Premium Sonoma County Wines, Superb Cuisine and a Love of Animals all Come Together in a Spectacular Setting.
Founder Joe Martin established this now-iconic property in 1971, planting 22 acres of Chardonnay along with the first 60 acres of Merlot in Sonoma Valley. He opened his own winery in 1979. Since then, ownership has changed, and a new winery was built in 1999, but the mission stays true: elegant, fruit-driven wines from Sonoma County grapes, and respect for sustainable practices to preserve the lands.
The bucolic property in Santa Rosa is very well looked after by the large, serenity-inspiring sculpture of the animal savior patron St. Francis in the gardens at the entry. That’s partly because, each October, St. Francis Winery hosts a Blessing of the Animals, where a robed officiant sprinkles holy water on cherished critters ranging from dogs to birds, pigs to horses (mark your calendar for the next one coming up October 1, 2023).
The ceremony takes place on the emerald green lawn overlooking the vineyards and majestic Hood Mountain, and next to a newly built patio/portico where wine and food tastings are held. Of course, dogs get their own pairings too, with treats and water bowls.
Pet owners come from far and wide, bringing their animals for the spiritual salute, and spending the day sipping wine and nibbling snacks while admiring other visitors’ furry family members.
The St. Francis team manages more than 400 acres of Certified Sustainable vineyards between Sonoma Valley and Russian River Valley. To get an up-close, adventurous view of the Estate grapes, you can hop aboard a fun trolley.
For the Pedal Trolley Vineyard Tour & Tasting, you hop aboard a sustainably powered vehicle that moves when you pedal (or even if you don’t; it’s got a quiet engine), while you sit at a centerpiece bar and sip wines as you roll through the Wild Oak Estate Vineyard. What’s not to love, as your driver shares the winery’s history, viticulture, and production practices? You might even see wildlife like hopping hares scampering through vineyard roads, and plenty of birds.
Divided into Classic, Reserve, Icon and Artisan Collections, there is a lot to explore between wines you’ll see on the market but also wines that are only available at the winery. You can enjoy flights in the Mission style tasting room, but make a memorable event of it, and indulge in an Estate Pairing on the garden patio.
Executive Chef Peter Janiak sends out a seasonal, four-course luncheon that might include a Dry Stack Vineyard Bennett Valley Sauvignon Blanc with lightly charred asparagus, Marcona almonds, focaccia croutons, tangy spring onion yogurt and salt-cured egg, plus a Giovanetti Vineyard Russian River Valley Old Vines Zinfandel with smoked brisket and beef jus, roasted potatoes, potato mousseline, beech mushrooms and crunchy shallots.
For something more formal, reserve a spot in the dining room for the elegant Wine & Food pairing. A wine expert (sometimes even winemakers Kate Madigan or Chris Louton) joins the chef to present a 5-course feast that might include Behler Vineyard Sonoma Valley Merlot with green garlic-ricotta risotto studded with king trumpet mushrooms, fava leaves, EVOO and pecorino, plus Dry Creek Valley
Zinfandel with juicy pan-seared bistro steak, truffle jus, parmesan-potato gratin, spinach, smoked brisket croquette and piquillo pepper relish.
Ask about the veggies on your plate – the St. Francis team recently planted a new, much larger culinary garden, to source fresh picked fruit, vegetables and herbs grown just steps away from the kitchen.
For the Love of Dogs and Great Wine
In keeping with its animal friendly theme, the winery partners with Santa Rosa’s internationally acclaimed Canine Companions, a non-profit organization that provides trained service dogs to adults, children and veterans with disabilities, and facility dogs to professionals working in healthcare, criminal justice, and educational settings.
For every bottle of St. Francis Wine purchased $1 is donated to the group and its pups. As of April 2023, Canine Companions has received a total of $200K from St. Francis.
The tasting room is capped by a bell tower housing a 1,000-pound bronze bell cast by the Marinelli Foundry in Italy. It chimes every hour and can be heard throughout the valley.
To Sum Up
St. Francis is a quintessential snapshot of the true Sonoma County. It’s sophisticated but not stuffy, relaxed but high art, and brimming with artisanal wines, gorgeous food, and of course, hugs for our four-legged friends.