Napa and Sonoma Feature
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Top Sonoma Wineries
It's best to visit Benziger in fine weather so that you can enjoy a tram ride through the vineyards before tasting wines—most notably the Chardonnays, Cabernet Sauvignons, and Pinot Noirs—made from grapes grown using biodynamic farming methods. A great stop for a midday picnic, this winery in Glen Ellen is close to Jack London State Historic Park.
The emphasis at this hillside winery outside Healdsburg is on European-style Pinot Noirs whose grapes come from neither Napa nor Sonoma County, but rather from a series of vineyards to the north in Mendocino County. Winemaker Wells Guthrie, a master at crafting complex wines from cool-climate grapes, also makes Chardonnays and Syrahs, some from fruit grown about 100 miles south of San Francisco in the hilly Chalone appellation.
Merry Edwards Winery
Serious lovers of Pinot Noir make pilgrimages to this winery in Sebastopol to experience wines that celebrate the singular characteristics of the Russian River Valley appellation. Tastings at Merry Edwards are offered several times a day—appointments are advised but walk-ins are welcome if there's space—and usually include several Pinots followed by a sultry Sauvignon Blanc that's lightly aged in oak.
Iron Horse Vineyards
Proving that tasting sparkling wine doesn't have to be stuffy, Iron Horse pours its bubblies (and a few still wines) at an outdoor tasting bar, where tremendous views over the vine-covered hills make the top-notch sparklers taste even better. Especially on fair days, it's well worth the drive down a winding one-lane road on the outskirts of Sebastopol.
Matanzas Creek Winery
A sprawling field of lavender makes the grounds of Matanzas Creek especially beautiful in May and June, when the plants are in bloom. But the Santa Rosa winery's Asian-inspired aesthetic makes it delightful year-round, especially if you're a fan of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, or Merlot.
Ram's Gate Winery
One of the flashiest tasting experiences in the entire Wine Country takes place a mere 30 miles northeast of the Golden Gate Bridge—you can leave San Francisco and be sipping in splendor in less than an hour if there's no traffic. The ultramodern yet rustic Ram's Gate, perched grandly on a windswept hill in southern Sonoma, specializes in Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, and Syrahs made from grapes sourced from some of Napa and Sonoma's finest vineyards.
Oenophiles will be familiar with Ridge, which produces some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel in California. Although some of the Geyserville winery's most highly regarded wines are produced in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the tasting room in the Dry Creek Valley is a great place to sample these coastal wines, along with the Zinfandels and other vintages made from grapes grown nearby.Updated: 07-2013
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