Sonoma County wineries are open for outdoor tastings. Here are a few recommendations of tasting rooms to visit right now — including special Valentine’s Day events. Please call ahead before you visit. Click through the above gallery for a peek at the wineries.
FEATURED: Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery
The Fort Ross-Seaview AVA is one of Sonoma County’s smallest, with fewer than 600 planted acres, located on steep coastal ridges inland from the ocean with elevations ranging from 920 to 1,800 feet. These slopes produce some of the finest cool-climate grapes in the county, though Fort Ross winery owners Lester and Linda Schwartz were warned decades ago that great fruit would likely not flourish in such foggy conditions. Proving the naysayers wrong, they carved out 53 acres of vineyards planted to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and, in a nod to their South African roots, Pinotage.
The winery was closed for a time in August while a nearby wildfire was brought under control. “We were very fortunate and are immensely grateful for the firefighters who held the line and prevented the fire from reaching the property,” explains vice president Johanna Bernstein. The tasting room reopened as quickly as possible, offering samples of four estate-grown wines together with a pairing of charcuterie or artisanal cheeses, with house-made morsels that might include duck with dried sour-cherry terrine, local rabbit rillette, and marinated vegetables ($45).
On Valentine’s Day weekend, along with the usual wine-and-food pairing expect a welcoming taste of the winery’s limited production Sea Stars Sparkling Blanc de Noir, made from estate-grown Pinot, as well as sweet treats to take home.
15725 Meyers Grade Rd., Jenner, 707-847-3460 fortrossvineyard.com. By appointment only, Friday through Monday. Check website for hours and reservations
Abbot’s Passage Winery & Mercantile
The tasting room that spotlights the work of Katie Bundschu, the first female winemaker in her six-generation California wine family, recently moved from downtown Sonoma to this spacious location which once housed Valley of the Moon Winery. Bundschu is grafting and crossing vines from the property’s historic Zinfandel vineyard to make completely new varietals for future vintages. Wines by Bundschu you can enjoy now include Sightline, a Chenin Blanc-Verdejo blend; Redshift, a mix of Zinfandel, Merlot, and Pinot Noir; and Tri Point, a blend of Viognier and Syrah. The $40 tasting is available with food pairings if you choose.
777 Madrone Road, Glen Ellen, 707-939-3017, abbotspassage.com
Black Knight Vineyards
In 2007, the Black family bought 15 acres of vineyards in the Bennett Valley AVA and replanted them to cool-climate varietals. Since then, the family has added many more acres of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and less-common grapes such as Gamay and Ploussard. They also make sparkling wine, with a “bubble bar” as part of the Black Knight tasting room that opened in downtown Petaluma last summer. “The turnout by locals has been great, and the wine is flowing,” says owner Lexine Black. “Nearly all of our wines are estate-grown and produced, and we bottle about 1,500 cases. We expect to release our newest rosé the weekend of Valentine’s Day.” Choose from the standard tasting of five wines ($20), a vertical tasting of Chardonnay ($35), or a sparkling wine flight.
155 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma, 707-278-6877, blackknightvineyards.com
Owner Lloyd Davis has a reputation for creating an enjoyable tasting experience, recently verified when Corner 103 was named the best tasting room in the nation by 10Best, a travel guide published by USA Today. The by-reservation-only tasting ($20) might include samples of five limited-production wines such as sparkling rosé, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Malbec, and a Marsanne- Roussanne blend. New releases likely to be poured this month include the 2018 Knights Valley Primitivo, 2018 Sonoma Valley Zinfandel, 2017 Dry Creek Valley Petite Sirah, and the 2018 Sonoma Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.
103 W. Napa St., Sonoma, 707-931-6141, corner103.com
Davis Family Vineyards
Overlooking the Russian River, the setting of this tasting room is only a few blocks from downtown Healdsburg. The excellent Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah produced by Guy Davis have made this a must-visit. The Davis family also bottles Chardonnay, Roussanne, and a Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc blend, and they received two gold medals for their Pinot in the 2020 North Coast Wine Challenge. Tasting appointments are recommended on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday ($20).
52 Front St., Healdsburg, 707-433-3858, davisfamilyvineyards.com
Owned by vintner Jean-Charles Boisset, DeLoach sources its fruit from many local vineyards, including Chardonnay from the Ritchie Vineyard, one of the oldest in the Russian River Valley, and the Saitone Vineyard, where the average age of the vines is 100-plus years. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are primarily bottled here, but Zinfandel is also produced. The Amphora line includes Carignane and the white Italian grape Ribolla Gialla. A seated tasting of four wines is $20; add cheese or charcuterie for two, or a boxed lunch from the Oakville Grocery ($30 each). Weather permitting, take a self-guided tour through the estate’s organic and biodynamic farm.
1791 Olivet Road, Santa Rosa, 707-755-3300, deloachvineyards.com
When grapegrower Steve Dutton teamed with winemaker Dan Goldfield in 1998, they started a label known for world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, along with Zinfandel, Syrah, and Riesling. Select the basic tasting of five wines, or choose a four-taste all-Pinot ($30 each). Wine-and-cheese pairings ($35) feature seasonally selected wines. The grapes are sourced mostly from the cool climates of the Petaluma Gap AVA and the Green Valley district of the Russian River Valley AVA. “Dan is an outdoor enthusiast who’s discovered many great vineyards while riding his bike around the region,” says general manager Valerie Wathen. “He seeks out the special microclimates in vineyards and says, ‘I want to make wine from there.’”
3100 Gravenstein Highway N., Sebastopol, 707-823-3887, duttongoldfield.com
Iron Horse Vineyards
Tastings at this house of sparkling wine are offered four times daily, and bottle service is also available for guests who reserve a table. The winery has partnered with Big Bottom Market to deliver prepared meals that guests can order in advance. “In January, we’ll release two special bottles of bubbly for visitors,” adds Ariana Chapanar, tasting room host. “The first is our Chinese cuvée, which we produce to commemorate Chinese New Year. The other is Commander’s Palace, celebrating Mardi Gras and named for the iconic restaurant in New Orleans. It’s the private label we make for the restaurant, and they allocate 400 cases back to us to share with our guests.”
9786 Ross Station Road, Sebastopol, 707-887-1507, ironhorsevineyards.com
Tom Meadowcroft has the ideal name for a wine producer: “meadow” means a fertile field, and “croft” refers to a cultivated area. He bottles several whites and reds, including Sauvignon Blanc, Colombard, Viognier, Roussanne, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Wine by the glass or bottle is available to-go without reservations (a $12 snack box can be added), or a seated wine-and-food bites option ($30) can be reserved. A taste of four wines together with a picnic lunch can also be arranged ($40), or a Pinot tasting with light bites ($50), and a blending and tasting experience ($105).
23574 Arnold Drive (in Cornerstone Sonoma), Sonoma, 707-934-4090, meadowcroftwines.com
Roger Roessler Wines
The signature wine created by this small producer is Pinot Noir, including its popular Black Pine Pinot. Additional varietals are Chardonnay, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Carignane, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a red Bordeaux-style blend. Three tastings are offered: four samples of single-vineyard Pinots of different vintages and AVAs ($15), four Rhône varietals, or a combo of five Pinots and Rhône wines ($12 each). Wines by the glass are also poured. Monthly case sales are offered in January and February, when visitors can expect to save at least 45%. “As a small passion-project type of winery,” says Ethan Glago, director of hospitality, “we’re making wine we love to drink, and we’re all about small quantity and high quality. In the past year our Pinots have received seven double-gold medals and 10 gold medals.”
654 Broadway, Sonoma, 707-933-1330, rogerroesslerwines.com
Sangiacomo Family Wines
This tasting room operated by the legendary Sangiacomo grape-growing family opened last summer to showcase their own line of wines, in production since 2016. The spot launched with a soft opening, says director of hospitality Meghan Delzell, then quickly became a popular spot for its tasting of five current releases, such as Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and a selection of single-vineyard wines ($30). “Our beautiful terrace has a great view, and visitors are loving being here. Hospitality is so much about the experience, and to engage with the host and the property,” Delflight zell says. Now producing 1,000 cases annually, Delzell says the goal is to increase production by 10% every year.
21545 Broadway, Sonoma, 707-934-8445, sangiacomowines.com
Set amid 400 acres, this long-standing winery is prized for its Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc. The Pinot and Chardonnay picked up several gold medals in the 2020 North Coast Wine Challenge. Sonoma-Cutrer tends 270 acres of premium Chardonnay vineyards, and the area around its tasting room offers lovely views beyond the croquet courts. The standard tasting ($20) features four samples.
4401 Slusser Road, Windsor, 707-237-3489, sonomacutrer.com
With two locations in downtown Healdsburg, Williamson can offer several tiers of tastings, such as the sampling of four wines with cheese and food bites ($20). The Icon wineand- food pairing ($50); the Meritage Bordeaux tasting paired with food ($75); and the tasting of such Rhônestyle varietals as Grenache, Shiraz, Roussanne, and Viognier ($65) can all be reserved. “We’ve been consistently full at both locations during the week, and weekends are much busier,” says marketing associate Rachel Kualii. “Reservations are necessary because space is limited and in demand.”
134 Matheson St. and 18 Matheson St., Healdsburg, 707-433-1500, williamsonwines.com
Editor’s Note: Travel, dining and wine tasting can be complicated right now. Use our inspirational ideas to plan ahead for your next outing, be it this week or next year. If you visit restaurants, wineries, and other businesses during the pandemic, remember to call ahead, make reservations, wear a mask and social distance.