Intro to Wine Tasting Tour in Sonoma County
Lush vineyards surround the countryside of Sonoma County. From the salty climate of the coast through the foggy Russian River Valley and the pleasant hills of Sonoma and Healdsburg.
A more casual wine tasting region than Napa, it includes over 400 wineries and 17 distinctive appellations with wide ranges of soil types, vines, and climates. Popular varietals in the area are Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Sparkling wine.
A growing interest in craft beer is also prevalent in the area, with world renowned breweries such as Lagunitas, Russian River Brewing Company, and Bear Republic Brewing Company.
The best reason to visit is Sonoma County’s rich agricultural offerings—local artisan cheese, farm-to-table restaurants, and olive groves with luscious pressed olive oil available each year; it is the culinary capital of Northern California wine country and not only that you can visit and experience several wineries at sonoma
During the summer and autumn, weekends are filled with exciting events; live music festivals, library tastings, film festivals, open studios with vineyard landscape painters during Art at the Source or Art Trails, hot air balloon excursions, the Seafood, the Art and Wine Festival, and the signature Sonoma County event—the Wine and Food Affair, where over 75 participating wineries come together with food and wine pairings.
Healdsburg offers clusters of tasting rooms with Sonoma wines, and is a good place to start when touring the region. Don’t miss the Russian River wineries, with tranquil drives and cool climate grapes, and stop by the Sonoma Plaza for dining and museums explaining the area’s history. Vineyards were first planted in the early 1800s by Russian fur traders and Spanish settlers, primarily at Mission San Francisco Solano, and remained prevalent in the area due to ideal growing conditions.
With an overwhelming number of wineries in Sonoma, touring can be daunting, so we have put together a list of exemplary locations that represent the area, and are enjoyable to visit.
Wait until after May for beautiful weather, and the autumnal colors of October in vineyards are a sight to see.
B.R. Cohn (Sonoma)
The winery was founded by Doobie Brothers manager Bruce Cohn in 1984, and is known for consistent award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, including their Special Selection, which is produced from the finest vines on the property every few years. They are a hotspot on Sunday afternoons, with local Tomales Bay oysters on the BBQ, live music and outdoor wine tasting on their olive grove shaded lawns, weather permitting.
Reserve their Estate Cabernet and Chocolate pairing flight for a unique tasting experience that showcases their signature wine with artisan treats. The B.R. Cohn Gourmet Shop offers tasty snacks and an extensive collection of olive oil, both harvested by hand on the property and locally sourced, and barrel-aged vinegars imported from Modena, Italy that are a feast for the senses.
Located off Sonoma Highway in Glen Ellen, they are a brief, spectacular drive through gently rolling hills and arching groves from Sonoma or Santa Rosa. Looking for additional wine tasting in the area? Try Imagery Estate Winery a few minutes away, for a wide selection of unusual varietals for Sonoma County, such as Muscato or Tempranillo, and Matanzas Creek Winery if you are fond of Merlot.
Lynmar Estate (Sebastopol)
The Russian River Valley’s cool climate enhances Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines of their Quail Hill vineyard, which is sustainably farmed using gravity flow technology. The winery added additional vines on the Sonoma Coast and continues to work tirelessly at improving the winemaking of Lynmar Estate. Tended by a year-round vineyard crew, Wine Spectator called it one of the best Pinot Noir vineyards in Sonoma County.
While traditional tastings are available, Lynmar’s strength is in farm-to-table meals that can be savored from estate-grown and locally sourced ingredients. The Lynmar Lunch is three courses paired with their wines; for a truly unique experience, reserve their Pinot & Pizza with brick fired pie designed to be enhanced by their wine. Sustainability is a core value of the winery, visible in their farming practices, organic vegetable gardens and respect for fauna on the estate.
Located in Sebastopol, surrounded by Russian River wineries, it is near Santa Rosa, partway out to the coast.
J Vineyards & Winery (Healdsburg)
Celebrated for its delicious sparkling wines created with a traditional method, J has its roots with Judy Jordan, who arrived in the Russian River area fulfilling a quest to find the best soil and climate for her dream winery, which developed into a showcase for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and sparkling wines.
Tour behind the scenes to learn how the fermentation process unfolds with the vineyard Tour & Tasting, relax on the tranquil terrace during the summer for a scrumptious food and wine pairing of crafted appetizers alfresco, or join the vibrant J Bubble Room crowd to for a five course pairing with wines hand chosen by the winemaker. Executive Chef Carl Shelton’s creations are meticulously crafted: “I like to showcase our location, but also add my own signature elements of surprise.”
Located in Healdsburg, conveniently near the highway, other wineries such as Rodney Strong , and the clusters of tasting rooms in downtown Healdsburg, it is a vibrant gathering place for wine lovers around the North Bay.
Siduri (Santa Rosa, Healdsburg)
Luxurious award-winning burgundy wine is made from vineyards up and down the West Coast, chosen by Siduri by the acre, rather than in bulk, for wine that is minimally processed, allowing the natural flavor to shine. Their philosophy is that “the best Pinot Noir expresses its origins.”
Visit the Santa Rosa Warehouse for an urban wine tasting that compares wine side-by-side from vineyards such as Willamette Valley in Oregon, Sonoma County, Santa Lucia Highlands, Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast to taste the distinct features of each region. Enjoy a more in depth wine and food tasting of delicious appetizers at the Healdsburg Wine Lounge, which includes cuisine such as Dungeness crab rolls, wild mushroom chili and exotic alligator. For a casual finish, enjoy their on draft local micro-brews.