Guide to Wineries and Wine Events in Sonoma County
The enticing delights of wine country are just an hour’s drive north of San Francisco in lush and bountiful Sonoma County. Home to 60,000 acres of vineyards, more than 425 wineries, and 17 distinct American Viticultural Areas (known as AVAs or appellations), Sonoma County makes the perfect wine country addition to your visit to San Francisco. Whether you’re a relative beginner or an experienced wine enthusiast, there are many options to choose from when creating your ideal wine adventure in Sonoma County. Here’s a quick overview of a few of the possibilities.
Caves provide ideal chilly-humid conditions for storing wine barrels during the aging process. They also make a great place to tour and taste, and Sonoma County offers some of the best wine caves around.
Free cave tours are offered twice daily at Alexander Valley Vineyards, where a 25,000-square-foot cavern carved deep into the hillside holds 10,000 barrels. The recently restored champagne-style cellars at Buena Vista Winery, California’s oldest commercial winery, actually have Historic Landmark status. And the deep, dark volcanic wine caves are a centerpiece at Hans Fahden Vineyards and Winery. Of course, these are just a few of the many distinctive Sonoma County wine caves and cellars where you can tour and taste.
Sipping at the Top
If you prefer a gorgeous view while you sip, Sonoma County has many amazing choices. Take a personal vineyard and winery tour (reservations required) at BobDog Wines & Sky Pine Vineyards. Perched 2,000 feet above the Alexander Valley, this is Sonoma County’s highest winery, with stunning views. Known for “the most beautiful view in Sonoma County,” Paradise Ridge Winery hosts its popular Wines & Sunsets in Paradise on Wednesday evenings, mid-May to October. And the hilltop chateau tasting room at Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery offers stunning views over a natural amphitheater of mountains along the eastern edge of the Russian River Valley. These are just two examples of the many Sonoma County wineries with amazing views.
Delicious Wine and Food Pairings
Sipping premium wines and nibbling gourmet goodies can be even more delightful when enhanced by the perfect ambiance, and Sonoma County wineries deliver a variety of special settings to enjoy the fruit of the vine and garden. One of Sonoma County’s first wineries to offer upscale food pairings, the elegant Bubble Room at J Vineyard & Winery features a delicious multi-course tasting menu. And the 90-minute, multi-course seated tasting at St. Francis Winery & Vineyards is so delightful; it was named the number one restaurant nationwide on Open Table in 2013 and 2015. Many other Sonoma County wineries also offer delicious and unique food and wine pairings.
Actually in the Vineyard
While driving, biking or walking by row after row of grapevines makes for wonderful views, it’s even better when you can get in the vineyard yourself — and Sonoma County offers a variety of ways to do that.
The Sonoma Vineyard Adventures program lets you take a self-guided walk on easy pathways through vineyards at participating wineries. Or sit back, relax and let two big, beautiful horses pull you through vineyards on a five-mile tour with The Wine Carriage. Perhaps you’d like to ride a mountain bike on gravel vineyard roads on the guided Cycling in the Vineyard tour by Sonoma Valley Bike Tours? Or maybe you’d prefer to ride the bio-diesel-tractor-powered tram through the bio-dynamic vineyards at Benziger Family Winery? Learn more about the various methods for exploring Sonoma Wine Country.
Celebrating the Fruit of the Vine
Sonoma County hosts a number of events all year round that feature wine, food, music, art and a lot of fun.
On a January weekend, meet winemakers, tour wineries, and sample wine from more than 100 participating wineries throughout the Russian River area at the annual Winter Wineland. In February, sample wines from the barrel on the Wine Road in the Russian River Valley. And in April the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley host Passport to Dry Creek Valley, showcasing wine paired with food, plus entertainment, as well as special bottlings available only during Passport.
Warm weather brings the Summer Concert Series at Rodney Strong Vineyards, offering music and wine all summer long. In August, music is also a strong draw at the Seafood, Art and Wine Festival in the town of Bodega, about five miles inland from the Pacific Coast.
Over Labor Day weekend, Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center hosts Taste of Sonoma, one of the biggest celebrations each year that features hundreds of wines, local chefs, and the Sonoma County way of life, all with a backdrop of musical inspiration. A few weeks later, the Sonoma County Wine Auction brings together wine superstars, local celebrity chefs, and honored guests with imaginative and indulgent auction lots, highlighted by exquisite wine and cuisine, and all to raise money for Sonoma County nonprofits.
October brings Pinot on the River, a fun-filled weekend focused on Pinot Noir in the wine country town of Healdsburg. In November, enjoy a weekend of wine and food pairings in the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River Valleys during the Wine & Food Affair.
And Sonoma County wineries typically go all out for the holidays, with bright lights, colorful decorations, music and events like the Heart of Sonoma Valley Holiday Open House.