(Last updated on March 21, 2017) With over 400 wineries, Sonoma County is one of California’s most prolific wine-producing regions. Top-notch Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – which thrive in the cool oceanic microclimate – along with farm-to-table dining, pristine hiking and cycling, and rustic charm, draw visitors from all over the world. Discover why Wine Enthusiast named Sonoma one of the 10 Best Wine Travel Destinations.
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1. Arista Healdsburg. Family-owned Arista focuses on soft, elegant Russian River Valley Pinot Noir that reflects the unique terroir of the regions from which the fruit is sourced. Pros have been watching Arista’s wines since the arrival of talented winemaker Matt Courtney (formerly of Helen Turley’s Marcassin Vineyard) in 2013. In addition to Pinot Noir, enjoy samples of Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Gewurtztraminer at the intimate tasting room surrounded by a scenic Japanese garden.
2. Dutton Goldfield Sebastopol. Pinot Noir and aromatic Chardonnay are the mainstays of Dutton Goldfield. Stop by the tasting bar and enjoy the wine and cheese flight – a tasting of limited production wines paired with local artisan cheeses – or the “Beast and Pinot” flight – a tasting of a range of Pinot Noir paired with charcuterie.
3. Gary Farrell Healdsburg. Gary Farrell crafts superb Russian River Valley Pinot Noir with lush fruit and complexity. Although Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are at the core of the winemaking program, Gary Farrell also produces limited quantities of Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Zinfandel. Enjoy sweeping views of the Russian River Valley from the tasting bar, or book a more in-depth tasting of six wines on the outdoor terrace in warmer months or fireside in the colder season.
4. Hartford Forestville. Hartford crafts classic, single-vineyard Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and robust old vine Zinfandel (which pairs beautifully with dark chocolate). A Pinot Noir lover’s paradise, Hartford offers upwards of ten different selections in a given year. Enjoy a tasting while taking in spectacular views of the vineyards from the patio.
5. Kistler Sebastopol. Kistler’s world class, single-vineyard Chardonnay rivals the finest producers in Burgundy. The Pinot Noir is similarly magnificent. Both are available for purchase exclusively to their mailing list members. Those wanting to try before they invest can make a reservation for a special visit to Kistler’s Trenton Roadhouse for a taste.
6. Paul Hobbs Sebastopol. Paul Hobbs crafts small production, vineyard designate Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet using minimally-invasive winemaking techniques. The result is a pure and authentic expression of the varietal. Set aside two hours around lunch time for the “Small Bites Experience” at Lindsay House. You will be treated to spot-on pairings like Cabernet with wood oven roasted lamb, and Chardonnay with pan-seared halibut. Don’t miss selections of Malbec from Paul’s Argentina collection.
7. Porter Creek Healdsburg. A stop by the charming roadside tasting room of Porter Creek, a father and son operation, is a must-do. They produce organic, hillside, vineyard designate Burgundian and Rhone varietals – Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Carignane, Syrah and Zinfandel. The vineyards are sustainably farmed (they even use vehicles fueled by organic vegetable oil), with an emphasis on biodynamic practices.
8. Rochioli Healdsburg. The Rochioli family has been growing grapes in the same vineyard for 80 years. Indeed, they were pioneers in planting Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley in the late 60s, selling off most of the fruit (including to venerable producers like Williams Selyem) until producing their own wine in the mid-80s. Rochioli offers silky Pinot Noir and crisp old vine Sauvignon Blanc, among other varietals. Stop by the tasting room to sample a range of Estate wines.
9. Sojourn Sonoma. Sojourn – founded in 2001 – is a relative newcomer, producing critically acclaimed artisan Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet. Schedule a tasting at the charming downtown Sonoma tasting salon near the historic town square. You will appreciate Sojourn’s commitment to high-quality wine in a pretension-free, friendly atmosphere.
10. Williams Selyem Healdsburg. From its beginnings in 1979 in a garage in Forestville, Williams Selyem has achieved renown as the producer of some of the most highly-coveted Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. They also produce lovely Chardonnay, Zinfandel and late harvest selections. Tastings of these micro-quantity wines are reserved for list members, but you can sign up here.
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