Tips from a Local for Planning a Memorable Trip to Wine Country
Sonoma County is home to more than 425 wineries – which makes it painstakingly difficult to choose just a handful of favorites. The possibilities are vast when it comes to the tasting experiences you’ll find in this stunning stretch of Northern California wine country.
What’s in the glass is obviously important, but for me it’s never just about the wine.
Below are five wineries where the setting and the people behind the bottle combine to make a visit truly unforgettable.
Medlock Ames in Healdsburg
The Immersive Sound Experience at Medlock Ames’ Bell Mountain Ranch is a first of its kind audio tour and interactive work of art all rolled into one. Using the voices of both people and resident wildlife, the walking tour drives home the importance of the winery’s environmental first practices and highlights the biodiversity of the property.
So taken by the native oak woodlands, olive groves, and vines, I forgot all about the headphones. The hour-long experience is by reservation only and is followed by a guided tasting of six current release wines, paired with local, organic cheeses.
Chenoweth Wines in Sebastopol
The Chenoweth name is legendary in the grape growing industry, and this fun-loving family seems to enjoy nothing more than showing folks where the magic happens. Amy Chenoweth leads the winemaking team and can often be found behind the wheel leading tours on utility terrain vehicles (UTVs) of the 800-acre estate that’s been in the family since the mid-1800s.
From vineyards to towering redwood trees, the scenery at Chenoweth Wines is more than stunning, it’s a great glimpse into the diverse geography of Sonoma County wine country. Reservations are required; UTV tours last about two hours.
Marimar Estate Vineyards & Winery in Sebastopol
Run by a mother and daughter power duo, Catalan-inspired Marimar Estate offers a one-of-a-kind Sonoma County wine tasting paired with tapas.
Bites the likes of figs stuffed with chocolate and nuts are paired with estate pinot noir. Reservations are a must. The Torres family has been making wine in Catalonia since the 17th century; Marimar Torres brought the legacy (and delicious, hard to find varietals like godello) to California in the 1980s. While sitting on the patio be on the lookout for Torres and her dogs roving through the vineyards.
Donum Estate in Sonoma
The vineyards at Donum Estate double as a sculpture garden. Featuring more than 50 works of art, some pieces jump out at you, while others wait patiently to be discovered on the 200-acre estate. Walking tours and wine tastings are by appointment only.
Jordan Winery in Healdsburg
Offered a limited number of days throughout the year, the nature hikes at Jordan pair vineyard views with much needed education on sustainable farming and the importance of endangered pollinators like the monarch butterfly. Hikes sell out fast, so plan ahead.
With hundreds of amazing Sonoma County wineries, planning tastings can be an overwhelming experience. But if you pair great wine with an extraordinary experience, you can’t go wrong.