With over 400 Sonoma County wineries, planning your wine country experience can easily become overwhelming. How do you make sense of all of the vineyards and what make each unique? Where do you begin to plan an itinerary that matches your style, desired pace, budget, and wine preferences? The Wine Road makes this process nice and easy, of course. But you can also take the word of someone who’s been there – i.e. me! Here is a recap of my most favorite wine experiences from my September trip to Healdsburg, California!
Most Immersive Experience: Blue Rock Vineyard
First settled by Italian immigrants, Blue Rock Vineyard retains much of that old-world charm that has been engrained in its history since 1880. The original stone cottage that features California redwood ceiling beams and stone masonry still stands on the property and now serves as an overnight guest villa that oozes romance. Between lush vineyards, wild boars that inhabit the property, flourishing pomegranate trees, an organic vegetable garden, and other natural growth and inhabitants, Blue Rock has created its own ecosystem, further reminiscent of the way things used to be. Meanwhile, their commitment to sustainable winemaking paves the way for a promising future. It’s the best mix of old and new. Believing in “accessible luxury”, the hosts at Blue Rock will ensure that you leave knowing what Blue Rock feels like, not just tastes like.
Most Likely to Make Wine Education Fun: J.Rickards Winery
The man. The myth. The moustache. Jim Rickards not only boasts a signature ‘stache that has become a tangent of the J. Rickards Winery brand, but he also will greet you, shake your hand, tell you his story, and make you feel like an old friend. As he dives into the nitty gritty of the wine making process, you’ll find yourself becoming enraptured, regardless of whether you’re actually following all of the talk of fermentation, filtering, and the like. His passion for wine making becomes evident early on and it’s what makes this experience so special. No stuffiness here; the man harvests his vineyards using a Lamborghini tractor from the 1960s that has been rebuilt three times. This down-to-earth quality seeps into the finished product too; their wines are nuanced, hand-crafted creations that taste familial. And if you’re lucky, you’ll leave J. Rickards with a new friend or two.
Most Likely to Make You Feel Like Family: Zialena Winery
Translated to “Aunt Lena” in Italian, Zialena Winery is a modern-meets-industrial operation run by a fourth-generation winemaking brother and sister team. During the tasting set at a large table that gives off dining room vibes, you’ll feel like you’re right at home. Lisa, the sister half of Zialena, will ensure your experience is just like Aunt Lena would have wanted, while Mark, the brother and winemaker side of the team, will make sure you’re sipping on some of the best cabernet and zinfandel Sonoma County has to offer. This winery is so rooted in family tradition that even their logo bears the mark of Aunt Lena’s ravioli stamp. Salud to la famiglia!
Most Picturesque Setting: Trattore Farms
I’ve traveled a lot and have encountered beauty in each place. But nothing compares to the views at Trattore Farms. Set high upon a hill, this 40 acre farm overlooks other vineyards and the rolling foothills of the Dry Creek Valley. With nearly 200 year old mission olive trees, a variety of grapes, and even a spot called Proposal Hill, the scenery is enough to take your breath away. It induces vibes of relaxation, contentment, and humility as you take in all the best that nature has to offer via a tractor tour. Once you recover from all of that beauty, head to the terrace to experience their wine and olive oil tastings, both of which are made on the property. Between your eyes and your taste buds, your senses are going to go into stimuli overload but only in the best way possible.
Most Hospitable: Dry Creek Vineyard
As soon as you set foot on the property, Dry Creek Vineyard makes you feel like you are their most special guest. An ivy covered storefront, sprawling lawns sprinkled with umbrella-covered picnic tables, and a secret flower garden greet you and let you know you’re arrived to a little piece of heaven. This family-run business was the first winery to open after the repeal of Prohibition, and they were the first to coin the term “Old Vine” to describe their pre-Prohibition zinfandel vineyards. Not only do they tell the story of their rich history in an interesting and engaging way, but they invite you to be their guests for as long as you like. Pack your own picnic, pick up a bottle in their tasting room, and create your own memories on their lawn. Or opt for their flight and lunch option, which includes a wine concierge to explain it all. Either way, you’ll be treated like gold at Dry Creek!
Most Likely to Make You Feel Extra Fancy: Gary Farrell Winery
If you’re looking for that tasting experience that will top all tasting experiences, head to Gary Farrell Winery. After a tour of the barrel room and grounds, you’ll be whisked off to their newly renovated Inspiration Room where an estate sommelier will walk you through a six-course flight paired with cheese, dried fruits, and nuts. The wine and atmosphere strike a fine balance between luxury and approachability, making you feel special and sophisticated without being pretentious. To cap off the sips, treat yourself to Gary Farrell’s own wine gummies, sugar coated candy treats made with their own vino. The perfect ending to the perfect experience!
Now that you have the ultimate Sonoma wine country honeymoon bucket list AND you know all about the excellent vineyards in the area, go forth and plan the trip of a lifetime! I just ask one thing of you…take me with you! Comment below and let me know if you've been to any of the above wineries! Or what's the best winery or tasting you've ever been to? Let's hear it!
While this post was sponsored by The Wine Road, all opinions, insight, and recommendations are my own.