15 Sonoma County Wineries to Visit if You Love Zinfandel
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Zinfandel is often thought of as the quintessential American grape. But, like other grape varieties, it was brought to the United States from Europe.
Determining the exact origin of a grape variety and how and when it journeyed across the Atlantic to the United States can be difficult. The origin of zinfandel remained a mystery for decades until the early 2000s when researchers managed to trace its roots to Croatia’s Dalmatia region.
Research at that time also found that the first zinfandel vine was imported to the United States in the late 1820s by a Long Island, NY nursery owner. The vine cuttings may have come from the Imperial Collection of Plant Species in Vienna, which, in the late 18th century, included vines from every part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, including Croatia.
Zinfandel then made its way west just after the Gold Rush and California’s statehood. (Some accounts claim that Agoston Haraszthy, the pioneer winemaker and founder of Sonoma’s Buena Vista Winery, brought the grape to California.) The European grape variety thrived in California’s Mediterranean climate and soon became one of the state’s most widely planted varieties.
While zinfandel is now made all over the Golden State, it is most closely associated with Sonoma County. Here, warm days and cool nights allow winemakers to produce some of the best zinfandels in the world. The region’s varied terrain, terroir and climate also allow for a variety of expressions of the grape; from light, refreshing rosés to bold, jammy reds.
Read on to learn about 16 wineries (only 15 of which you can visit) that will offer a great introduction to Sonoma County’s zins. (Remember to call ahead to make reservations as these wineries are popular with visitors.)
One of the pioneers of California zinfandel, Ridge Vineyards first planted the grape in Sonoma County in 1892. Today, the winery continues to produce some of the finest zinfandels in the world from its historic Lytton Springs and Monte Bello vineyards. The winery has successfully grown three zinfandel clones, discovered in Croatia’s Dalmatia region, that were key to pinpointing the origin of the grape variety. 650 Lytton Springs Road, Healdsburg (Courtesy of Ridge Vineyards)
Founded in 2004, Kokomo Winery is named for owner/winemaker Erik Miller’s hometown in Indiana. Miller’s wines showcase Sonoma County’s diverse growing regions, predominantly the Dry Creek Valley, which is famous for producing noteworthy zins. Single-vineyard wines (wines made with grapes from only one vineyard), like the Pauline's Vineyard or Monte Rosso Vineyard zinfandels, are the name of the game here. 4791 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg
This winery is set right in the heart of the Dry Creek Valley and is known not only for its superb zins but also for its sauvignon blancs and gorgeous grounds with picnic tables and bocce courts. Tastings take place outdoors on the lawn or inside in a tasting room modeled after a Loire Valley chateau. 3770 Lambert Bridge Road, Healdsburg
This family vineyard has been making zinfandels since 1895 and is one of the most respected producers of Sonoma County zin. The winery’s Old Vines Zinfandel, sourced from vines that are over 70 years old, is a particular standout. Guests can taste zins and Italian varietals inside or in the outdoor lounge. They can also bring their own picnic blanket and enjoy Seghesio wines by the bottle on the lawn. 700 Grove St., Healdsburg
This tasting room is located just minutes from the Healdsburg Plaza, on Westside Road. It is housed in a geodesic dome with panoramic views of the Russian River Valley appellation and the Mayacamas Mountains beyond. The winery is known for its Poizin Zinfandel, “The Wine to Die For,” but it also produces several estate and single vineyard designated zins to enjoy. 2201 Westside Road, Healdsburg
This 30-acre winery estate is located in the northeast corner of Sonoma County's Russian River Valley (just south of downtown Healdsburg). The wines are made from grapes grown on the property, including zinfandel. In addition to tasting wines, visitors can tour the vineyards and production facility. The winery also has a picnic area with views of the surrounding vineyards. 1023 Limerick Lane, Healdsburg
The Mauritson family has been farming grapes in the Dry Creek Valley for over six generations. Their tasting room is open daily and pours a wide selection of zinfandels from vines that are more than 100 years old. These ancient vines produce concentrated fruit flavors and aromas that are the hallmark of old vine zinfandel. 2859 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg
This family-owned winery, located at the western edge of Dry Creek Valley, is best known for zinfandels that are made from grapes that were planted more than a century ago. The wine caves, carved into the hillside in 1937, are used for aging the wine and are a popular attraction. Visitors can tour the caves and taste wine there. 9711 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg
This winery and farm in the Dry Creek Valley is committed to “holistic farming,” which includes organic and biodynamic practices such as dry farming, which minimizes water use. The result of these efforts are delicious zinfandels (and other wines) that also are eco-friendly. Guests can sip wines by the gardens or take an Estate Tour through the sustainable farm, vineyards and garden. 4900 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg
This tasting room north of Healdsburg has been pouring excellent zins since the early 1970s. The vineyard is home to some of the oldest zinfandel vines in California and the family-owned and operated winery focuses on producing small lot, handcrafted wines that reflect the unique terroir of the Alexander Valley. The winery offers complimentary tastings and daily vineyard hikes with lunch and wine tasting for $60. 8644 CA-128, Healdsburg
This small lot winery is located in one of the warmest sections of the Russian River Valley. It offers private tastings and tours (by appointment only) and is a must-visit for its Italian grape varietals and old-vine zinfandels. The winery is owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Betsy and Bill Nachbaur and the tasting room is located in their home. 12040 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg
Hartford’smain tasting room in the the Green Valley of the Russian River Valley viticultural area is the perfect place to enjoy the winery’s cooler climate zinfandels. This is where the winery estate is located and tastings are offered by appointment. For a more urban tasting experience, head to the winery’s tasting room in downtown Healdsburg where you can sample zinfandels (and other wines) seven days a week. 8075 Martinelli Road, Forestville; 331 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg
A family-owned and operated winery since 1927, Pedroncelli focuses on producing premium wines from sustainably-farmed vineyards. This Dry Creek Valley winery is committed to making quality wines at an affordable price and, for this, it has gained a loyal following. In addition to using sustainable farming practices, the winery also has been certified for its efforts to protect waterways and fish habitats. 1220 Canyon Road, Geyserville
One of the oldest family-owned wineries in Sonoma County, Martinelli is known for its cool-climate pinot noirs and chardonnays — but they also make zinfandels. The picturesque Russian River Valley estate features a historic stone winery building, centuries-old oak trees and manicured gardens. Visitors can take in stunning views of rolling hillsides blanketed with vines while wine tasting on the patio. 3360 River Road, Windsor
This winery, located among rolling hills in the heart of Sonoma Valley, is a favorite destination for many first-time visitors to Sonoma County. After tasting zinfandels, guests can tour the grounds, which include a vineyard, a lake in front of the tasting room, an olive grove and a garden with native California plants. The winery also hosts tours of its caves. 9825 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood
Once & Future Wine
When Joel Peterson, winemaker and founder of Ravenswood Winery, closed his Sonoma tasting room in 2019 it was a blow to fans of his bold zins. Peterson went on to work at several prestigious wineries and eventually founded the wine label Once & Future Wine, which quickly gained a cult following for its Sonoma Valley zinfandels. Peterson doesn’t have a tasting room but his wines can be purchased through his email list at onceandfuturewine.com.