Deep in pastoral vineyards stretching into the hills, surrounding a romantic drive through Sonoma valley is a boutique winery that prides itself on smooth table wines crafted with the latest winemaking techniques. Chris Loxton comes from a family of Australian grape growers and is a fount of knowledge about tending grape vines to bring out the best flavor.
His engaging, passionate Walkabout Tour on weekends meanders through the estate vineyards with up close explanations of what vines need throughout the year, how soil and mineral content affect harvest practices and concludes with a sit-down tasting in the barrel room. The winery emphasizes taking care of the land, with cameras looking out for local wildlife, allowing the property’s creek to flourish in a natural state and placing owl boxes. Rather than loud, massive fans or a heavy duty sprinkler system to prevent frost damage, Chris Loxton closely monitors the plants and makes gentle adjustments as necessary.
Loxton Cellars offers primarily red wines—Syrah, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. In addition, their Port is delicious, particularly Decarda, which is barrel aged for ten years and has ruby characteristics, despite being a tawny. The inexpensive and refreshing Rosé is made from entirely Estate grapes; ask for a taste when you are visiting.
Hours: Daily 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Location: 11466 Dunbar Road, Glen Ellen
Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery
Enjoy sweeping vistas of Russian River woodlands in their tasting room, recently remodeled with expansive windows to fully experience the natural beauty without inconvenience. Due to limited seating, reservations are required, and easy to make online. If you are unable to stop by their Healdsburg vineyards, Gary Farrell offers wine tasting events in New York and Virginia.
Their award-winning Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are classic wines with body to them, pushing luscious aromas to the forefront. Participate in the Sonoma County Three Valley Adventure to learn about local wine regions, while experiencing tastings from Gary Farrell in Russian River Valley, DaVery in Dry Creek for a farm tour and Lancaster Estate in Alexander Valley with a wine cave tasting.
Hours: Daily 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (by appointment)
Location: 10701 Westside Road, Healdsburg
Chateau St. Jean Winery
A trip to Sonoma County wine country is not complete without visiting this romantic European inspired chateau with charming gardens and patios for wine tasting. Built over 100 years ago as a summer home, it was converted into a winery in the 1970s and has been expanding ever since. Enter through the ivy archway into a miniature paradise with sparkling fountain, statuary, formal gardens, rose courtyard, picnic grove and demonstration vineyard.
If you are in a hurry, stop by the outdoor concierge or gift shop for a quick tasting while strolling through the grounds. For a leisurely afternoon on the main patio looking out over the Estate vineyards, try the Chateau Cheese and Wine Pairing for a variety of crisp white wines through to their signature red blend, Cinq Cépages, which was the first Sonoma area wine named “Wine of the Year” by Wine Spectator.
Hours: Daily 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Location: 8555 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood
Matanzas Creek Winery
Through innumerable vineyards and spectacular Sonoma County landscapes, surrounded by lavender fields and a towering oak forest, Matanzas Creek is an exciting winery for Summer events. Celebrate farm-to-table dining with wood fired pizza, fresh oysters and live music in their Season of Wine & Lavender. For an artistic flair, join a guided Wine & Photography Safari or mark your calendar for their Taste & Paint events.
Known for unique Merlot from five local vineyards differentiating in flavor, they focus on wine that pairs well with food. Their Artisan Cheese & Wine Pairing flight is exceptional, including their finest wine along with local cheese and jam in a guided journey through their varietals. Enjoy the casual picnic area and gardens, including bocce ball court, glass in hand from their tasting bar.
Hours: Daily 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Location: 6097 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa
For a change in pace, this popular winery’s urban industrial tasting room in Santa Rosa is based in an active warehouse. With a flight of Pinot Noir from distinct wine regions presented by knowledgeable staff, it may not have the glamour of a traditional tasting room, but the wine is consistently excellent.
Hours: Thursday – Monday by appointment
Location: 981 Airway Court, Suite E, Santa Rosa
Continuing the theme of burgundy wine, their minimally processed Pinot Noir is also available in the Healdsburg Wine Lounge. Designed for relaxing after a long day of touring, the menu offers tasty, locally sourced bites to relish along with the wine—hearty chicken lunch, pot pie, crab rolls, cheese board and other scrumptious favorites. Occasionally Siduri has a wine lounge dinner series, with four course meal and pairings; check their website to find the latest schedule.
Sunday – Wednesday 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Thursday – Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Location: 241 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg
Article by Alexa Chipman