Discover your next favorite vintage along the banks of the Russian River—this geographically diverse region offers a huge variety of wine
Photo courtesy of Rochioli Vineyards and Winery
Winemaker Tom Rochioli honed his chops at the feet of his grandfather, a second-generation Italian-American and lifelong vintner. The Rochioli family was the first in the Russian River Valley to experiment with the European process of dividing the rolling property into blocks, each with its own terroir and personality. Visit the tasting room to sample the remarkably complex Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc vintages that result. www.rochioliwinery.com; 6192 Westside Road, Healdsburg; 707/433-2305.
Photo courtesy of La Follette Wines
The bad news: La Follette Wines is not open to the public. The good news: Tasting their delightful vintages is even easier than it is at most wineries. La Follette has a 7-days-a-week tasting station at The Barlow, an artisanal marketplace in Sebastapol. (You will need an appointment Monday-Wednesday.) Sip Pinot Noir while watching ice cream churn, fresh pasta slide through a cutter, and hand-thrown pizzas blister in a beehive oven. thebarlow.net/tenants/la-follette-wines/; McKinley St., Sebastapol, 707/824-5600.
Photo courtesy of Merry Edwards Winery
Come for the Pinot Noir, stay for the cats and the sense of history. The winery’s namesake Merry Edwards was one of the first female wine professionals in California. Since 1997, she has devoted her career to producing her own wines, mostly Pinot Noir but lately branching into Sauvignon Blanc. The tasting room with its whiskered guardians is open to drop-ins on the grounds of the Coopersmith vineyard. Don’t worry; it’s all in the family—owner Ken Coopersmith is Merry’s husband. www.merryedwards.com/index.asp; 2959 Gravenstein Hwy. North, Sebastopol, 888/388-9050.
Photo courtesy of Emeritus Vineyards
The local conditions that are so good for growing apples—plenty of sun and loamy Goldridge soil--turns out to be good for wine grapes, too. But not just any grapes: This is Pinot Noir country. Try the award-winning reds in the winery’s recently renovated tasting room. The owners recommend that you make an appointment for both tastings and vineyard tours, but this is California—no one’s going to stand on ceremony here. www.emeritusvineyards.com; 2500 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastapol; 707/823-9463.
Photo courtesy of Lynmar Estate
Husband-and-wife proprietors Lynn and Anisya Fritz work with blends of juice from all three vineyards to produce award-winning Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Stop in for a quick taste or make a day out of wine and fine food—most of the produce served with the wine experience meals is grown on the estate. http://lynmarestate.com; 3909 Frei Road, Sebastopol; 707/829-3374.
Photo courtesy of La Crema Estate
From the outside, the La Crema Estate tasting room is all weathered rustic charm. (It’s generally referred to as “The Barn.”) Inside, though, it’s a sleek, comfortable space with tasting rooms galore. Drop in for a flight of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, or pay a little extra to taste some of the premium wines. You can order a wine and cheese pairing that’s not just filling, it also comes with a lesson on how to pair specific wines to the proper cheeses. If you’ve got a bit of time, make an appointment to take a tour of the estate with a personal concierge. You can follow that up with a picnic or the perfect plate of fromage. www.lacrema.com; 3575 Slusser Rd., Windsor; 707/525-6200.
Photo courtesy of Chalk Hill
Rich in history and natural beauty, Chalk Hill is the primary winery in the tiny AVA of the same name, in the warmer, easternmost part of the Russian River Valley. Winegrowing dates back to the 1860s on the rolling hills surrounding the stone estate. You can talk terrain and trellising on their tasting tour, or do more than talk on a culinary tour that ends with small plates the chef creates from the winery’s organic garden. chalkhill.com; 10300 Chalk Hill Road, Healdsburg; 800/657-4837.
Photo courtesy of MacPhail Family Wines
You can’t visit the MacPhail winery itself, but it comes to you if you’re in downtown Sebastapol. The foodie city’s upscale Barlow marketplace is a hive of artisanal food and drink purveyors, and MacPhail maintains a sleek, sunny lounge area there. More like a bar than a conventional tasting room, you can order single glasses and cheese plates. But don’t skip the traditional flight experience. The lounge offers a selection aimed at educating the public about the influence terroir has on vines. macphailwine.com/visit-us-appointments; McKinley St., Sebastapol; 707/824-5600.