5 wineries to visit in Sonoma, California

| May 6, 2012 More

Northern California’s Sonoma Wine Country is filled with quality wineries, many of them family-owned. Here are five recommended places to visit.

Imagery Estate Winery (Benziger family)
14335 Hwy 12
Glen Ellen, CA 95442
Phone: (707) 935-4515
Tasting coupon

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 

Artistic coasters at Imagery Winery

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

Wine tasting at VJB Vineyard & Cellars

Muscardini Cellars / Ty Caton Vineyards
8910 Sonoma Hwy
Kenwood, CA 95452
Phone: (707) 833-0526

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 

Tasting in progress at the Muscardini Cellars / Ty Caton Vineyards tasting room

Schug Carneros Estate Winery
602 Bonneau Road
Sonoma, CA 95476
Phone: (707) 939-9363
Tasting coupon

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

Schug Winery’s history in photos

St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
100 Pythian Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95409
Phone: (888) 675-WINE (9463)
Tasting coupon

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

St. Francis Winery & Vineyards

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.

Mountains in Sonoma County


Tags: , , ,

Category: Around Cities


About the Author (Author Profile)

Pola Henderson is a travel writer, city explorer, expat, and event host. Traveling has been a part of her life since she was three. Pola grew up in Krakow, lived in Chicago for many years and is currently based in Paris, where she teaches Business English.

Comments (27)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Schug Winery is indeed fun to visit … and the wines are outstanding http://schiller-wine.blogspot.com/2011/09/visiting-walter-schug-and-his-schug.html schiller-wine

    • They are… My latest visit to Sonoma wasn’t my first, and I knew I’d return to Schug. And it looks like you spent a fantastic day with the founder! Thanks for sharing and stopping by, Christian.

  2. Sonoma and Napa are great. Have you ever been to Walla Walla, WA? I have a feeling in 10 years they will be the new “Napa Valley.” Great lodging, restaurants, and of course, fine wine.

  3. I really want to go back to this part of the world. Next year, instead of San Diego I shall head north!

  4. Glad to have some referrals! Yes, tasting fees do add up quickly… as does the wine if you don’t spit it out :)

  5. mmm yep, so i’ll be visiting all of these at some point. xo!

  6. avatar lola says:

    my goodness do i LOVE wine. this sounds FAB!!

  7. avatar Mary Anne says:

    All of Sonoma county is great. Next time you are in CA let me know.

  8. I think I would be good with just one winery, but I should be able to find something to drink in Sonoma with these five to choose from.

  9. avatar Leah says:

    Can you believe that I still have never been to California wine country? I know who I’m taking with me when I do go–Ms. Jetting Around, herself.

  10. I’ll be there in 2 weeks. Can’t wait!!

  11. avatar VJB Cellars says:

    Thank you for the shout out Pola! On behalf of the team here at VJB, we would like to invite you back to experience a complimentary Private Tasting on our piazza. Please contact Lindsay at 707-833-2300. Looking forwards to having you back to try our new vintages!