Drink in the grand vistas and the nostalgic stone tasting rooms
1 | Gloria Ferrer Champagne Caves
Like a Spanish monastery, Gloria Ferrer guards lower Sonoma and offers great vistas over it. Order the sparkling-wine tasting of your choice at the counter, than take a table on the terrace and munch nibbles with your bubbles. The sparklers at this Spanish-owned house are consistently good, and the still Pinot Noirs greatly interesting; compare the versions from Gravel Knob and Rust Rock Terrace.
23555 Carneros Highway, Sonoma; 707/933-1917; gloriaferrer.com
2 | Robledo Family Winery
This was the first winery in the state owned by a former Mexican migrant worker. The Robledos now own 1,800 acres of vineyards too, and their own wines can be sampled in a cozy tasting room. All the Robledo children work in the business; a son-in-law is the winemaker, and his wines commemorating family members are worth seeking out.
21901 Bonness Road, Sonoma; 707/939-6903; robledofamilywinery.com
3 | Gundlach Bundschu Winery
One of the oldest family wineries in California (and heaviest on consonants in the name), Gundlach Bundschu makes the most of its grand setting, with picnic tables under an arbor, bike trails, a wine cave (tours on the hour), and an old-feeling stone tasting room. The traditional varieties have classic profiles, with good acidity to keep them alive, but try the Tempranillo from the Rhinefarm vineyard you drove through to get here; it’s Spain’s main red grape, and GB is one of the few wineries making it in CA.
2000 Denmark Street, Sonoma; 707/939-3015; gunbun.com
4 | Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery
The huge parking lot might have a “bus drop-off” sign, and the host behind the register in the hospitality center might inform you that the shop you have to navigate to get to the tasting bar offers 5,000 tabletop items, but Sebastiani breathes history. A visit here gets you close to the stones and wood casks of more than a century’s worth of California winemaking. There are trolley tours too.
389 Fourth Street East, Sonoma; 707/933-3230; sebastiani.com
5 | Ravenswood Winery
One of the three famous Rs of Zinfandel―Ridge and Rosenblum being the other two―this winery produces prodigious amounts of Zin. Now owned by Constellation Brands, Ravenswood is still run by founder Joel Peterson and keeps on trucking with its “No Wimpy Wines” mantra. You can find its baseline Vintners Blend in every supermarket in the land, so come here to try the fascinating single-vineyard Zinfandels.
18701 Gehricke Road, Sonoma; 707/933-2332; ravenswood-wine.com
6 | Moon Mountain Vineyard
Mountain wine is all the rage these days, but few wineries match the elevation of Moon Mountain, tucked almost 2,000 feet high up on the Sonoma side of the Mayacamas. The views are exhilarating, the steep vineyards are organic, and the 15,000-cubic-meter cave bored into pure volcanic rock is as authentic-looking as any in California.
1700 Moon Mountain Drive, Sonoma; 707/996-5870 (call for appointment); moonmountainvineyard.com
7 | Arrowood Vineyards & Winery
For better or for worse, depending on your taste, Dick Arrowood is partially responsible for California’s quintessential big, buttery, oaky Chardonnay style. His winemaking has continued to evolve, and even though Arrowood is corporate-owned now, Dick is still involved, and still a leader in Sonoma winemaking.
14347 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen; 800/938-5170; arrowoodwinery.com
8 | Benziger Family Winery
Take a tractor-tram tour up through the vineyards for a close-up look at biodynamic farming. Then wander through the well-signed antique equipment on the beautiful grounds; taste at the regular, reserve, or club bar.
1883 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen; 888/490-2739; benziger.com
9 | Kunde Estate Winery & Vineyards
A huge stone version of a Craftsman-style house, Kunde offers views of tanks and the bottling line from the tasting room, a great patio by the pond and fountain, cave tours, and an always-refreshing Sauvignon Blanc.
9825 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood; 707/833-5501; kunde.com
10 | Mayo Family Winery Reserve
Tasting Room The Mayo family has confused things, with three separate tasting rooms (one right on the square in Sonoma), but this one is unique in chef William Oliver’s full menu of wine-and-food pairings. The Mayos produce a hefty lineup of unmanipulated, unfiltered, single-vineyard bottlings (as many as 25).
9200 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood; 707/833-5504; mayofamilywinery.com
11 | Chateau St. Jean
Every bit the château, St. Jean is built for crowds―goods-filled tasting room, deli case with tasty cheeses and pâtés, and wonderful places to consume them. The winery’s reputation rests on whites (its Sauvignon Blanc is a great favorite), but its best reds, like the Cinq Cépages blend, deserve attention.
8555 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood; 707/833-4134; chateaustjean.com
12 | Landmark Vineyards
Downright homelike compared to neighboring St. Jean, the stucco Landmark, complete with bocce court, is a welcoming place to try a few choice wines―the rich but focused Overlook Chardonnay, elegant Kastania Pinot Noir, and juicy Steel Plow Syrah.
101 Adobe Canyon Road, Kenwood; 707/833-0053; landmarkwine.com
13 | Matanzas Creek Winery
Bennett Valley Road runs through one of the county’s newest AVAs to Matanzas Creek, whose remarkable lavender gardens have been turned into products for its tasting-room shelves. The only downside is a mysterious lavender aroma in every wine. But take a glass of the especially aromatic Sauvignon Blanc outside to the terrace, at canopy level in the oak trees, and enjoy French winemaker Francois Cordesse’s handiwork.
6097 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa; 800/590-6464; matanzascreek.com