For me, wandering the aisles of a beloved wine shop recalls the luxury of a leisurely afternoon at a library. Just me, endless time and the alluring smell of discovery and books.
Endless time isn’t something many people can afford these days, and online shopping makes it easier than ever to conveniently buy wine from our homes while wearing our comfy pants. In Sonoma County, we’re surrounded by wine, wineries and tasting rooms. Yet spending even a few tactile moments at a local wine shop can be valuable, educational and enlightening.
Here is a selection of some of our favorite wine shops in Sonoma County.
A visit to Bottle Barn is like a trip to Trader Joe’s: You always spend more money than you planned on, but not because the prices are high. There is simply so much to tempt you.
Founded in 1990 by Bruce and Loretta Emmons, and now owned by Sajiva and Tina Jain, Bottle Barn achieves what few wine retailers can: An extraordinarily diverse collection of wine, beer and spirits at equally diverse prices.
Hidden behind an unassuming storefront in northwest Santa Rosa, the 15,000-square-foot retail shop is a Wine Country mainstay, selling a huge selection of Sonoma County wines and nearly as many international selections. From rare, older vintages and obscure, uncommon varietals to Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines or Sonoma County’s Harvest Fair wine winners, you’ll find it here. They also stock a wealth of specialty spirits and local beers, so no one feels left out. Be sure to sign up for their email newsletter for information on new product releases, sales, events and more.
Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. 3331-A, Industrial Drive, Santa Rosa. 707-528-1161
Ciao Bruto! Wine & Provisions
Those familiar with winemaker Sam Bilbro will recognize his obsession with Northern Italian grape varieties, which are at the heart of his winery, Idlewild Wines. Now, as an extension of that adoration, Bilbro has launched Ciao Bruto!, a new Italian wine and specialty food shop in Healdsburg.
Co-founded with Thomas DeBaise, who oversees Idlewild’s operations, and winery hospitality director Courtney Humiston, the shop focuses on organic wines from small producers in Italy and France, along with a great selection of Champagne. A selection of specialty Italian foods are also available, like tinned fish, Caravaglio capers, Centoni and Mancini pasta and dried chickpeas from Paolo Bea. Located right next door to Idlewild Wines, Ciao Bruto! is difficult to resist.
Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. 130 Plaza St., Healdsburg, 707-756-3918. ciaobruto.com
Human-scale wines are the focus at Avinage, a new wine shop in Petaluma that focuses on small-production wines from family-owned wineries and small-scale importers. “People that make wine on a human, not industrial scale,” owner Damien Carney said of the producers behind their wines.
A former sales director and portfolio manager for wine importers in New York and California, Carney was frustrated at the dearth of European wines from small, sustainable wine producers in Petaluma. So he decided to open his own shop.
At Avinage, he stocks about 250 wines from France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and California, including local favorites from producers like Pax, Scribe and Arnot-Roberts. One of the shop’s highlights is the Table of No Regrets, which encourages customers to buy new or uncommon wines for $25 or less.
Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. 15 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma, 707-774-6080, avinagewines.com
Accessibility remains front-of-mind when Wine Director Alexandria Sarovich decides which wines to carry at Little Saint’s wine shop in downtown Healdsburg. A popular facet of the 10,000-square-foot space shared by Little Saint’s plant-based restaurant, cocktail bar, café and event space, the wine shop sells wines from 30 different countries at a wide range of prices.
“My goal is to make our wine list accessible to as many people as possible by offering wines at a variety of price points,” Sarovich said. “Whether someone is looking for a $10 bottle or a $300 bottle, I want them to feel welcome.” All the wines are sustainably produced, either by local winemakers or international producers, and there is a thoughtful selection of wines made by women and people of color. Wines by the glass are available, too, along with regular wine tastings and special events.
Open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Thursday to Monday. 25 North St., Healdsburg, 707-433-8207
An intriguing selection of natural, organic, low-intervention wines are the draw at Miracle Plum, a a retail shop, wine store and wine bar in downtown Santa Rosa, with a commissary kitchen down the street.
Expect to find something out of the ordinary here, like a skin-contact vermentino blend from Italy, a biodynamic sylvaner from Germany, or a verjus fermented in the style of a pét-nat from Martha Stoumen and Julia Sherman in Sebastopol. Miracle Plum also sells natural wines by the glass, which can be enjoyed at the small bar, and weekly winemaker tastings on Thursdays.
Open 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday. 208 Davis St., Santa Rosa, 707-708-7986
Sommelier and wine director Todd Jolly is at the helm of this gem of a wine shop in the town of Sonoma that features sustainable, limited-production wines from family-owned producers in Sonoma County and around the world.
Jolly chooses every wine on the shelves and is happy to make recommendations based on your personal palate. On Thursdays from 4 to 6 p.m., Jolly hosts a themed tasting of five wines for $20. Wines by the glass are also available at the wine bar. The Tasting Society is the shop’s quarterly wine club, which features a mix of both domestic and international wines priced around $25/bottle.
Open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday. 1190 E. Napa St., Sonoma, 707-996-7600
Wilibees Wine & Spirits
Did you know that Wilibees is made up of Wi (for wine), li (for liquor) and bees for beer and, well, bees?
Open since 2008, Wilibees Wine & Spirits was founded on the principle of making wine less intimidating and more accessible to everyone. With locations in Santa Rosa and Petaluma, the store offers an excellent selection of local and international wines, spirits, beer and cider — something for everyone.
The Santa Rosa location has a deli and tap room with a rotating list of 12 beers and 24 wines on tap. Wilibees also has a wine club with a focus on “crisp whites,” “bold reds” or “fuller whites,” depending on your preference.
About those bees: Wilibees donates part of their proceeds to support threatened honeybee populations.
Santa Rosa: Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. 700 Third St., 707-978-3779
Petaluma: Open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. 309 Lakeville St., 707-762-2042
Written by Sarah Doyle ([email protected])