wine and chocolate pairing.
Details: 5007 Fulton Road, Santa Rosa, 707-571-7500
Tucked on an easy hillside off West Dry Creek Road, this gorgeous winery features a dark, rough-cut wood structure with a wraparound porch, gabled shingle roof, moss-lined rock foundation walls and a stone chimney. Lavish grounds include cascading vines, colorful flowers and an expansive lawn set with teak picnic tables beneath arbors overlooking vineyards and forests.
Inside, the tasting room charms with wooden walls and vaulted ceilings, and a glass wall looking into the barrel room.
This makes a beautiful setting for the Chef’s Table series — a monthly, intimate, food-and-wine pairing featuring a seasonally-themed menu of locally grown ingredients prepared by a visiting chef, and paired with Lambert Bridge wines.
Details: 4085 W. Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-431-9600
From April to October, this Russian River Valley winery offers the Lynmar Lunch, a 90 minute, three course, farm-to-table meal thoughtfully pairing select wines with delightful creations made from estate-grown and locally sourced ingredients.
And from May to September, Lynmar Estate hosts Pinot & Pizza, a classic two-hour pairing experience under the shade of towering trees in the winery’s redwood grove.
The seasonally inspired artisan pizzas are made with estate-frown vegetables prepared in a brick pizza oven, and are paired with an array of Lynmar wines. Reservations required for both tasting experiences.
Details: 3909 Frei Road, Sebastopol, 707-829-3374
This small, family-owned winery in the heart of the Sonoma Valley specializes in single-vineyard wines that provide a match between terroir and varietal.
It's Reserve Room, located in the village of Kenwood, operates as a mini-café of sorts, complete with chairs and food from chef Samuel Frumkin.
Tastings in the comfortable and intimate Reserve Room are extensive adventures, featuring seven wines, each paired with a separate dish, prepared specifically to match the wine.
A sample menu might include Feta and Leek Crème Brulee, Seared Scallop Succotash, Beet and Goat Cheese, Mushrooms, Spring Lamb Meatball, Grilled Chicken with Blueberry Gastrique, and Strawberries and Cream.
Details: 9200 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707-833-5504
Located in the Carneros region at the southern end of the Sonoma Valley, Ram's Gate makes great Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and a rainbow selection of other wines under winemaker Jeff Gaffner.
It's setting is spectacular, with 30-foot ceilings, walls made of reclaimed snow fence, and massive floor-to-ceiling glass walls that open to sweeping vineyard and bay views.
The Palate Play Wine & Food Pairing begins with an in-depth winery tour with glass of wine in hand before adjourning to a private room for a guided, seated tasting featuring four single-vineyard wines with delicious culinary pairings designed by Executive Chef Taylr Behnam. Allow 1.5 to 2 hours for the experience.
You can also get a wine-paired picnic for two; start with a tour of the winery and a sampling of Ram's Gate appellation wines to select a bottle to be tucked into a wicker basket along with an assortment of mouthwatering delicacies. Wander through the vineyards to pick your favorite site, where a personal valet will help set up your picnic.
And in the most intimate, behind-the-scenes way to experience this winery, the Vineyard Table includes a sommelier consultation before your visit, to customize your experience. This three-hour adventure includes a tour of the most exclusive areas of the winery, followed by a tasting of five single vineyard and library wines chosen to match your preferences, with five food pairings designed to accompany the wines. By appointment only. Call for reservations.
Details: 28700 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 707-721-8700
Relax on the terrace at Rodney Strong Vineyards and indulge in its Food & Wine Pairing. Savor five bites flawlessly paired with five Rodney Strong Wines from some of the estate vineyards.
This seated, hosted experience shows how you can use food and wine together to elevate both elements. In addition to the Food & Wine Pairing, the terrace also offers curated wine flights that you can pair with handcrafted cheese and charcuterie plates by in-house chef Alejandro Garcia.
Terrace experiences are offered seasonally, April to October. Reservations are strongly recommended. You can also take the free self-guided winery tour, an educational exploration of the winery's rich history in viticulture and winemaking since 1959, when it became the 13th bonded winery in Sonoma County.
Details: 11455 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg, 707-431-1533
Housed in an historic 1890s farmhouse, Russian River Vineyards offers farm-to-table outdoor dining in the only winery-based full restaurant in the Russian River Valley.
From its original planting in 1963, Russian River Vineyards established itself as one of the premier organic and sustainably farmed grape-growing properties in California. It specializes in single-vineyard Sonoma County Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The Wine & Farm-to-Table Food Pairing includes four wines perfectly paired with four chef-crafted bites. For parties of seven to 12, the Wine Social includes a self-led tasting and a reserved seating area, with an assortment of delicious family-style bites from the kitchen with your tasting. And the VIP Experience offers private seating for a flight of four wines carefully paired with four seasonal farm-to-table chef-crafted bites.
Showcasing fresh, organic produce and locally sourced ingredients, the onsite restaurant offers dinner service (by reservation only) on Friday and Saturday nights, with a choice of a four-course prixe fixe or seven-course tasting menu.
Details: 5700 Highway 116 North, Forestville, 707-887-3344
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that St. Francis Winery & Vineyards in Santa Rosa has been named the No. 1 restaurant in all of America (2013 and 2015), courtesy of Open Table. The one-and-a-half-hour long seated pairing features a multicourse tasting menu prepared by the winery's executive chef, paired with wines from St. Francis’ artisan collection.
Presented as small tasting plates, each meal is hosted by a St. Francis wine expert, to describe the recipes and why the wines work with the ingredients. Reservations are strongly recommended, and are required for groups of six or more. Three seatings are offered Thursdays - Mondays at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
A sample menu might include Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Arugula, Red Onion, and Pine Nuts; Chicken with Spring Vegetables, and a Parmesan-Lemon-Thyme Biscuit; Pan Seared Artic Char with House-made Spanish Chorizo, Grilled Onions, and Smoked Paprika Aioli; Snake River Farms Zabuton with Beets Three Ways, Blue Cheese Flan, and Green Garlic Salsa Verde; and Elderflower Panna Cotta with Sous Vide Vanilla Apricots and a Pistachio Lace Cookie, with each course carefully designed to pair with a specific St. Francis wine.
Details: 100 N Pythian Road, Santa Rosa, 707-538-9643
Looking for more fun things to do during your trip to Sonoma County? Take a look at the many outdoor activities to enjoy in the valleys, vineyards, coastline and Russian River areas of Sonoma County.