Sonoma County offers a seemingly overwhelming number of places to sip, swirl, and savor world-class wines, but imagine a perfect day that begins in a castle and finishes in a gorgeous hotel room steps away from an exceptional wine and bar lounge. Well, imagine no more because Ledson Winery & Vineyards offers you a full day of Wine Country delight.
Driving along Highway 12 in Kenwood, you’ll notice beautiful wineries, vineyards, and views along the entire stretch. However, tucked slightly off the busy road against a backdrop of the Mayacamas Mountains sits an architectural showpiece – Ledson Winery & Vineyards. This 16,000-square-foot Castle was designed by fifth-generation Sonoma farmer and winemaker Steve Ledson. Originally imagined as a family home, the construction of such a grand Castle in the heart of Sonoma Valley drew so much attention and intrigue that Steve and his family decided it was better suited as a place to share their wines. In 1997, they released their first wine from the estate, a 1993 merlot, and in 1999, they opened the Castle to the public.
Today, you can explore the stunning estate that includes three tasting rooms, each named for a member of the Ledson family who impacted Steve and the legacy of the family: Steve’s father Noble, and Steve’s uncles, Winslow and Whitby. The Classic Tasting offers two tasting menus with a variety of handcrafted wines expressing the breadth of the Ledson Winery portfolio. For something a bit more secluded, reserve a Private Tasting, which is held in one of the private suites or on the vineyard veranda. This seated tasting can be accompanied by a small charcuterie plate and includes wines from several estate vineyards grown mainly in Sonoma County with a few from Napa and Mendocino County.
Regardless of which tasting option you select, you’re bound to sample something delicious from their portfolio of award-winning wines, which includes single varietal wines like chardonnay and pinot noir, both classics of Sonoma County; an exceptional cabernet sauvignon; a richly textured Estate Ancient Vine Zinfandel from vines between 125 – 165 years old; their signature Estate Vineyard Merlot; and some unexpected delights like viognier, malbec, barbera, and carignane. Be sure to try the Sonoma Valley Cépage, which is a wonderful red blend offering bold flavors with nuanced structure and elegant tannins.
When your tasting experience is finished, don’t miss the stocked gourmet marketplace that offers sandwiches, cheeses, meats, local olive oils, and more. While picnicking is allowed on the grounds, you must purchase any food and wine you wish to enjoy on-site at the winery.
After all of the delicious food and wine, it’s time to head into the heart of Sonoma where the Ledson Hotel offers the most ideal location to stay and play. Located on the historic Sonoma Plaza, a stay here means you’ll be upstairs from world-class wines, mouthwatering food, and a lounge so comfortable and inviting, you might never leave! The hotel offers six rooms, each individually decorated with antique touches and modern amenities. Much like the Castle, Steve Ledson designed the hotel to pay homage to his family that first settled in Sonoma over 150 years ago. Each room is named after a family member, and the downstairs lounge, The Zina Lounge, is named for Zina Hyde Cunningham, who settled in Sonoma County in 1865 to grow grapes.
Zina’s son William ultimately took over the family winery while raising two daughters and two boys. Eventually, his daughter Edna met and married Barker Ledson and settled in Kenwood. Barker and Edna purchased 1,600 acres to farm, raising their own three boys, Winslow, Whitby, and Noble, Steve Ledson’s father.
Steeped in history and family ties, The Zina Lounge is located on the ground floor of the hotel and doubles as the welcome reception when checking in. This recently reimagined space is open and airy, with indoor seating, a well-appointed bar, fireplaces, and an outdoor covered sitting area that allows for exceptional people-watching.
While the lounge is open to all who wish to visit, those staying at the hotel can enjoy a complimentary tasting flight, glass of wine, or cocktail during their stay. And yes, you read that right, cocktails in Wine Country! The Zina Lounge prides itself on offering something for everyone, including local beers and thoughtfully crafted cocktails. Sip on traditional favorites like the 1st Street Manhattan or the French 75, or mix it up with a Moscow Mule or Ledson Sazerac. If you want to keep it strictly to wine, try one of the small-lot Zina Hyde Cunningham wines, like the Adeline’s Vineyard Chardonnay from Anderson Valley or the Veola Red Blend from their Redwood Valley Estate. With your room only steps away and complimentary parking included in your stay, you know you’ll safely arrive in bed after a glass or two.
No matter what is in your glass, be sure to enjoy some of the small plates available, like a local strawberry salad, house-made bresaola, or a chocolate torte to finish. The lounge atmosphere makes it easy to settle in and enjoy dishes to share while watching the sun set over the plaza. During the summer, the patio has an automatic awning, keeping direct sun at bay, and heaters for winter, making this a year-round destination for wine, food, and relaxation.
And to make your entire experience even more special, the Ledson Winery and Zina Hyde Cunningham wines are only available exclusively at their respective wineries and online stores and are not nationally distributed. So whether you’re looking to discover new wine varietals and small-lot stunners or lounge with a cocktail in hand, Ledson Winery & Vineyards has you covered from your first tasting to your final yawn.
Photos courtesy of Ledson Winery / Elke Wolff