The sheer number of wineries in one of the world's greatest wine regions can be overwhelming - where to start? Check out our experiences at some of the region's biggest and best wineries!
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I'll admit it - I deviated a bit from my normal approach to picking locations to visit on a trip. When it came to visiting wineries from our home base in Sonoma (gorgeous and perfect, by the way), I was largely interested in proximity and ease of visit. We wanted places that we could visit without a reservation, because we didn't know what our schedule would be. That generally limited us to larger wineries, as the smaller, family-run places generally need a reservation for visitors. While we did take a few tours, we wanted to be able to do tasting without a required tour. Yes, many of them make you take a tour before you get the reward! Also, I'll admit it, even though it definitely doesn't make me sound much like a wine expert, but I do like being able to visit places that I've heard of and whose wines I can pick up at home. And, finally, and most importantly, during out short trip, we enjoyed being able to visit a range of the small towns scattered throughout wine country, along with some vineyard trips. The vineyards below can get you to Yountville, Sonoma, Healdsburg, and Napa!
We were happy with our visits to the places, below - be sure to drop a comment and let us know your recommendations for next time!!
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, Sonoma
If you're looking to feel worlds away from the city while traveling only about 10 minutes from downtown Sonoma, Gloria Ferrer is the perfect fit for you! It's almost shockingly close to Sonoma - you may drive by it on your way into town.
Specializing in sparkling varietals, Gloria Ferrer was the first *sparkling* winery in the region, and it's certainly become a mainstay. On a rainy day, it was recommended to us by quite a few people around town, so we checked it out!
Tastings are available restaurant-style, with a seated approach and a waiter. Gorgeous outdoor seating is an option, though sadly the weather didn't cooperate for us! We opted for the cheese pairing - which I'd highly recommend. A variety of tours are available, including one of Ferrer's intriguing wine caves.
Nestled into a large hill, the views from the tasting room, the driving, and any little walk around the grounds are absolutely stunning, once you've tasted the full range of bubbly!
Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Geyserville
The Coppola winery has been described to me as an "amusement park for adults," and that is certainly true. If you're looking for quaint...this isn't it. But, if you're interested in seeing some amazing pieces of movie history, including The Godfather's desk, definitely pop by.
Located rather far North in Sonoma County, the location near Healdsburg makes for a great combined trip - we stopped in quaint Healdsburg on our way up, for lunch, then continued up to Coppola.
When you arrive, you're welcomed and the options are explained - two tastings are available - either $20 or $30/ person, the latter featuring wines that are only available on site. You are also welcome to walk around and explore the movie memorabilia, at your leisure, which is a nice and relaxed approach. Though it wasn't on our agenda, the winery also features a pool, where you can buy a day pass and reserve cabanas, if you're looking to spend some time in the California sunshine!
Clos du Bois, Geyserville
A brief interlude to discuss our lovely time at Clos du Bois, as I had so much fun that I neglected to take any pictures...
Located right across the street from Coppola, if you're in the area for either, you really should visit the other! Of course, Clos du Bois is a mainstay of wherever you buy wine - widely available throughout the country. However, this was one of our most intimate tastings, with a very knowledgeable and interested taster and just two other guests. It has a more industrial and less touristy feel - as though you've just dropped by the tasting room to see what's new, as opposed to having an entire place built just for guests.
Domaine Chandon, Yountville
Just on the other side of the road from stunning Yountville (which will get its own post one of these days, as it very much deserves some attention), Domaine Chandon is another easy place to pop in for some bubbly. We found it fairly crowded the Friday we visited, with quite a few groups sampling the offerings outside. You can certainly purchase tasting flights, but many people (including us) opt for a bottle to split outside to enjoy the stunning views. One tip to definitely keep in mind - it's a bit difficult to see, from the tasting room, all of the different seating options that are available. While some are reserved for wine club members (standard fare out here, I'm afraid), there are quite a few nice places overlooking the hills and the vineyards that are open to everyone. Be a bit discerning and walk around before you settle down and pop the champers!
Thanks so much for stopping by! Hope you have a great trip to California wine country. If you're curious about where to stay in Sonoma, check out my recent post on MacArthur Place, Sonoma.
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