Sonoma wineries

Hello. I’m a regular posters on the LA board (since I live in LA), and my partner and I are starting to plan a visit to Sonoma. I’m not a big wine drinker (and I’m not very knowledgable about wines), but I thought it’d be fun to dedicate a day to visiting just a few wineries while we’re up there (we’ll be in the area for about 3 days).

Are there any recommendations on approachable wineries for the beginner (my partner is more knowledgeable about wines but not by that much)? Places that have a winery tour would be a plus (unless they all do).

Any recs for places to eat would also be great. Any type of food is fine (as long as it’s something that’s easily replicated in LA). We’d like to keep it under $50pp (w/o including alcohol or tax/tip). Celebrity-chef connections are totally unimportant to us.


We could list a couple of hundred wineries, but I’d suggest Ravenswood, Ridge, Ferrari-Carano, J, Jordan, Gloria Ferrer and maybe Robert Young as a mixed cross-section. If you’re really looking to delve deep into boutique wineries, this topic on Wineberserkers is a very good, if long, tutorial.

Even information like that is super helpful. :slight_smile: Thanks for the link; will be reading it more closely while planning.

We’re members at Sojourn Cellars in Sonoma. They offer a nice variety of well-priced Chard, Pinot Noir, and Cabs. The tasting room is in Downtown Sonoma, and is within walking distance of a lot of good restaurants. I’ve never been to the restaurants because we usually just grab sandwiches and head back to Napa at the end of the day. Wish I could offer you more…we have yet to explore Sonoma. We spend most of our time in Napa when we head up there.

Not sure if you’re staying in the city of Sonoma or elsewhere in the county, but there’s quite a bit to see, do, eat and drink in the whole of the county and adjacent areas. Three days in Sonoma will probably leave you folks wanting to return.

You mentioned you folks aren’t big wine drinkers. I think the wineries are a great way to seek out what you folks might be be drawn to, as most common varietals and blends can be found there. in fact, there can be so much, that you might have palate and varietal overload.

I would suggest doing a little homework before heading up there. Read up on wine, the characteristics and flavor profiles of the more common varietalss, and the wines that the Sonoma area is known for.

You are in close proximity to The Wine House - they have an automated tasting room where you taste wines via a card you charge up. The staff are very helpful - explain you are novices and ask a staff member to select a number of wines that they have in the room that would represent a good cross-section of what’s found up in Sonoma. Cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, Chardonnay and sauvignon blanc are probably the bulk of what will be pointed out.

You seem to have a pretty broad palate for food, but if you are typically drawn to e.g., seafood or lamb and beef, pick your favorite dishes, see what wines pair well with those dishes and you will probably see particular varietals or blends consistently come up as pairing recs. You can then target those wines and the wineries that produce/well known for them.

Poster @Jason is an oenophile like no other. His advice would be gold. I learned so much from him on Chowhound. He does post here as well - not sure how active he’s been.

We tend to gravitate toward the areas more west of Sonoma - it’s varied in geography, diverse and beautiful. This part of the county has fewer well known wineries, but one scores high with us: Merry Edwards is known as, “The Queen of Pinot.” She has a long history in wine, in the area and has a strong reputation of consistently producing solid pinot noirs, sauvignon blancs and chardonnays. These varietals are associated with the Russian River area. If you are not familiar with the Russian River, spend some time looking up the various aspects, importance of and towns on and near this beautiful river. My wife’s favorite two wines are pinot noir and sauvignon blanc, so Merry Edwards is a slam dunk.

Merry Edwards does truly awesome Pinot Noir but her Sauvignon Blanc IS probably the best you’ll ever taste. Don’t miss it if you go.

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I’ll let others talk wine with you. Our must-not-miss for food in Sonoma is La Salette, Portuguese inspired. We love it there. It’s right off the east side of the square, down a short alley (lined with shops). They have indoor and outdoor seating. Very charming and we adore the food.

Here’s a little write-up from CH from six years ago. It’s only gotten better.

And if you like to cook there’s a terrific kitchen store on the west side of the square. As has been mentioned, the square itself has loads of shopping/dining/wining opportunities. Enjoy.

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Wellington in Glen Ellen.

Benziger’s wine is nothing special, but they have a great tour and beautiful grounds.

A few more of note: Scherrer, Acorn, Joseph Swan, Coturri (natural wines), one owned by a friend - Inspiration Vineyards… in the same mini wine ‘ghetto’ as Carol Shelton (both in Santa Rosa).

Roche winery has a tasting room just off the square in Sonoma (on the northwest corner), they do barrel tastings as well as tastings from their current releases. It’s a family-run winery and my wife and I really love everything they make (primarily pinots, chardonnays, syrahs, and a red wine blend called El Nino Vino that is pretty tasty). The tasting room staff that we’ve interacted with are friendly and informative.

Just north of Healsdberg, there is Simi Winery, you may want to check them out. For a much smaller, family-run (again) winery, check out Meeker, in Geyserville.

I’d second the rec for La Salette, for dinner.

If you want to take a break from the many fantastic wineries up there, and enjoy contemporary art, I can’t recommend a visit to the DiRosa nature preserve and art collection, enough:

Have fun !

+1 for Meeker. They’ve been great for many years. Last time I went their tasting room was in an old bank building, in Geyserville, with a walk-in safe at the rear. According to their site it still is. Fun!!

Truth be told, you’d need a couple of weeks to visit all the good wineries in the Sonoma area alone.

Thanks for all the recs so far! I’m at work right now, so I’ll read them all more closely when I’m at home.

I should’ve also probably included more details. Partner and I are taking a one-week road trip. Sonoma will come at the end of visits to Sequoia, Mammoth, and Yosemite. Since it’s the end of the trip and since we have no goals but to simply relax and have a good time, we’re just looking for some ideas to help give a tiny bit of structure for our few days there. We’re not at all under the impression that we could do justice to Sonoma in those few days, and we’re totally fine ending the trip feeling that we want to see more (that’s the best way to feel about a place after visiting, no?). :slight_smile:


Where are you staying?

Heh, good question. We’re shooting for somewhere around Aug 13th or so, and we’re planning our trip chronologically… Which means we haven’t decided yet! Will probably choose a place by this weekend.

Given the other places you’re going, the Paso Robles wine country would be a lot less driving.

Sonoma County’s a huge place. Staying around Glen Ellen or Kenwood will put you more out among the vineyards. The city of Sonoma is nice but pretty built up.


It’s a bit farther up in Sonoma, but we stayed at a great place in Guernville called Boon Hotel. It would be a perfect spot to slow down for the end of the trip. They have bikes that you can borrow and ride 5-10min to a magnificent Redwood forest, plus an “honor bar” at the pool. And there’s a small lil town with a couple of great restaurants, namely Sea Metal (oyster bar) and Nimble & Finn’s (ice cream). Plus the restaurant at the hotel is supposed to be pretty good.

I also think that @robert’s Paso Robles idea would be a good one if you wanted to lessen the drive home. Not wine, but if you/partner like beer at all, the Barrelworks room at Firestone Walker has a bunch of really great sours and strange ish beers that aren’t widely available.

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Once you’re a couple of blocks from the square it’s quiet. We love it cause it’s not as busy as Napa.

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Quiet but urban / suburban.

In Guerneville you can rent places on the river, though August is peak season. Nice tasting rooms nearby in Forestville and Graton.

I guess we travel in different directions than you. We see farms and ranches and wineries within minutes of the square. Side note: we’ve been house exchanging with a family in Sonoma (3/4 mile from the square) for a few years now so perhaps our perspective is more as a ‘local.’ When we come down, we’re there for a week or two.