A road winding out of the city during the heat of fall guides both oenophile and casual wine lover to the heart of Sonoma Valley, the Sangiacomo family’s home since 1927. The winery is nestled in the valley with vast views of its encompassing vineyards, greeting any guest with the perfect atmosphere for wine tasting.
On a mild autumn day in October, Rodney Strong Vineyards is humming with activity. The sky is wide and blue, leaves on the vines are turning brilliant shades of orange and yellow, the air smells of grapes, and a truck overflowing with Chardonnay fruit, freshly picked from a coastal vineyard, lumbers past the entrance to the winery on the way to the crush pad. It’s harvest time, once again, for the winery that was originally founded in 1959 by the late, celebrated American dancer, Rodney Strong.
By definition, John Holdredge is a winemaker. But to hear him tell it, that’s not a perfect description. Rather, he simply allows his harvest to reach its full potential, which is rooted in its own unique part of the earth and has a distinct voice.
At Peterson Winery, they like to keep life interesting. To do so, Fred and Jamie Peterson, a father-son winemaking team, bring the unique characteristics of the vineyards they work to life, including the winery’s estate vineyard on Bradford Mountain, which is visible from the winery’s Dry Creek Road location.
In engineering parlance, ZD is an acronym for Zero Defects, a management tool aimed at the reduction of defects through prevention. It’s also the name of ZD Wines, founded in 1969 by two aeronautic engineers, Norman deLeuze and Gino Zepponi. It was a whimsical nod to a quality control program they worked under while designing rockets at AeroJet, a rocket propulsion manufacturer in Sacramento.
At Conn Creek Winery, they like to mix it up, with both its wines and tastings. The result is an abundant selection inspired by the 14 different Napa Valley AVAs where the winery sources its fruit. Its flagship wine, Anthology, is a Cabernet Sauvignon blend—a piece of art, so to speak, from winemaker Elizabeth DeLouise-Gant.
Did You Know? Founded in 1991, Joan and Walt Flowers pioneered the growing of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on the rugged coastal ridges of the Sonoma Coast to capture its spirit and wild beauty. Known as the “wilderness winemakers,” Flowers Vineyards & Winery began as a Chardonnay House. Over the years, it developed a reputation for its Pinot Noirs, but for winemaker Chantal Forthun, reintroducing their Chardonnays to guests is a passion project. “Chardonnay is a blank canvas,” says Forthun. “It lends itself to maximum transparency of the site where it’s grown.”
Seven Stones Winery prefers the minor brush strokes of artfully-crafted wine. The winery refers to itself as a “jewel box winery,” meaning high-quality wines but small-production releases. All of Seven Stones’ wines are a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc, and the property itself is a blend of a private estate, art installation and winery.
2201 Westside Road
Healdsburg, Calif. 95448
Hours: 11a.m.-5 p.m. daily, except holidays
Farming first isn’t just a platitude for Tom Gamble, the man behind Gamble Family Vineyards, located off St. Helena Highway in Napa Valley. It’s a philosophy and a way of life. A third-generation farmer, Gamble has been influenced by his ancestors since childhood. “My most lasting memory of childhood is dirt,” says Gamble.
The drive along Dry Creek Road, with its picturesque vineyards in the Dry Creek Valley, is an experience in itself. An added treat to the region is VML—a whimsical winery nestled in the valley that is both playful and amusing and feels like a different land altogether.
On a mild afternoon in the heart of Sonoma Valley, the first signs of spring are starting to show in the Wild Oak Vineyard, just outside the tasting room door at St. Francis Winery & Vineyards. The hills are lush and green, and the vines are starting to bloom again. “We call it the ‘bud break’ on the vines—the birth of a new vintage,” says Katie Madigan, winemaker.
Perched on the top of a hill in the Russian River Valley, Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery offers an intimate wine tasting experience. The winery opened its new tasting room last summer after seven months of renovation and construction. The salon offers indoor-outdoor seated tastings in a modern, relaxed atmosphere where you can sink into the experience, learn about the fine art of winemaking and enjoy panoramic views of the forested valley below.
At the end of a long, tree-lined driveway on Kirkland Ranch Road in Napa Valley, Roots Run Deep Winery is an oasis. Set amongst more than 300 acres of the property’s own Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards, as well as the original owners cattle that graze in the distance, the tasting room and lush grounds share a rural and refined ambiance.
Gundlach Bundschu is located at the foot of the Mayacamas Mountains, along the Napa-Sonoma border. Named “Rhinefarm” by its founder Jacob Gundlach, the 320-acre estate vineyard is situated on three appellations—Sonoma Valley, Carneros and Napa Valley.
Three generations, four decades and five ranches—the Trione family history runs deep in Sonoma County. Brothers Mark and Vic, with their father, Henry Trione, began vineyard development in the 1970s, farming the best varietals in the Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations.
Driving through the entrance of Benovia Winery on a warm autumn afternoon after the wildfires, you’d never guess this part of the country was making news around the globe 15 days earlier. The sky is wide and blue, the grapevines lush and golden, and the sweet smell of harvest lingers in the air.
Located along St. Helena Highway, Markham Vineyards is one of the oldest wineries in Napa Valley, established by Jean Laurent, an immigrant from Bordeaux, France. Laurent came to California seeking gold during the rush, but instead found his way into the winemaking business.
103 W. Napa St.
Sonoma, CA 95476
Hours: Open daily, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Tasting fees: $20-$40
Wines currently offered: sparkling rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Merlot, red blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Cuvée blend, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot
Appointment necessary: Yes
Pets: Service dogs only.
Heibel Ranch Vineyards
1458 Lincoln Ave., #12
Calistoga, CA 94515
Hours: Open Thurs. through Mon., noon to 5 p.m.; or daily by appointment
Tasting fees: $15 per person, two different options (waived with qualified purchase)
Wines offered: Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lappa’s and Captain Bubba (red blends) and Etzio (Zinfandel dessert wine)
Reservations: See hours above
La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard
3575 Slusser Rd.
Windsor, CA 95492
Hours: Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Tasting fees: $15-$65 depending on tasting experience chosen
Wines offered: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir Rosé, late harvest Gewurztraminer
Reservations: Required for VIP experiences, including vineyard tour, picnic lunches and cheese-and-wine pairings; walk-ins welcome for signature wine flights
The firestorm was declared fully contained two weeks later on Nov. 6. In that time, nearly 78,000 acres were destroyed; 180,000 people were evacuated (including 300 inmates in the North County jail); ...
On a bend in the Russian River with the Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Chalk Hill American Viticulture Areas on its periphery, Healdsburg has much to offer. It’s a magnet for those seeki...
U.S. brick-and-mortar retailers are in retreat. Pier 1 Imports is planning on closing more than 140 stores and Z Gallery is shuttering 44 locations. Sears filed for bankruptcy, joining Gymboree and Pa...