10 Best Sonoma County Wineries for Newcomers

  • Wine
  • by WINECOUNTRY COLLECTIVE
  • on APRIL 19, 2024
  • 22916
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Wine

10 Best Sonoma County Wineries for Newcomers

By WineCountry Collective April 19, 2024

Exploring the world of wine in Sonoma County has never been more inviting. Nowadays, there are plenty of wineries catering to an array of tastes and knowledge levels, welcoming everyone from wine novices to seasoned oenophiles. Yet, we understand that stepping into tasting rooms for the first time can be a bit daunting, particularly if you end up at a winery tailored to more seasoned wine lovers.

To ease that journey, we’ve ventured through Sonoma’s diverse wine regions, from the Russian River Valley to the Sonoma Valley, Alexander Valley to the Dry Creek Valley, to curate a list of the best wineries for newcomers. Offering a plethora of activities and tasting experiences, not to mention friendly service and picturesque surroundings, these 10 Sonoma County wineries are ideal for anyone starting their love affair with wine, or for those just discovering the unique charm of Sonoma’s vineyards and estates.

Environmentally Friendly

Benziger Family Winery
Photo courtesy of Benziger Family Winery

Benziger Family Winery

1883 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, CA 95442, (888) 490-2739

Situated on a beautiful property in Sonoma Valley’s Glen Ellen, Benzinger is known for its biodynamic and green farming practices. That means that a visit to the estate offers the possibility of hanging out with sheep who help remove overgrown crops, Scottish Highlander cattle (you know, the adorable ones with bangs) who provide organic manure, and all of the bugs in the insectary that keep the vines healthy. If that sounds interesting, don’t miss the Private Tribute Estate Tour & Tasting, which includes a tram ride and in-depth look at the biodynamically farmed estate. If you’d prefer to keep things a little more relaxed, you can reserve a seated outdoor estate tasting that includes tastes of five wines, then wander about the property on a self-guided walking tour.

Why You’ll Love It:
  • Beautiful Scenery
  • Organic Wines
  • Walk-ins Welcome

Pairings & Pedal Tours

Photos courtesy of St. Francis Winery

St. Francis Winery

100 Pythian Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95409, (707) 538-9463

During your tasting at St. Francis Winery, be sure to keep an ear out for the 1,000-pound bronze bell cast in Italy that strikes every hour and can be heard throughout the valley. What you can also experience at this Certified Sustainable, family-owned winery are wine tastings paired with dishes created specifically to complement the wine. The Estate Pairing includes four wines and four small dishes. In contrast, the Wine & Food Pairing is a more elaborate five-course fine dining experience, with award-winning wines and seasonal dishes that highlight the best of Sonoma County’s bounty. Both are happening on the comfortable open-air patio, where you can enjoy the natural beauty of Sonoma Valley as you taste. That said, if you’re up for something more adventurous, try the Pedal Trolley Vineyard Tour & Tasting, a fun-filled way to explore the estate with fellow wine enthusiasts. Yes, pedaling is required! 

Why You’ll Love It:
  • Diverse Portfolio of Wine
  • Relaxed Setting
  • Wine & Food Pairings

The Original Sonoma Sparkler

Gloria Ferrer
Photo courtesy of Gloria Ferrer

Gloria Ferrer

23555 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, CA 95476, (707) 933-1986

Add a little sparkle to your next Sonoma winery excursion at Gloria Ferrer—Carneros’ original house of bubbly. Select from their wide range of wine tasting and paired culinary experiences, including the Rosé Exploration, a deep-dive into this fun, approachable, and much-adored wine varietal. With its Spanish-inspired light bites and four featured wines, Gloria Ferrer’s Tapas Experience is another great option for those who are dipping their toes into Sonoma-grown varietals.

Why You’ll Love It:
  • World-Class Bubbly
  • Relaxed Vibes
  • Dog-Friendly

A Culinary-Minded Gem

Photos courtesy of Jordan Winery

Jordan Vineyard & Winery

1474 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 431-5250

Visits to Jordan Winery in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley are a delight because the wine is excellent, the staff is welcoming, and, because so many Jordan wines are best enjoyed with food, their culinary program is on point. During the Estate Tour & Tasting, you’ll venture around Jordan’s 1,200-acre estate, enjoying al fresco sips paired with chef-curated bites along the way. For something more on the casual side, book the Taste of Jordan, featuring current release wines alongside the winery’s estate-grown olive oil.

Why You’ll Love It:
  • Picturesque Grounds
  • Impressive Culinary Program
  • Range of Tasting Experiences

An Outdoor Kenwood Oasis

Landmark Vineyards
Photo courtesy of Landmark Vineyards

Landmark Vineyards

101 Adobe Canyon Road, Kenwood, CA 95452, (707) 833-0218

Landmark is located at the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains in the beautiful Sonoma Valley region of Kenwood. Known for its small-production, winery-only Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, Landmark charms with its picturesque outdoor patio, where tastings take place overlooking the beautiful gardens and stunning views of Sugarloaf Ridge. The winery also has on-site picnic grounds featuring a Bocce Ball court for a quintessential Wine Country experience. Or, for something a little different, visit their Hop Kiln location in the Russian River Valley, where tastings are held within a historic kiln.

Why You’ll Love It:
  • Two Locations
  • Bocce Ball
  • Welcoming Vibes

Some of Sonoma’s Best Bubbly

Photos courtesy of J Vineyards & Winery

J Vineyards & Winery

Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 431-5430

Book an unforgettable afternoon at the always elegant, exceptionally welcoming J Vineyards & Winery—one of the premier sparkling wine houses in the Russian River Valley. This Healdsburg must-see offers both indoor and outdoor experiences, like the Bubble Room Tasting, complete with five-course, cutting-edge cuisine and award-winning wines. Step into the Legacy Lounge for some small-lot Pinot Noir and artisan cheese, or soak up the sun with some Chardonnay on their gorgeous terrace.

Why You’ll Love It:
  • Expert Culinary Pairings
  • Acclaimed Sparkling Wine
  • Guest Chef Events

An Italian-Style Experience

Ferrari-Carano
Photo courtesy of Ferrari-Carano

Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery

8761 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 433-6700

You may know Ferrari-Carano for its popular and affordable Fumé Blanc, but there’s much more to discover about this winery, including a grand villa, acres of verdant gardens, and an extensive portfolio of sustainably-farmed wines. During the Pergola Experience (offered seasonally), you’ll enjoy a flight of five award-winning reserve wines with a chance to learn more about the vineyard and winemaking practices. All of this while taking in views that will transport you from Sonoma County to the Italian countryside. You can also opt for the Sycamore Grove Wine & Brunch, which includes Italian-inspired dishes made with ingredients grown on the property, paired with a reserve wine flight.

Why You’ll Love It:
  • Wide Array of Tasting Experiences
  • Beautiful Grounds
  • Sustainably-Farmed Wines

Classic Chardonnay and Pinot

Patz & Hall
Photo courtesy of Patz & Hall

Patz & Hall

21200 8th Street East, Sonoma, CA 95476, (707) 265-7700

This highly regarded family-owned winery offers a variety of options for tasting its single-vineyard Sonoma wines (if you’re new to wine, that just means all of the grapes come from one vineyard), including the casual introduction to Patz & Hall: the Sonoma House tasting. If you want to explore a mix of current releases and library favorites, book the Seek & Savor Tasting, offering a glimpse at how their wines age gracefully, or, for a more relaxed afternoon, bring the whole gang for a BYO Picnic on the lawn overlooking the Chardonnay vines.

Why You’ll Love It:
  • Acclaimed Chardonnay & Pinot Noir
  • Friendly Service
  • Convenient Location

Pioneering Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc

Dry Creek Vineyard
Photo courtesy of Dry Creek Vineyard

Dry Creek Vineyard

3770 Lambert Bridge Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 433-1000

Dry Creek Vineyard was the first vineyard to plant Sauvignon Blanc in this area (before Dry Creek Valley was even a Sonoma County appellation). Today, the Fumé Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc remain the winery’s most popular offerings, though if you can snag a bottle of the winery-exclusive Pinot Noir to enjoy at home, you should. See why during a seated tasting, where you can sip limited-production and single-vineyard wines while learning more about the winery’s history and philosophy. You can also enjoy a bottle of chilled Fumé Blanc while playing bocce ball, an experience that’s available for up to 12 people.

Why You’ll Love It:
  • Large White Wine Selection
  • Bocce Ball
  • Welcoming Atmosphere

Hollywood Flair

Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Photo courtesy of Facebook: Francis Ford Coppola Winery

Francis Ford Coppola Winery

300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville, CA 95441, (707) 857-1471

This winery is probably best known for its amenities—two swimming pools with private cabins fit for family fun, plus a cafe, a full-service restaurant, bocce courts, and a two-story gallery full of memorabilia from Coppola’s films. While a day by the Francis Ford Coppola pool is glorious, don’t skip the tasting room experiences, such as the Seated Tasting of limited-production wines from vineyards throughout Sonoma, and the Main Floor Tasting of wines (featuring “everyday” wines to more exclusive, limited-production gems).

Why You’ll Love It:
  • Family-friendly
  • On-site Pool & Cafe
  • Movie Memorabilia

Conclusion:

Wrapping up, Sonoma County is like a wine-lover’s theme park, with something for every taste and curiosity level. Each of these 10 wineries captures Sonoma’s captivating wine story, perfect for anyone ready to dive into the world of wine or just looking for a fantastic day out in the vineyards. So, grab your travel buddies and let’s get sippin’!