What's your favorite Sonoma winery?
June 14, 2008 3:38 PM   Subscribe

What extra special wineries has this Sonoma Valley regular missed?

Since we live about 40 minutes away, we go wine tasting in Sonoma quite frequently. We have probably four very regular wineries and another half dozen semi-regulars. We love these places (Mayo are practically family) but have started to wonder what jewels we've been neglecting.

A partial list of places we've been more than once: Mayo, Gloria Ferrar, Roshambo, Schug, Ravenswood, St. Jean, Wellington, Eric Ross, B.R. Cohn, Cline.

Of course, there are practically a bajillion other wineries in the area. What are the best places (big or small) we've missed? We particularly value attentive, fun, and knowledgeable staff in tasting rooms. We don't particularly care about tours and hate it when we get the perfunctory in and out with a sales pitch wine country tourist experience.

Also, although we go tasting in Napa, Healdsburg, etc. as well, I'm mostly interested in Sonoma and Glen Ellen simply because that's where we go the most.
posted by mostlymartha to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
We have been to the area many times, and we particularly like the west-of-the-101, Russian River Valley, Green Valley appellations. Just to name a couple places, Iron Horse, Dutton, Hartford, Hanna, but there are many others. Explore this area: Map of Russian River Valley and Green Valley appellations
posted by secretseasons at 4:14 PM on June 14, 2008

Clos du Bois, in Geyserville.
Incredible Sav Blanc.
Attentive retail staff.
Breath-taking physical plant designed by Michael Graves(?)
Plus they just changed Winemakers-- Erik Olsen is the new guy-- fun to see what he does...
posted by Dizzy at 4:15 PM on June 14, 2008

Gundlach Bundschu! It's just outside of Sonoma the town. Known for the wonderful zins. Nice outside picnic area.
And tell GunBun staff you're from Sonoma and you (probably will, I do) get a free tasting.
posted by artdrectr at 4:16 PM on June 14, 2008

In the Russian River Valley area - Sunce, Matrix, Arista. All pretty small and fun, with great wine and (often) great food. Hop Kiln is great, too, though it's a little bigger.
posted by hedgehog at 5:03 PM on June 14, 2008

Apologies--- Clos Pegase in Calistoga was designed by Michael Graves.
Good upscale Cabs, but nothing too special recently...
posted by Dizzy at 5:33 PM on June 14, 2008

I really enjoy Arrowood, which I'm a member of. I also used to be a member of Imagery, which has a lot of less common varietals, and is a sister winery of Benziger, which does a lot of biodynamic wines.
posted by harrumph at 5:40 PM on June 14, 2008

Gary Farrell, in the Russian River Valley, sits atop a hill and has picturebox windows of the surrounding valley. We went early, and had the pleasure of sampling their awesome wines as the fog receded.

Roshambo is a fun pits top.
posted by mkultra at 5:48 PM on June 14, 2008

I have fond memories of the gorgeous Farrell spread in the RRV, but the wines I sampled didn't make my toes curl. The Sav Blanc was drab, not crisp at all, the Pinot was pretty meek for $50 a bottle, etc...
BUT-- the '05 Zin was HEAVEN-- big, balanced, silky, a forever finish too. I should've bought a case.
But the place is verry pretty!
posted by Dizzy at 6:04 PM on June 14, 2008

Iron Horse is really beautiful, and has great wines.
posted by gyusan at 6:13 PM on June 14, 2008

My absolute favourte is PapaPietroPerry, up in Dry Creek Valley. So good.

Olivet Rd is a good place to go and it's only a few miles west of Santa Rosa. You can hit Sunce, Harvest Moon and Hook and Ladder all within about a mile then cruise up to River Rd and go to Martinelli. Great wines and a nice variety in a small area plus you end up at the river!
posted by fshgrl at 6:27 PM on June 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

A bit further afield in Mendocino County, the Anderson Valley is my wine-tasting area of choice. Dozens of interesting wineries just off of Highway 128 between Boonville and Navarro. My very favorite is Navarro Vineyards in Philo. I've enjoyed every one of their wines, especially the Gew├╝rztraminer.
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 7:10 PM on June 14, 2008

It can be a bit pricey ($150 per person) but last year my fiancee and I went to the Taste of Sonoma event at the MacMurray ranch. It was a ton of fun 3 tents full of food from local restaurants and tastes from local wineries. A great way to find new wineries you might like.
posted by bitdamaged at 7:45 PM on June 14, 2008

Seconding Gundlach Bundschu. That's the one that stood out from the times I've visited Sonoma. Good wine, beautiful grounds. It's been a while, but if I remember correctly it's a little off the beaten path / tricky to find.
posted by madmethods at 8:30 PM on June 14, 2008

I've always had a good time at Kunde. The staff has always been very friendly and knowledgeable. They are also very eager for you to try everything behind the tasting bar. It's a pure joy to visit.
posted by mmascolino at 9:34 PM on June 14, 2008

occhiblu and I were just up there a week ago, so the memory is quite fresh.

We went to Gundlach Bundschu - I love their pinot. Wilson has good cabs. Iron Horse is well off the beaten path but has a gorgeous view and great wines; the tastings are $15 and $20, though, and they don't refund them unless you buy a couple cases.

Chateau St Jean's members' tastings are wonderful, and the grounds are perfect to bring a picnic and sit - beautiful landscaping, roses, fountains, birds - but the general-public tasting room is crowded and their low end wines are not my favorites.

Quivira, where we didn't go, is a charming little tasting room, never too crowded, and they have really good sauv blanc that's not bank-breaking.

Probably the highlight of the trip for me, though, was Moshin, a new winery. It was founded by the guy who was the winemaker at Davis Bynum 1997-2005; the Moshin merlot is a perfect twin to the Davis Bynum merlot, which sadly isn't made any more. That may be my favorite bottle of California wine, and it's only $24.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:12 PM on June 14, 2008

I will second Gary Farrell. My very favorite, however is Westwood, which has a tasting room right in downtown Sonoma, where you can sit and talk to the winemaker, John Kelly, about his wines rather than just push your way through a crowded bar and drink whatever's on the list. John also keeps an interesting blog, and is a great source of information and education about wine in general, but mostly he just makes really delicious wine.
posted by judith at 12:03 AM on June 15, 2008

Definitely visit GunBun, it's gorgeous.

"but if I remember correctly it's a little off the beaten path / tricky to find."

No it's not, it's around the corner from my house! You can't miss it!
posted by majick at 7:27 AM on June 15, 2008

Valley of the Moon in Glen Ellen.
posted by candyland at 9:40 AM on June 15, 2008

posted by brautigan at 11:01 AM on June 15, 2008

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