Ledson Winery and Vineyards
7335 Sonoma Hwy., Kenwood, CA 95409
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Tasting Fees: $15 to $47, depending on experience chosen.
Wines currently offered: Ledson makes 70 wines and tasting selections vary widely based on customer preferences.
Reservations: Required for private tasting and groups of six or more.
Picnics: Yes. Gourmet sandwiches and snacks available for purchase in the marketplace, no outside food please
Known as “The Castle,” the richly paneled 16,000 square-foot French Normandy-style Ledson Winery structure is a commanding piece of architecture, with its features including slate roofs, steep turrets and cathedral style windows.
Originally designed by Steve Ledson in 1989 to serve as his home, public interest in the property was so fervent, he decided that the house would better serve as a winery. This seemed a natural fit, considering the quality Merlot vineyards on the property. In 1997, the family released its first wine, the 1994 Ledson Estate Merlot. In 1999, the winery opened its doors to the public. Winemaking is conducted by Winemaker and Owner, Steve Ledson and is assisted by Vice President of Winemaking Operations, Andrew Bilenkij, and Brian Pruett.
Situated on 17 acres in the heart of Sonoma Valley, the location serves as an inviting retreat from everyday life. The front entrance opens up at the foot of a stunning main staircase, which leads to a private tasting area. The public tasting room, located on the first floor at the back, is finished like the rest of the house, in glossy chestnut colored wood. A mirrored wall behind the tasting bar gives the room a spacious feel, with glass doors to the side filling the room with natural light. The outdoor area can be used for tasting, picnics or weddings. There’s also a gourmet marketplace and gift boutique for guests’ perusal.
Ledson sources a portion of its grapes, and then owns or manages another 95 percent. In addition to the 17-acre Estate vineyard on the property, Ledson owns 21 acres of old vine Zinfandel in the town of Sonoma and 5,500 acres in Mendocino County, much of which is used for its sister winery, Zina Hyde Cunningham. It also sources grapes from vineyards throughout California’s north coast growing regions, such as Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley, among others.
Asked what makes these wines special, tasting room associate Brendon Vogel explains that, with 70 different wines, there’s always something for everyone to like. However the wines can only be purchased through the winery, the wine club or at the winery’s website. Visitors can choose between either a public or a private tasting. I chose the public option of seven wines. First up was a 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, which was flowery, sweet and tropical, with a hint of grapefruit or guava on the nose, a deep mouthfeel and a crisp finish. Rather than being typically oaky or buttery, a 2014 Chardonnay was bright and clean on the nose, having been fermented in stainless steel and then aged in oak. It had a gentle mouthfeel and finish. We finished up the whites tasting a 2013 Chardonnay and a surprising favorite, with the distinctive scent of green apple on the nose, a light, smooth mouthfeel and a bittersweet finish.
The 2014 Pinot Noir is the winery’s lightest red. It had a hint of pepper on the nose, a prickly mouthfeel and fruity finish. Moving on, the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon had a hint of woodsmoke on the nose, with a sweet, inviting mouthfeel and a lingering finish. The 2013 Barbera was bright and berry scented on the nose with a deep but not heavy mouthfeel and lasting finish. Finally the 2013 GSM blend made with Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, was dark and woodsy on the nose with a spicy, cinnamon-hinted mouthfeel and finish.
There are multiple levels to Ledson’s wine club, which Vogel calls a “driving force” for the winery. Club benefits include savings on wine purchases and shipments, savings at the boutique Ledson Hotel in downtown Sonoma, complimentary tastings and invitations to special member events.
The vineyard has no shortage of popular annual events, from a six-course Valentine’s Day dinner to its annual barrel tasting, which are open to the public. The estate is also a popular wedding location.
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