Sonoma County is one of the most magical places to go wine tasting thanks to its award-winning wines, stunning views, and fantastic dining options. And while sipping wines in a tasting room is a great way to explore the different wines available in the region, if you’re looking for a more unique and in-depth tasting experience, these nine wineries all provide memorable grape to glass adventures that take wine tasting to the next level.
J Vineyards is best known for its sparkling wine, but also has excellent pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot gris varietals. During the one-and-a-half-hour J Tour and Tasting, you’ll see much of what’s involved in the winemaking process, including two vineyards, the Crush Pad where the grapes are pressed, the Fermentation Room, and the riddling and bottling areas. A tasting of five wines is served throughout the tour, so you’re able to enjoy the wine while learning how it’s made (and also avoid any tasting room crowds).
Insider tip: If you want a phenomenal culinary experience, make reservations to eat at the J Bubble Room where you’ll enjoy five courses of seasonal dishes and food-friendly wine pairings, curated by J Vineyards’ Chef Carl Shelton and Winemaker Nicole Hitchcock.
11447 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 431-3646
The Stonestreet Estate is one of the most expansive mountain vineyards in the world and contains more soil types than all of France. During the privately guided Mountain Excursion tour, you’ll be driven in a Land Rover around 5,500 acres of Mayacamas Mountain Range peaks and valleys — that range in elevation from 400 to 2,400 feet — while learning about the history of the winery and what it takes to farm such geologically diverse land. The tour can be customized according to the interests of the guests (four max) and includes up to eight pours from the vineyard’s portfolio.
Insider tip: Go on the morning tour, which includes a picnic lunch at a beautiful ridgetop overlook.
7111 Highway 128, Healdsburg, CA 95448, (707) 473-3306
This small boutique winery produces syrah, grenache, pinot noir, chardonnay, roussanne, and viognier using grapes from over ten Northern California vineyards. The intimate 60- to 75-minute tour and tasting, however, takes place at the tasting room and winery in Santa Rosa. Often led by a family member or the winemaker, giving the experience a personal touch you won’t find at most wineries, the tour includes a stroll through the production facility to see the winemaking process before sitting for either a portfolio tasting or a “Road Less Traveled” reserve tasting.
Insider tip: If you want to take a break from wine tasting, walk next door to Moonlight Brewing Company where you can try a flight of beer while enjoying a bite to eat from whatever food truck is parked outside.
3352-D Coffey Lane, Santa Rosa, CA 95403, (707) 591-0782
DeLoach is a pioneer of pinot noir winegrowing in the Russian River Valley and prides itself on being one of a handful of certified Biodynamic estates in Sonoma County. If this is something that interests you, the Estate Tour & Tasting is the best way to learn about its sustainable farming and winemaking practices. It starts with a leisurely tour of the 20-acre estate, during which time you’ll also learn about the history and philosophy of the winery, and is followed by a seated tasting of estate-grown wines and a cheese plate.
Insider tip: The scenery at the vineyard is beautiful, so consider lingering longer and reserving a picnic hamper stocked with artisan provisions that comes with two glasses of wine.
1791 Olivet Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95401, (707) 755-3300
Reservations: Recommended, but not required for the Wine Museum Tour. Required for the Barrel Tasting Tour.
The family-friendly Wine Museum Tour and Tasting at the historic Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma is unlike any other tour you’ll experience in Wine Country. During a dramatic 20-minute light, sound, and visual show, you’ll get a close look at authentic 19th and 20th century viticulture tools and learn how they were used to make wine. You’ll also hear about the life of Buena Vista’s eccentric founder, the “Count of Buena Vista,” who is widely known as the Father of California Viticulture. The tour also includes a visit to the Champagne Cellars and tastes of current release wines. Buena Vista also offers a Barrel Tour & Tasting, which starts with a tour of the grounds, moves to the Champagne Cellar where you’ll enjoy a flight of current releases, and ends in the wine caves where you’ll sample wine directly from the barrel.
Insider tip: There’s a short walk along a shaded and paved trail from the parking lot to the winery. Stop and read the banners along the way to learn more about the history of Buena Vista, and be sure to explore the small hedge maze that has hidden private spaces with signposts that describe the life and journey of Count Agoston Haraszthy, who founded the winery in 1857.
18000 Old Winery Road, Sonoma, CA 95476, (800) 926-1266
Reservations: Required. The family tour is based on availability.
Benzinger offers several ways to tour its distinct vineyards that are tended to using Biodynamic, organic, and sustainable farming methods. The 45-minute Biodynamic Vineyard Tram Tour is a great way to get a close-up look at the beautiful vineyards while also learning about the farming practices. The one-and-a-half-hour Tribute Estate Tour goes even more in depth with a behind-the-scenes look at the estate, winery, and wine cave, and includes wine and barrel tastings along the way, as well as a seated tasting in a private room inside of the cave. For those looking for a truly special Sonoma Valley experience, the three-hour Private Tour, Tasting, and Lunch with a Benzinger Family Member is a chance to hear memories and stories about the winery, while enjoying estate wines and a Sonoma-style picnic lunch.
Insider tip: Grab everything you’ll need for a picnic lunch at the nearby Glen Ellen Village Market and enjoy it in the picturesque (and shaded) picnic area.
1883 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, CA 95442, (888) 490-2739
Reservations: Required. Children 12 and over are welcome.
California’s oldest family-owned winery has a tour that’s perfect for folks who like their wine tours with a side of adventure. On the Pingauer Excursion, you’ll go off the beaten path in a 12-person, six-wheeled, and Austrian-made all-terrain vehicle. You’ll stop throughout the 320-acre property to taste wine, learn about the winemaking process, and take in the views, including one stop to enjoy a cheese and charcuterie plate.
Insider tip: For those who would like something a little less bumpy, “Gun Bun” also offers cave tours and a production facility tour.
2000 Denmark Street, Sonoma, CA 95476, (707) 938-5277
The vineyards at this elegant Sonoma County winery enjoy a long, cool growing season, which creates grapes that are ideal for pinot noir and chardonnay. You’ll taste six of them on the one-and-a-half-hour tour that starts in the wine cave and production facility and is followed by a walk through the vineyards and around the property. Stop to admire the sculptures and vibrant stained glass installations amongst the rolling hills, then take in stunning views of the Petaluma Gap from a scenic overlook. The tour concludes with a seated tasting on the cobblestone terrace.
Insider tip: Be sure to also spend some time inside the tasting room appreciating the original lithographs from Marc Chagall.
5875 Lakeville Highway, Petaluma, CA 94954, (707) 765-2117
McEvoy Ranch, which started as an olive oil farm and is now one of the leaders in certified organic, extra virgin olive oil, expanded to add wine to its portfolio in 2010. The private and group ranch tours allow you to learn about (and taste) both during a walk through the olive orchards and vineyards. There’s also a visit to the olive mill where you’ll learn about the oil extracting process. The group tour lasts 90 minutes while the private tour, which includes a few additional stops at locations around the ranch, is about two hours.
Insider tip: The gift shop sells olive oil, tapenades, honey, and more, and is the perfect place to stock up on hostess gifts.
5935 Red Hill Road, Petaluma, CA 94952, (707) 778-2307