Cloverdale Wineries: A 2 Day Tasting Itinerary

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Just a few miles from the cold waters of the Pacific, grapes grown around Cloverdale enjoy distinctive conditions that bolster flavor. A combination of fog, sun, and cold nights blesses winemakers with bold wines that pair exceedingly well with food. If you’re traveling through this Sonoma County haunt, here are some fantastic winery selections, many of which offer intimate, hands-on experiences.

Day 1

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Wineries / Cloverdale

Fritz Underground Winery

A natural wonder that doubles as a winery, Fritz Underground Winery is indeed underground. Fritz takes advantage of its cavernous location and harnesses gravity to create its wine. By forgoing pumps and other electric equipment, Fritz’s winemakers not only cut down on carbon consumption, but also preserve flavor nuances lost when heavy machinery is brought in.

Insider Tip

You can reserve a tour of Fritz’s underground wine operation on the weekends for $20 a person where you get to taste some gravity-flow wine straight from the barrel.

Directions

From US-101 South, take the exit toward Dutcher Creek Road/Stewarts Point. Turn right on Theresa Drive for one block. Turn left on Dutcher Creek Road for 2.4 miles. Fritz Underground Winery is on the right.

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Wineries / Cloverdale

BobDog Winery

The highest winery in Sonoma County, BobDog Winery offers spectacular views 2,000 feet above the vine-filled Alexander Valley. For wine country enthusiasts interested in the winemaking craft, BobDog Winery provides a special, hands-on experience. Gleaning a rare insight into the art and science of creating wine, guests can pick grapes, learn how vines are pruned and even test sugar levels with a refractometer. Don’t worry, it isn’t all fieldwork—the tours end with tastings of BobDog’s notable Merlot and other varieties

Insider Tip

The husband-and-wife team behind the winery named it after their beloved Rottweiler. Don’t be fooled by the silly name, though. Because most of BobDog Winery’s grapes are sold to other high-end wineries, it only produces about 700 cases of its own wine each year—and these bottles are only available on-site.

Directions

From Fritz Underground Winery, turn right on Theresa Drive and get on US-101 North. Take Exit 520 for Citrus Fair Drive and turn right. Turn left on Asti Road, turn right on Crocker Road, and make a slight left onto River Road. Turn right on Geysers Road, left on Pine Mountain Road and left on Ratto Road. The winery will be on your left.

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Wineries / Cloverdale

Icaria Creek Winery

With its special microclimate 400 feet above sea level, Icaria Creek Winery releases great “food wine” due to its location’s warm days and cool nights, factors that boost flavor and acidity, respectively. Opened in 1997, Icaria was one of the first vineyards in Sonoma County to grow Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Almost two decades later, Icaria is still a small yet lauded winery and often produces less than 100 cases per year of several varieties. Tastings are by appointment only and cost $15 per person.

Insider Tip

You can rent a ranch house on Icaria Creek Winery’s sprawling 50 acre estate that includes a private barrel tasting of the vineyard’s selections.

Directions

From BobDog Winery, make a slight left on Geysers Road and turn left on River Road. Turn right onto Crocker Road, left onto Asti Road and left onto Airport Road. The winery will be on the left.

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Wineries / Cloverdale

J Rickards Winery

While J. Rickards Winery has only existed for a decade, many of its vines date back to 1908. The winemakers celebrate these pre-Prohibition varieties, which include an award-winning Zinfandel as well as Alicante Bouchet, Petite Sirah, Muscato Canelli, and Golden Chasslis. These old vines were planted by an Italian family and the current winemakers are continuously discovering the reasoning behind their Old World planting methods, such as planting some white grape varieties amongst red grapes for color stabilization.

Insider Tip

With 48 hours notice, J. Rickards will order you lunch from Wild Sage Deli in Healdsburg for a unique picnicking experience among the antique vines.

Directions

From Icaria Creek Winery, turn left onto Asti Road for 3.7 miles. Turn right onto Zanzi Lane and turn left onto Chianti Road. The winery will be on the left.

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Day 2

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Wineries / Cloverdale

Pendleton Estate

Pendleton Estate Vineyards & Winery presents visitors with one of the most intimate wine tasting experiences in Sonoma County. Michall Pendleton taught himself everything about winemaking and now has won awards at 40 out of 41 wine competitions he has entered. His winery is essentially a one-man operation and makes less than 800 cases each year. Always open for experimentation, Pendleton excels at crafting one-of-a-kind wine blends.

Insider Tip

With a simple phone call in advance, you can arrange that Michall Pendleton himself leads your tasting, which would include a tour of his process from vineyard to cellar.

Directions

From Chianti Road, turn right onto Zanzi Lane and then left on Asti Road. Turn right to merge on US-101 North and take Exit 522 for CA-128 West. Turn left and continue on CA-128 West for 5 miles and the winery will be on your right.

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Wineries / Cloverdale

Wattle Creek Winery

Although Wattle Creek Winery’s tasting room in San Francisco’s busy Ghirardelli Square is fairly well-known, the Alexander Valley-based winery is also open for tours if you make an appointment. At the winery, you can catch a glimpse of Wattle Creek’s process as well as a barrel tasting. The 20-year-old winery has turned heads in the wine industry; notable wine critic Robert Parker recently gave several of Wattle Creek’s wines high marks.

Insider Tip

Because the San Francisco tasting room is the most visited Wattle Creek location, make sure your GPS is finding directions to the winery in Cloverdale.

Directions

From Pendleton Estate Vineyards & Winery, head east on CA-128 East for 4.2 miles and turn right onto Oat Valley Road and then right onto Cloverdale Boulevard. Turn left onto East 1st Street and continue onto Crocker Road. Turn right onto River Road and the destination will be on the left.

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Wineries / Cloverdale

Peay Vineyards

Peay Vineyards claims that the award-winning flavors of its wines are due to the vineyard’s location, which is on a hillside toward the top of the fog level. This means that the grapes stay very cool but never get too wet. The winery’s chilliness causes the grapes to grow extremely slowly, but the resulting wines are well worth the wait. You must join a mailing list in order to secure a visit since almost the entire operation is run by just three people.

Insider Tip

The winery throws the doors open to the public and pulls plenty of corks during open houses in the spring. Specific dates are available on Peay Vineyards’s website.

Directions

From Wattle Creek Winery, head northwest toward Dusler Road. Turn left onto Crocker Road and continue on East 1st Street. Turn right onto North Cloverdale Boulevard and the destination will be on the left.

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Wineries / Cloverdale

Pastori Winery

Founded in 1914, Pastori Winery is one of the oldest Cloverdale-area wineries still in operation. With a tasting room located in a time-worn building, the winery is easy to miss. Operations are maintained mostly by Frank Pastori and the tasting room is essentially open whenever he’s around. Although the hours are inconsistent, the peek into old-school Sonoma County winemaking is unlike anything else in the region.

Insider Tip

The best way to ensure a tasting is to make a reservation via phone, but if you’re just passing through, look for Frank’s white truck. If it’s parked out front, that means the tasting room is open.

Directions

From Peay Vineyards, head southeast toward toward West 2nd Street. Turn left onto Citrus Fair Drive and turn right to merge onto US-101 toward San Francisco. Take Exit 517 toward Asti and turn left on Asti Store Road. Turn right at second cross street onto Asti Road, continuing onto Geyersville Avenue for 1.5 miles. The winery will be on the left.

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