The Sonoma wine valley is just two hours away by car from San Francisco, but it’s a world away in ambiance and scenery. This uncrowded, scenic region is home to more than 425 wineries and more than 60,000 acres of vineyards.
Yet, for all the wine activity in Sonoma, the area has retained its small-town, farm-town vibe. The wineries are far enough apart that a tour of the area still feels like a drive in the country, and it’s not unusual to have the winery owner pour your wine and tell you about his vineyards.
If you’re headed to northern California, here are some of my favorite wineries in Sonoma. There are large and small wineries on the list, famous ones and small production wineries that are relatively unknown.
What they all have in common is that they offer a great Sonoma wine tasting experience.
Table of contents: ()
1. Halleck Vineyard
Halleck Vineyard, founded in 1993, produces one of the best Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs.
The vineyard, one of the first to plant Pinot Noir grapes in this region, has won numerous awards for their Pinots, and their Gewurztraminer was judged Best of Class in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in 2019. If you’ve never tried Gewurztraminer, that’s reason enough to visit. Theirs is considered the best California white wine. Period.
Tastings are small and intimate. The winery welcomes up to 16 guests per wine tasting to their Sebastopol Estate overlooking the Russian River Valley. Guests enjoy one Rosé, three white wines, and 4 different Pinot Noirs paired with local delicacies.
Tastings are $65 per person and include a tour of the winery and eight wine samples paired with local foods.
3785 Burnside Rd, Sebastopol, CA 95472
Tastings are by appointment only, Thursday – Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For reservations, visit https://halleckvineyard.com/wine-tasting-sonoma-county/
|Varietals:||Gewurztraminer, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir|
|AVA:||Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast|
2. Littorai Vineyard
Located on the western edge of the Sonoma Coast AVA, Littorai Wines has been crafting small batch Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines since 2003.
The winery is committed to using sustainable farming practices, and “85% of the winery’s grapes are farmed using biodynamic methods, and 15% are farmed using only organic materials. Winery co-owner Ted Lemon was named “Winemaker of the Year” by the “San Francisco Chronicle” in 2010.
He has also been nominated multiple times for a James Beard award as Wine and Spirits Professional of the Year and was central in getting the West Sonoma County AVA recognized as an American Viticulture Area. Guests can enjoy private wine tastings inside the cellar or outdoors on the covered patios.
$65 per person tasting fee. No groups of more than six people.
788 Gold Ridge Rd, Sebastopol, CA 95472
Open by appointment only, Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. For reservations, visit https://www.littorai.com/
|Varietals:||Pinot Noir, Chardonnay|
|AVA:||West Sonoma Coast (50%), Anderson Valley (50%)|
3. Marimar Estate Vineyards and Winery
Located just 10 miles from the Pacific Coast, Marimar Estate features 60 acres of vineyards, evenly planted between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.
The winery, founded in 1977 by the Torres family, carries on the Catalonian tradition of hospitality. The Spanish-themed main house hosts wine tastings with optional tapas pairings.
Marimar Winery is committed to sustainable practices, and 100% of the power used in the winery and the main house is generated from solar panels.
Tastings from $35 per person.
(707) 823-4385 X114
11400 Graton Rd, Sebastopol, CA 95472
Open by appointment only, Monday, Thursday, and Friday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For reservations, visit https://www.marimarestate.com/Visit-Us/Our-Tasting-Room
|Varietals:||Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Albariño|
|AVA:||Sonoma Coast, Russian Valley|
4. Freeman Vineyard and Winery
A tasting and tour of the winery is $340 per person.
1300 Montgomery Rd, Sebastopol, CA 95472
Tastings by appointment only, Monday – Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m and Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For reservations, visit https://www.freemanwinery.com/visit#en
Established in 2001, Freeman Vineyards is a boutique winery that makes small-batch Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Situated on a picturesque piece of land among top Russian River Valley wineries, welcomes visitors by appointment to stroll amid the vineyards and sample the winery’s production.
The winemaker himself hosts this Sebastopol wine tasting in his cellar. The winery waives the tasting fee if you purchase at least six bottles or more.
|Varietals:||Pinot Noir, Chardonnay|
|AVA:||Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast|
5. Lennox Vineyards
Located in the southern “Green Valley” region of the Russian River Valley, Lennox Vineyards is a small, family-owned winery that focuses on producing small batch Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.
Founded in 2000, the winery has won numerous awards, including the Gold Medal for the winery’s 2012 Pinot Noir at the 2014 Affairs of the Vine, Pinot Noir “Shootout.”
Tasting fees vary.
691 Ferguson Rd, Sebastopol, CA 95472
Tastings are by appointment only, Monday – Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Call the winery at 707 824-5818 for reservations.
|Varietals:||Pinot Noir, Chardonnay|
|AVA:||Russian River Valley|
6. Occidental Wines
This small winery in Sonoma, with its picturesque vineyards, produces a collection of small-batch, single vineyard Pinot Noirs.
Founded in 2011 by wine veteran Steve Kistler, Occidental Wines currently farms 85 acres of Pinot Noir vineyards in the Freestone-Occidental area in the Sonoma Coastal region. The name comes from the vineyards being located at the western edge of the region where Pinot Noir grapes can be grown successfully in California.
The winery welcomes small groups for tastings by appointment only into their lovely tasting room with floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over the vineyards and the Pacific Ocean.
Since Occidental is a small wine farm, they are unable to host tastings during harvest season (August to early October).
Tasting fees vary
14715 Bodega Hwy, Bodega, CA 94922
Tastings are offered mid-October through July by appointment only in small groups. The winery is open Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information, visit https://www.occidentalwines.com/visit/
7. Pedroncelli Winery
Pedroncelli Winery can trace its roots back to 1927 when John Pedroncelli purchased his first vineyard in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley.
Nearly 100 years later, Pedroncelli is one of the most famous wineries in Sonoma and is still family owned and managed.
Pedroncelli produces a large number of wines, ranging from a light Sauvignon Blanc to a bold Zinfandel. The tasting room, the first to open in the Dry Creek Valley, hosts groups of six or more for what many consider the best wine tasting in Sonoma.
It’s not unusual to be served by a member of the Pedroncelli family.
Tasting fees are $20 or $30 per person. (Club Ped members taste for free.)
1220 Canyon Rd, Geyserville, CA 95441
Reservations are encouraged for tastings. Tastings are offered Thursday – Tuesday, 10 a.m to 4:30 p.m. The last tasting of the day is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. For reservations, visit https://www.pedroncelli.com/visit-us/tasting-room
|Varietals:||Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Petit Sirah|
|AVA:||Dry Creek Valley|
8. Toad Hollow Vineyards
This family-owned and managed winery was founded in 1993 with one goal–to make great wines that are also affordable.
The founders, two prosperous Sonoma businessmen who didn’t like the idea of retirement, succeeded in doing just that. Today, the winery makes a small collection of still and sparkling wines that continue to amass accolades, most recently a double gold medal and Best in Class award for the winery’s 2019 Sonoma Coast Merlot at the Sunset International Wine Competition.
The winery is also known for its whimsical wine labels, featuring the winery’s mascot, Mr. Toad. Toad Hollow hosts wine tastings by appointment or for walk-in guests if they are available. It’s one of our picks for must-visit wineries in Sonoma.
Tasting fees at Toad Hollow vary.
4024 Westside Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Walk-ins are welcome for tastings, daily from 11:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. For more information, visit https://toadhollow.com/
|Varietals:||Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon|
|AVA:||Sonoma County, Mendocino County, Russian River Valley, Lodi|
9. MacRostie Winery and Vineyard
One of the most scenic wineries in Sonoma, MacRostie Winery and Vineyard is located in the Russian River Valley and produces primarily Pinot Noirs in small batches made from single vineyard grapes from their home vineyard as well as several other California vineyards. The winery, which was founded in 1987, offers one of the best Sonoma wine tastings with a view of the vineyards and the valley beyond.
A firm believer in sustainable farming, MacRostie Winery and Vineyard is one of fewer than 150 wineries in California (out of 5,000) to have earned the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing accreditation.
Tastings are $35 for a five-flight tasting.
4605 Westside Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Tastings are by appointment only, Monday – Thursday, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Friday – Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For reservations, visit https://macrostiewinery.com/visit/
|Varietals:||Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon|
|AVA:||Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Petaluma Gap|
10. Bartholomew Estate Winery
Located on the edge of the City of Sonoma, in the heart of 375-acre Batholomew Park, Batholomew Estate Winery features a diverse selection of wines ranging from a delicate Sauvignon Blanc to a bold Zinfandel. The winery’s 200-acre vineyards date back to 1832 and are some of the first vineyards planted in the region. Today, it is a certified organic winery.
The winery building is a replica of the elegant manor house that stood on the property in the mid-19th century. The mansion houses the winery’s tasting room as well as an art gallery with changing exhibitions featuring local artists.
In addition to the wine tasting room and art gallery, the property has miles of hiking trails that visitors can enjoy, as well as a large picnic ground. There’s also a stable, and guests can make reservations for a trail ride.
Tasting prices start at $35 for a four-flight tasting.
1000 Vineyard Ln, Sonoma, CA 95476
Tastings and trail rides are by appointment only, daily from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Visit https://www.bartholomewestate.com/winery-experiences/
|Varietals:||Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rousanne|
11. Keller Estates
Located in the Petaluma Gap AVA in the southern part of Sonoma County, Keller Estates has been crafting wine for more than 30 years. The winery offers walking tours of the winery and grounds on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays that conclude with samples of the estate’s five flagship wines (Chardonnays, Pinot noirs, and Syrah) as well as the Keller Estate olive oil.
The Keller Estate vineyards are maintained using sustainable farming practices. In addition to grapes, the estate practices beekeeping to pollinate the grape vines has owl and bat boxes, and keeps more than 200 sheep that graze and fertilize the land. Keller Estate has been recognized for its Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, but they also offer an excellent sparkling rose made from 87% Pinot Noir and 13% Chardonnay grapes.
A combination walking tour of the vineyard and tasting start at $50 per person and are limited to groups of 16 or fewer.
5875 Lakeville Hwy, Petaluma, CA 94954
Tour/tastings are by appointment only, Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tours begin every hour on the hour from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. For reservations, visit https://www.kellerestate.com/Visit
|Labels:||Keller Estate, Precioso|
|Varietals:||Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Gris|
Wonders of Sonoma Valley
Experience the many wonders, flavors, and aromas of the Sonoma Valley wine region. You’ll find small and large wine farms, beautiful vistas, and refreshing sea breezes. While the emphasis in the coastal area is Pinot Noir, there’s something for every palette in this unhurried, scenic region of California.