The word is out: Sonoma County is a charming destination with an authentically rustic vibe and reasonable prices for accommodations, meals, and wine. Many of Sonoma County's wineries (there are more than 400) are very visitor-friendly, with tours, events, and tasting rooms where you can enjoy (and buy) world-class Sonoma wines, especially Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Some wineries offer overnight accommodations.
How to Make the Most of Wine Tasting in Sonoma
Sonoma County stretches over 60,000 acres and has 18 AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) or wine-growing regions. A reasonable tasting room plan: one or two winery visits in the morning, another two or three in the afternoon. Learn more about Sonoma winery experiences and plan a tasting route at the Sonoma Wines site. Here are 20 of Sonoma's best winery tasting rooms.
Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens
Kendall-Jackson is one of California's most famous wineries, producing beloved Chardonnays and other varietals from grapes grown on its vast estate.
Set in Fulton near Santa Rosa, the Kendall-Jackson property is breathtaking, reminding many visitors of a French wine chateau. It invites them to Sonoma experience involving all the senses: sight, touch, smell, sound, and, of course, taste. Tasting flights at the winery's tasting bar cost $15, with no appointment necessary. (Check the winery's website for coupons). Visitors can also enjoy Wine & Food Pairings with cheese ($30), chocolate ($25), or five Sonoma farm-to-table dishes ($55), such as Sunchoke Soup with Liberty duck confit, designed by Kendall-Jackson's chef. The Garden Tour & Tasting ($25) takes place in the winery's Culinary Garden, and special events may be going on when you visit.
Alexander Valley Vineyards
The Wetzel family has run the 600-acre Alexander Valley Vineyards and conserved its land since 1962, and the family's devotion extends to the winery's visitor-friendly attitude and tasting room It is a green property that strives toward full sustainability. Rare for Sonoma County, there's no charge and no reservation required for wine tastings or for the tour (with barrel tasting) of the underground wine cave. The winery also offers a leisurely wine and cheese tasting, held on the tasting room's scenic deck.
Alexander Valley produces a range of wine varietals and blends. Some are not often seen in Sonoma County, such as Gewürztraminer aromatic white, dry Sangiovese rosé, and a Bordeaux-style blend called Cyrus after the valley's 1840 settler Cyrus Alexander. There's a lot to savor here.
Bacigalupi Vineyards has heritage to spare. It's been in business since 1956 in Sonoma's esteemed Russian River section near the wine-centric town of Healdsburg.
The winery's tasting room is cozy and casual with seating indoors and outdoors under a storybook oak tree. Tastings are offered at the bar on a walk-in basis, and private tastings are by appointment. Everyone wants to taste Bacigalupi's Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and "cool climate Zinfandel." Many tasters order the Baci Board, an assortment of meat and cheese. Check the winery's website for special events such as wine and food pairings and live music.
Benovia Winery was founded in 2005 by husband-and-wife team Joe Anderson and Mary Dewane and is named for their fathers. Mike Sullivan is co-owner and winemaker.
The Russian River Valley winery produces small-batch Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Pinot Noir (whose grapes grow on some of Sonoma County's oldest vines, planted in 1896). Wine critics are fond of Benovia's Pinot and its La Pommeraie Chardonnay.
You can sample them all in Benovia's midcentury-decorated tasting room within the historic Ranch House or on the patio, amidst sweeping views of the vineyards and Mount St. Helena. Tasting room visits are $30 and by appointment only.
Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery
Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery was founded in 1982 in the Russian River Valley. It creates its renowned, small-lot Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from local growers' grapes as well as its own. The winery's Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Chardonnay was named the #1 wine of 2017 by Wine Enthusiast magazine.
Gary Farrell's welcoming tasting rooms, indoors and out, offer three distinctive and sophisticated experiences that range from a food-and-wine pairings to an immersive inspiration tasting led by an estate sommelier.
Hirsch Vineyards is without a doubt one of Sonoma County's iconic Pinot Noir vineyards. Hirsch makes its own Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays and also supplies grapes to some of the county's most famed winemakers.
The Hirsch Tasting Room is in Sonoma County's destination village of Healdsburg in a cozy, convivial space designed by Marie Hirsch. Here you can taste her family's celebrated wines alongside cheese and other foodstuffs proudly made in Sonoma County. Tastings, by reservation only, cost between $50 and $75 and are refundable with purchase of a case of Hirsch wine.
La Crema Estate
La Crema Estate at Saralee's Vineyard in the heart of the Russian River Valley has been the home of the acclaimed La Crema label only since 2016. Yet the winery's hub is a massive, multi-level barn that dates back to 1900. It has housed everything from hops to horses and today hosts sociable wine tastings for La Crema fans.
Tasting experiences range from the no-reservations-required $15 signature tasting to the $150 private picnic led by a La Crema wine educator. The winery also runs a tasting lounge in Healdsburg, with the mood of a convivial wine bar.
Lynmar Estate has come to the attention of oenophiles and wine travelers. It offers one of California's most beautiful tasting rooms with a terrace overlooking Quail Hill Vineyard and the shimmering Laguna de Santa Rosa.
This boutique winery, founded in 1990 by Anisya and Lynn Fritz, produces fewer than 10,000 cases annually of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Rosé. Lynmar's signature wine, Estate Pinot Noir Quail Hill Vineyard, is made from some of the Russian River Valley's oldest and most revered vines.
Wine tasting experiences are by appointment only. Lynmar's Provisions Menu, of small plates designed by winery chef David Frakes, is perfectly paired to the wines. Or you can nibble on Sonoma charcuterie, cheese, and other local treats including the bar's organic popcorn redolent of Estate-grown Meyer Lemon or Blood Orange.
Martinelli Winery & Vineyards
The Martinelli family has been growing grapes and making wine in Sonoma County since the 1880s. Martinelli Winery & Vineyards, in the heart of the Russian River Valley, is a tentpole of Sonoma County's winemaking heritage.
The winery is open seven days a week. Walk-in tastings take place in the winery's historic hop barn, pouring some of Martinelli’s appellation blends of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, all sustainably grown.
Guests can make reservations for varied in-depth tastings of small-lot, single-vineyard wines in the barn or on the vineyard terrace. The private Collector’s Flight showcases Martinelli's smallest-batch and highest-rated wines (95+ points!), accompanied by Sonoma cheeses. The Vineyard Terrace Tasting & Picnic Lunch treats visitors to a tasting of six wines followed by a gourmet box lunch (and more wine).
Moshin Vineyards owner and winemaker Rich Moshin was a math instructor at San Jose State who loved making wine at home. He founded Moshin Vineyards in 1989 in the Russian River viticultural region. His engineering innovation is unique in Sonoma County: a four-tier, downward "gravity flow" winemaking apparatus that controls 28 acres of grapes.
Moshin's proudest creation is Russian River Pinot Noir, but the winery also produces fine Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Rosé, Merlot, Zinfandel, Bordeaux-style blends, and dessert wines. Moshin wines are sought after for their quality and their "punny" labels like Perpetual Moshin, Moshin Potion, and Emoshin.
Moshin's tasting room is as warm as its branding. It's open every day, and the house tasting's $15 fee is waived with a wine purchase. Moshin's private tour and tasting, $30, is by reservation only.
Paul Mathew Vineyards
Paul Mathew Vineyards and its tasting room are in the charming small town of Graton near Bodega Bay on Sonoma County's Pacific coast. Winemaker Mat Gustafson and his wife Barbara practice nature-conserving "low-input winemaking," resulting in ten or so lush red and white wines with great flavor and nuance. The winery's Ruxton Vineyard Pinot Noir is a Sonoma benchmark. (Some Sonoma wine fanciers call Gustafson "the prince of Pinot.")
Paul Mathew's low-key, good-vibe tasting room and inviting patio are open from Thursday to Sunday, and your tasting is free if you buy a bottle.
St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
St. Francis Winery & Vineyards is artisanal: a Certified Sustainable, family-owned winery that hand-crafts lush, elegant, fruit-driven wines from the superior mountain and valley vineyards in Sonoma County's best growing regions.
St. Francis' handsome, Mission-style tasting room pairs its small-production wines with a bucolic, big-picture view. Tastings cover wines from numerous vineyards in the Sonoma Valley, Russian River Valley, and other acclaimed Sonoma County appellations (grape-growing areas). In daily "Swirl, Sip, Enjoy" tastings ($15), the winery's devoted hospitality team works with visitors to customize the perfect tasting for their palates.
The multi-course Wine & Food Pairing ($25) matches executive chef Bryan Jones' small plates with Artisan Collection wines. The seating is communal and party-like, adding up to an unforgettable wine country experience. Reservations are not necessary.
Seghesio Family Vineyards
In Sonoma County, where history is revered, Seghesio Family Vineyards is a legend. It was founded in 1895 by Edoardo Seghesia, a winemaker from Piedmont in northern Italy, and is now in its fifth generation of stewardship. Seghesio is famed for its mainly Italian varietals such as Zinfandel, the grape that Edoardo originally planted.
Guests can enjoy their Seghesio tasting experiences in the Italian-bar-like tasting room or in the inviting grove, with comfortable seating under tall shade trees and bocce courts at the ready. The Old Vine Cellar Flight is an in-depth tasting adventure including Chianti and Zinfandel made from the country's oldest grapevines. Seghesio's legacy is luscious.
Thomas George Estates
Thomas George Estates' father-and-son owners, Thomas and Jeremy Baker, describe their product as "small-lot artisan wines." Their team hand-crafts varietals including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Zinfandel.
Perched in the heart of Sonoma's Russian River wine region in close proximity to many other vineyards, Thomas George is an inspired place to start tasting Sonoma wines. The dazzling, 8,000-square-foot tasting room is a true cave: a space carved out of stone. The winery makes this must-visit easy. No reservation is needed for your tasting, and the $25 fee is waived with a bottle purchase.
Several on-property 1920s ranchers' houses with one, two, or three bedrooms can be rented for a true Sonoma wine getaway.