Picnic-Perfect Wineries in Sonoma County
Several Sonoma County wineries provide the perfect ingredients for an impromptu picnic.
While there are many gourmet food options in Sonoma County wine country — including by-reservation-only, small plate, chef-prepared food pairings to rival any fine restaurant in creativity and quality — sometimes you just want lunch on the spot, pronto, when the belly is growling or the hungry traveling companion is grumbling due to the appetite-stimulating properties of wine tasting.
That's where this list will come in handy: it's limited to wineries that boast their own wine country deli and picnic grounds, where wine tasters may enjoy an inexpensive, impromptu lunch. Plan to make these one of your midday wine tasting stops, and then pair a loaf of locally baked bread with cheese, or a house-made sandwich, with, of course, a bottle purchased from your winery hosts.
Fresh bread is baked daily at Preston of Dry Creek, fresh produce from the winery’s farm is sold at the “farm stand” when it’s in season, but only on Sundays is the winery’s “cult jug wine” on offer. Founded at the site of an 1895 farmhouse in the 1970s, Preston has become a busy little farmstead with a laid-back vibe that’s made it a favorite with visitors both locally and from afar. At picnic tables around the lawn, enjoy the house white Rhone blend, Madame Preston, picnic-ideal Barbera, or other organically farmed wines with a rustic menu of bread, cheese, salami, and olives. Cat fans will be happy to know that the winery’s feline ambassadors now number 13.
The vineyards meet the redwoods at historic Korbel, which is tucked along a bend in the Russian River Valley near Guerneville. Founded in the 1880s, Korbel offers free tours of the historic winery, and both still and sparkling (“California champagne”) wines in the welcoming wine tasting room. The Korbel Delicatessen and Market carries local artisanal cheeses, meats, breads, sweets, and gourmet gifts to enjoy at the winery or to take home, as well as house-prepared soups, salads and specialty sandwiches. Take a bottle of sparkling wine — or local craft beer! — to the picnic deck and enjoy the Russian River Valley views, or take a pre-ordered box lunch with you to a nearby river beach!
Tip thy chalice at one of Sonoma County’s most-photographed “wine castles.” Defending a position at the northern end of Sonoma Valley, just north of the town of Kenwood, the gothic-styled winery is situated just as dramatically as can be. You might expect a great feasting hall within, and you’d be right to — well, a gourmet deli stocked with pesto pasta, sandwiches, and salads, anyway, along with beverages both vinous and nonalcoholic. Bring your feast to picnic tables under majestic old oak trees.
Prosciutto! Mortadella! Porchetta! A village within a village, and a slice of Italy in Sonoma Valley, VJB is modeled on an Italian villa courtyard. Wine tasting is focused on Italian varietals like Sangiovese, Barbera, Tocai Friulano (Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay also available), while the overall focus is on food and hospitality. The “La Cucina” deli counter is draped with Italian hot links and stocked with cheeses both local and imported, salads and snacks are on offer both grab-and-go and made-to-order, and espresso is on hand to help wake up wine tasters — but that’s not all: family friendly, the little piazza harbors a gelato and chocolate shop and a pizza oven serving piping hot pizza margarita and quattro formaggio. Don’t be surprised if, while lunching at a shaded table in the courtyard, you’re serenaded by a tenor accompanied by accordion.