You might be asking, “what is biodynamic?” Don’t worry — it’s a common question. Even the most savvy, wine purveyor may not know the definition, let along it’s intersection with wine production. Although it’s a term that’s become often overheard or discussed in Sonoma County and beyond, it’s important to have an understanding of what it means.
Biodynamic farming takes place without the use of synthetic chemicals of any kind and with the idea that a farm exists as it’s own diverse ecosystem. This approach enables sustainability and renewal of overworked and damaged farmland. And when it comes to wine, it additionally means vintners did not manipulate the grapes or production in any way, allowing the true nature of the fruit to shine through.
There’s a deep connection to the land in Sonoma County and these five wineries are working to conserve and restore biodiversity through their farming and winemaking. By offering tours, the are engaging the community to better understand their processes through firsthand encounters and enjoy the fruits of their labors on a deeper level.
Benziger Family Winery
1883 London Ranch Rd
Glen Ellen, CA 95442
: 4.5 stars; 636 reviews
Tour Price: Range from $25 – $100
Voted best wine tour in 2012 and 2015, Benziger offers four different touring options, beyond the traditional tasting room experience, of their beautiful, Sonoma County, biodynamic vineyards and winery. Their tours are truly a “choose your own adventure” scenario and range from a walking tour of their wine cave with private seating to jumping in their tractor-pulled trams that survey the property as they school you on their biodynamic practices. All close with a tasting of their award-winning wines.
For a more exclusive experience, book their Private Tour, Tasting, and Lunch with Chris Benziger. The winemaker will share his favorite locations on the property, personal quips, and his experience with producing wine and the passion he has for biodynamic farming.
St. Francis Winery and Vineyard
100 N Pythian Rd
Santa Rosa, CA 95409
: 4.5 stars; 323 reviews
Tour Price: Self-guided tour is free, but seasonal guided tour is $25 public and $20 wine club members.
With more than 400 acres of vineyards in the Sonoma and Russian River Valleys, St. Francis boasts a wide selection of grapes to produce their expanding portfolio. St. Francis allows self-guided tours of their vineyards year round, but make available a guided tour and tasting May through October. Enjoy a 40-minute walk through their Wild Oak Estate and learn about the lifecycle of the vineyard, the vines, soil composition, terroir and farming practices.
Named best restaurant in America in 2013 and 2015 by OpenTable, St. Francis’ food and wine pairing includes an assortment of small dishes selected by their executive chef to pair with hand-selected, artisan wines.
1000 Dry Creek Rd
Healdsburg, CA 95448
: 4.5 stars; 9 reviews
Tour Price: $15
Located in Dry Creek Valley in the heart of Sonoma County, West Wines offers a few different touring experiences of their lower vineyard, directly next to their tasting room, and their West Crest sauvignon vineyards showcasing stunning views of the entire Dry Creek Valley. Offered most Saturdays, weather permitting, stroll through the vineyard with a wine glass in hand as one of their trusty guide tailors the tour around the season. If you happen to be visiting during the exciting time of harvest each fall, the owners and winemakers, Katarina and Bengt, will dive right in and share samples of the ripe grapes for sugar, PH, and most importantly, taste.
Try West Wines’ Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. It’s a favorite among guests and was served at the Nobel Awards Banquet in 2010.
Sonoma Cutrer Winery
4401 Slusser Rd
Windsor, CA 95492
: 4.5 stars; 49 reviews
Tour Price: $50
Sonoma Cutrer offers vineyard tours at 10:30am and 1:30pm by reservation Thursday through Monday. Explore how the winery grows their grapes on their 270 acres of chardonnay and pinot noir vines and learn about the region’s geographical history. Step beyond the vineyards and into their Grand Cru cellar and fermenting rooms to experience the steps of how the wines get from vine to glass. The tour will end in their tasting room, sipping a thoughtful selection of their seasonal offerings.
Take in a game of croquet post tour. Their Croquet and Tasting experience would be a great add-on to your day exploring Sonoma Cutrer. It includes three choices from their daily wine menu on the terrace, an invitation to join an invigorating game, and a Govino glass you can take home.
4545 Thomas Lake Harris Dr
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
: 4.5 stars
Tour Price: Self-guided tours are free, but private tastings and tours start at $30.
Santa Rosa’s Paradise Ridge offers self-guided and guided tours of their stunning Sonoma County vineyards. Take it all in at your own speed and explore their sustainability practices, the rich soils, and their techniques in trellising and pruning. If you’re wanting to learn more from the source, winemaker, Dan Barwick, is also available to lead their Guided Vineyard Tour and Private tasting, giving more of a scope into the winery’s practices. He’ll end the tour with a tasting of wines from the vineyards visited.
Bring your camera, because you’re not going to want to miss the opportunity to grab a shot posing with the winery’s iconic, two-story Love sculpture.