Northern California’s Sonoma Wine Country is filled with quality wineries, many of them family-owned. Here are five recommended places to visit.
Imagery is focused on lesser-known grape varietals (e.g. Cinsault, Lagrein) and unique blends. The winery commissions local and international artists to create art for wine labels, and some of the pieces are displayed in the tasting room. If you are interested in the difference between Sonoma and Napa in terms of climate and grapes grown, ask one of Imagery’s knowledgeable tasting room attendants.
Jetting Around’s pick: 2010 Viognier
VJB Vineyard & Cellars
60 Shaw Ave.
Kenwood, CA 95452
Phone: (707) 833-2300
Established in 1999 by two brothers, this small winery specializes in Italian grape varietals grown in California (including Aglianico and Barbera). VJB also features pasta sauces and other products created by the brothers’ mother (and Executive Chef). The winery moved to a new location in early 2012 and plans to add a deli and a patio featuring a pizza oven.
JA’s pick: 2009 Mendocino Barbera
This tasting room features wines from two neighboring boutique wineries, offering an extensive list of options. Muscardini has been recognized for its organically-grown Sangiovese, while Ty Caton’s signature wine is a red wine blend named TyTanium. Visitors may run into the two wineries’ owners, as they sometimes take a place behind the bar counter.
JA’s pick: 2009 Muscardini Sangiovese
The winery was founded in 1980 by Walter Schug, a German-American winemaker known for creating the first proprietary Bordeaux-style blend in California (Insignia) in the 1970s. Schug specializes in Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, and the hillside tasting room is an intimate space inside a post-and beam house. On a clear day, it’s possible to see Mount Diablo from a view point behind the building.
JA’s pick: 2009 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
This larger winery was established in 1979 and features a mission-style visitor center. Guests can enjoy views of the nearby Hood Mountain from the building’s outdoor patio. St. Francis produces a wide selection of wines, including Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, carried by retailers in several states.
JA’s pick: 2009 Zinfandel, Russian River Valley
Tips for attending a wine tasting:
- Tasting fees can add up quickly ($10-15 per person on average), so take advantage of coupons available online. Sonoma Tourist Guide has many printable coupons for free and 2-for-1 tasting.
- At a tasting, ask for other winery recommendations. Many places will gladly refer you to ones they support or are affiliated with, and even offer free tasting cards.
- There is no obligation to buy bottles of wine; however, it is not uncommon to end up with several ones to bring back. If you choose not to ship the wine, consider using reusable travel wine protectors (e.g. Wine Skin). They are cheap and available in many tasting rooms.
About the Author (Author Profile)Pola Henderson is a travel writer and city explorer. Besides Jetting Around, her writing credits include CNN, Yahoo, Expedia, MasterCard, among others. She also runs JA Media, a boutique agency specializing in content writing and event production. Happily multicultural, Pola grew up in Krakow, lived in Chicago for 13 years, and is currently based in her soul city Paris.
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