The word is out: Sonoma County is just as cool as Napa. With more than 450 wineries, many of them family-owned, biodynamic, or both, Sonoma offers world-class winemaking that is reminiscent of Napa's early days. Most visitors will also find that Sonoma, with its quaint towns like Healdsburg, is less commercial, more relaxed, and often less expensive than its neighbor across the ridge. Sonoma's diverse topography, with a Pacific coastline, coastal fog, and rolling hills, means that the region excels at growing cool-climate grapes like pinot noir and chardonnay. You'll find top-tier examples of both—and many other varietals—spread out among the county's 16 AVA (American Viticultural Areas). There's truly a winery for everyone in Sonoma.
Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens
A Sonoma classic, Kendall-Jackson makes some of the world's best-selling wines—and with good reason. Winemaker Randy Ullom crafts the estate's award-winning chardonnay and other cuvées, which are available to taste in the expansive tasting room. You can also enjoy lunch on the property, or stroll around the on-site culinary garden, 2.5 incredible acres of farm-fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables, all overseen by Tucker Taylor, the former head gardener at Yountville classic the French Laundry. For a truly special experience, attend one of the seasonal wine dinners in the garden that Taylor and the team put on each year.
Family-owned Jordan has been an Alexander Valley fixture since 1972. Known for its European-style cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, the winery is set on 1,200 acres that are mostly left natural, allowing plant and animal life to thrive. Guided hikes through the property are one way for adventurous visitors to explore! Enjoy the $35 library tasting, which includes three wines, an hors d'oeuvre from the chef (often made with ingredients from the on-site garden), a selection of artisan cheeses, and a tasting of Jordan's own extra-virgin olive oil. Members of Jordan's Estate Rewards program have an extra set of unique opportunities available to them, including overnight stays in a plush suite overlooking the winery.
Sonoma-Cutrer makes Burgundian style chardonnay and pinot noir, with a distinctly Sonoma twist. Wine geeks will flourish here: Sonoma-Cutrer's tech-forward winemaking processes include a one-of-a-kind cooling tunnel that keeps the grapes at a consistent temperature during sorting, and a chardonnay barrel room designed to mimic a French cave, with a bare earth floor and—in a modern spin—24 miles of piping to create consistent temperature and humidity levels for optimal aging. Tastings start at just $15, and you can also play croquet, wine in hand, on the estate's pristine front lawn.
In the Dry Creek Valley AVA, just outside of Healdsburg, Quivira makes biodynamic zinfandel, sauvignon blanc, and Rhone varieties. Their Wine Creek Vineyard has created a unique, biologically diverse ecosystem with spawning locations for salmon, healthy beehives, a diverse garden, and cows, chickens, and pigs onsite. The wines are made with minimal intervention, and the winery itself adheres to sustainable practices like composting and solar energy. A $30 estate tasting includes five wines, as well as a sampling of estate-raised charcuterie and other snacks, while the dog-friendly vineyard and adjacents gardens are a great spot for a picnic.
DaVero Farms & Winery
If you prefer Italian-style wines, you'll love DaVero. The winery's focus on Mediterranean varietals means that a tasting here might include crisp Vermentino, fruity primitivo (which you might know as zinfandel), and a dry rosé made from barbera and sangiovese. The vineyards here are left wild, and winemaking is done with a minimalist, low-intervention approach, including natural yeast. A 90-minute tasting, which includes a farm tour, tastes of six wines, and accompanying cheese, charcuterie, and estate-grown olive oil is $45 per person.
Truett Hurst Winery
The quaint Truett Hurst is set along Dry Creek, making it an immediate draw for visitors looking to picnic. Iconic red Adirondack chairs placed along the creek are the winery's most coveted spots, but you can't go wrong anywhere at this rustic property. Planted varietals include petite sirah and zinfandel, with a focus on old-vine zinfandels that give the finished wines elegant and incredibly fruit-forward bones. The $20 tasting includes five to six wines and is set either in the winery's relaxed tasting room, or cozy seating areas along an olive grove.
Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Visitors to Francis Ford Coppola's eponymous Geyserville winery will discover more than just good grapes. Coppola's star-studded film career is on full display here, with a movie gallery displaying memorabilia from the filmmaker. Take a look at Don Corleone’s desk from "The Godfather," and the original car from "Tucker: The Man and His Dream," before starting your tasting. While Coppola makes many different wines, get an authentic taste for the Sonoma terroir with the Sonoma Inclusive Tasting, featuring wines from all areas of Sonoma County. Additional tours and experiences are available for visitors who wish to see the bottling line, swim in the on-site pool, or play a round or two of bocce in the true Italian tradition.
Founded in 2007 by two fourth-generation California farmers, Scribe is an excellent example of Sonoma's new-wave winemakers. Andrew and Adam Mariani grow chardonnay, pinot noir, riesling, and sylvaner on their 40 acres (formerly a turkey farm) and create wines that are funky, earthy, and fresh. Relax on a blanket on the lawn or enjoy a tasting in the 100-year-old restored hacienda, which includes four current-release wines, accompanied by garden snacks, for $70 per person.
La Crema Estate at Saralee's Vineyard
While the acclaimed La Crema label is a relative newcomer to the wine world, their new hub—a multi-level barn dating back to 1900—is not. Visitors to the historic barn can taste La Crema's Burgundy-style wines, including pinot noir and chardonnay, or have the winery arrange a picnic, complete with local cheese and charcuterie in a La Crema-branded picnic basket. If you can't make it out to Windsor, La Crema also has a convivial tasting room in downtown Healdsburg.