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With over 450 working wineries, Sonoma is unquestionably the beating heart of the USA’s winemaking industry and a must-visit destination for wine lovers everywhere. Touring this Northern California county’s many open tasting rooms and sampling their wares is a glorious way to spend an afternoon (or much longer), and doing it with the help of a tour guide takes the guesswork out of the equation. An added bonus: tours usually save you the trouble of designating a driver, so everyone in your group can sip to their heart’s content! If you need some help finding the best one for you and your crew, here are some of the best wine tours that Sonoma has to offer.
Best Small Group Tour: Northern Sonoma Small Group Wine Tour
Professional wine educators are the tour guides for this full-day, small-group tour that visits four diverse wineries in Northern Sonoma, from major producers to boutique farms. You’ll see vineyards, production rooms and have plenty of opportunity for tasting. With the tour size capped at ten, personal attention from your guide is ensured. The tour stops for lunch in quaint Healdsburg, where guests can have their pick of restaurants, bistros and picnic suppliers (lunch is not included). Pickup and drop-off can be arranged from most Sonoma County hotels in advance.
Best Value Tour: Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley
Take a ride around picturesque Sonoma in this wheeled trolley, built to resemble San Francisco’s famous open-air cable cars, for a lovely scenic day-long tour. Enjoy guided narration from an expert local guide as you take in the scenery and stop and enjoy tours and tastings at four different family-owned wineries (tasting fees not included). A delicious lunch is provided by local bistro The Girl and The Fig and served family picnic-style. The tour begins and ends at Sonoma Plaza in downtown Sonoma.
Best Tour of Lesser-Known Wineries: Hidden Wineries Tour of Napa and Sonoma
Want to get off the beaten path? Let your expert guide zip you around in a comfy, air-conditioned minivan, visiting family-run vineyards, biodynamic and organic outfits, and other wineries that you may not have heard of but are creating some of the most delicious and exciting wines in the region. Because the group size is small, if you have specific preferences, your guide can take these into account and rearrange the tour on the fly. A light picnic lunch of a salad and a sandwich are included in the cost of your tour, as is hotel pick-up and drop-off in Napa or Sonoma.
Best Limo Tour: 6-Hour Private Napa or Sonoma Limousine Wine Tour
Gather up your besties and tour wine country in style in a sleek limousine or elegant town car. A tour concierge will help you plan your itinerary in advance, including pre-booking tastings (tasting fees are not included) and any other reservations you might need. The limo, stocked with champagne, croissants and strawberries, will pick you up at your hotel and whisk you off for a day of carefree sipping and nibbling in comfortable luxury.
Best Segway Tour: Sonoma County Wine Segway Tour
You might think that Segway tours are just for cities, but these little two-wheeled vehicles are a lovely way to see some of Sonoma’s gorgeous countryside, as well. Start your day with a quick Segway lesson from your tour guide and then zoom off to the first of two separate winery visits, plus a tour and tasting at a local artisanal cheese factory. A picnic lunch with a spread of locally-sourced goodies is included. And yes, the Segways have some storage space — enough for two to three wine bottles, should you want to do a bit of buying!
Best Bike Tour: Sonoma Valley Wine Country Bike Tour
If bicycles are more your style, consider this tour, which winds through a handful of Sonoma’s loveliest wineries on a 12-mile-ish circular route that starts and ends in downtown Sonoma. Bikes are provided, as is a tasty picnic lunch, and a tour guide will join you to point out locations of interest and explain some of the region's history and the winemaking process. Should you wish to purchase wine at any of your stops, transportation can be arranged, or your tour guide can help you arrange to ship it back home.
Best Downtown Sonoma Tour: Sonoma Plaza Food and Wine Walking Tour
This three-hour walking tour offers a fun way to get a quick taste of a huge variety of Sonoma’s finest wines and local foods. A tour guide will lead you and your small group through the Sonoma Plaza area, making stops at four of the finest local restaurants and an artisanal chocolatier, where you’ll taste gourmet locally-crafted delicacies and many, many wines, all while learning about the history of the area and the latest take on the culinary scene. It’s a particularly nice way to get the lay of the land before you start heading out of the downtown area and visiting the wineries themselves, as your knowledgeable guide will be full of expert tips.
Best Combo Tour: Small Group Muir Woods and Sonoma Wine Tour
This packed, full-day tour starts with a pickup at your San Francisco hotel in a biofuel bus, which will take you across the Golden Gate Bridge to the stunning Muir Woods for a gentle morning hike. From there, you’ll zip up to Sonoma for guided tastings at several wineries and lunch (not included) at one of Sonoma Plaza’s many delicious restaurant offerings. On the way back into town to drop you back at your hotel, the bus stops at the Marin Headlands for a spectacular view of San Francisco over the water.
Best Shore Excursion: Napa and Sonoma Ultimate Wine Tasting Full-Day Tour
Popping into San Francisco aboard a cruise ship? Consider this shore excursion designed just for you. (Non-cruisers are welcome to partake as well.) Ships in San Francisco dock just a short walk from the Fisherman’s Wharf meeting point for this tour, where you’ll board your comfy coach for a packed day of wine tasting and fine dining. This guided tour stops at the Madonna Estate, Sutter Home and Sebastiani Vineyards for tours and tasting, and makes a stop in either downtown Sonoma or Yountville for lunch, which can be included for an additional fee. At the end of the day, you’ll be returned to your ship. This excursion comes with a full guarantee of on-time drop-off, as well as a cancellation policy, should your ship be delayed to port.