wine tasting in Sonoma County

Old Apr 3rd, 2012, 07:51 PM
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wine tasting in Sonoma County

I have been reading about the Ticket to The Wine Road regarding tastings and discounts. Has anyone ever purchased these or is it best to just show up at the wineries offering tastings to the public? We are staying in Healdsburg for two nights, Carmel for two nights and San Fran for 2 nights. Any suggestions on what to visit and/or activities would be greatly appreciated.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2012, 10:05 PM
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Wine road times are very specific. Google it, one is coming up next week. Just read an article in local Northern CA paper about how 20 somethings are turning the event into drunkouts. Local folks don't want to give up tradition, but people too drunk to stand or flat passed out, is most disconcerting to Sonoma residents.

Here's an ok map of wineries in the retgion.
http://sonoma.com/visitorsinfo/Sonom...Winery_Map.pdf

I just got back from several days in the Sonoma Valley of the Moon, and wine tasting prices continue to climb.
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Old Apr 4th, 2012, 03:43 AM
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I was just out there. Some of the wineries you could just show up and in their tasting rooms was a large bar and you just ordered a selection from a menu and they poured. Others you showed up and they'd tell you when the next tasting was scheduled - sometime not for a few hours so if you have your heart set on specific wineries you should look and see if they have the tastings only at certain times. Most seemed to consist of about six wines and each tasting was about a third of a glass - so total two glasses. They started at about $10 and go way up.

I highly recommend Castel di Amarosa in Calistoga. The wine was good (but I am know nothing about wine - my favorite wine is the stuff you get for €3 at Monoprix) - but the winery is in a fabulous reproduction of a midevial Italian castle. The tour includes a barrel tasting in the cellar and then the regular 'tasting' upstairs after the tour.
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Old Apr 4th, 2012, 04:06 AM
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Check other posts in here too - as there are so many good wineries in the greater Napa Valley area, from all the way North in Calistoga/Mud Baths (we like Chateau Montelena) - to mid valley - (we like BV/BeauLieu - Helena area, etc) to Sonoma in the South - with it's beautiful Victorian themed town square - where we also like Gundlach Bundschu and the Carneros wineries, and there is some good champagne at Gloria Ferrar, and the like.
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Old Apr 4th, 2012, 04:46 AM
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My photos of Sonoma and Napa Valley are here: http://www.pbase.com/annforcier/central_california

Scroll halfway down to get to the wine country photots
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Old Apr 4th, 2012, 10:51 AM
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Here's the article on wine tasting getting a bit out of hand.

http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article...erchants&tc=ar

isabel and tomsd, Calistoga is in Napa County, not near Healdsburg.

NEtrippers, Healdsburg has its own charm, and very expensive hotels and restaurants (Cyrus has the highest Zagat reviw @ 28 out of 30 for food).
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Old Apr 4th, 2012, 12:27 PM
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I don't believe there's a Wine Road event next week. But, what NEtrippers is talking about is the 1 day and 3 day tickets to the Wine Road:

http://arestravel.com/3400_attraction-info_a699.html

If you go to enough wineries, this could be a good deal. However, if you have a Visa Signature card, you can get some good deals on discounts and free tastings without having to pay for a ticket:

http://www.sonomawine.com/visa-signa...s-winery-guide
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Old Apr 4th, 2012, 12:41 PM
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Rasta: It's about 30 miles between Healdsburg and Calistoga - and hey - if you want to take a mud bath or to see the very classic/quaint Chateau Montelena, plus enjoy a nice drive - it will not seem very long at all.

http://www.calistogaspas.com/

http://www.montelena.com/

http://tinyurl.com/6rffchu
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Old Apr 4th, 2012, 01:28 PM
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tomsd - a 30 mile pain in the *ss drive, if you ask me.

The folks are staying in Healdsburg, don't know the area, and will probably have a great time staying local.

Chateau M is pretty good, except for hawking the book on the 1976 tasting. Personally speaking, Ridge Vineyards in the Russian River has a lot better wine, at a price, but a lot better.

NEtrippers - enjoy your time in Sonoma County.
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Old Apr 4th, 2012, 02:06 PM
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The one-day tickets costs $50 and that may be worthwhile if you plan on visiting about 4/more wineries in one day. Tasting at a single winery could run you $10 on up.

There are some really good wineries that are participating in that 1-day program, but they are pretty scattered, so you will have to plan your trip carefully.

Of these, with a first glance at the list of paritcipating wineries, I would recommend Ferrari-Carano (we've been liking their Pinot Grigio), especially for its stunning architecture; Hop Kiln, Mazzocco, Sunce, Truett Hurst. Also Quivira, Rodney Strong and that tiny Route 128. In Healdsburg itself, there's Selby and also Kendall-Jackson (I don't like Kendall Jackson personally, but it has its fans).

Or, you could select one area, like Russian River or Dry Creek, and just drive along, stopping at each participating winery without worrying about choice of winery. You can't go too far wrong with his approach either because there are any number of really good wineries along each route.


The drunken problems that Rastaguytoday has written about and linked to happens only during the first two weekends of March, during the Barreltasting event. We have been attending this event for many years and it has steadily become more crowded; the problem has been young people who not only drink the wine but also bring their own beer and guzzle their beer mixed with wine and pretty soon the entire group is flying higher than a kite. That's why, this last March, the event organizers did not allow large buses (believe that was across the board) and there were also specific wineries, like Armida, that had a no bus sign outside (nevertheless, we did see a bus parked at the bottom of the Armida hill, guess all its passengers trekked uphill to the winery itself). Also the food was cut down and not advertised, as people tended to go to certain wineries just for the food. We found, however, that some of the wineries we favor still served their usual food and in the same quantities as before. It's a worthwhile event to attend, particularly if you are looking to buy wine supplies for the rest of the year or to buy wine futures based on your tastings. We usually end up with a trunkful of wine to take home. It's fun for us and we've rarely bought continuously from the same wineries (one of my family members does!) because the wines differ so much year to year, winery to winery.

You shouldn't be running into this problem the rest of the year.

Hope this helps a bit in your decision.
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Old Apr 4th, 2012, 08:28 PM
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easytraveler - having lived in Sonoma Country for many years and having been to Napa-Sonoma since the late '70s, it only gets more crowded every year.

I try to not be a curmudgeon, but with California having grown by 15M people since 1980 and tourists seemingly growing by even more, I try to stay away from weekend events up in the northern wine country.

Livermore's wine country is slowly moving in that direction as are the wineries around Hollister, Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo.

Too bad about the growth and the commercialization.

For a great perspective, read James Conaway's book NAPA. It was a best seller when it came out. He wrote a follow-on book about 10 years later and was surprised how much the Valley has changed.
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Old Apr 4th, 2012, 08:45 PM
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Rastaguytoday: having lived in Sonoma Country for many years and having been to Napa-Sonoma since the late '70s, it only gets more crowded every year.

Agree.

I try to not be a curmudgeon...

Having read some of your posts (your sign-on name is very unusual), you sound like a really nice guy, far from a curmudgeon!

Too bad about the growth and the commercialization.

Agree.

Livermore's wine country is slowly moving in that direction as are the wineries around Hollister, Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo.

As have the wineries in Monterey and Santa Barbara County, and up north, the wineries in Oregon and Washington. We've been wine tasting as far north as British Columbia - which probably remains more of a "pristine" wine country, despite it's growth but not so much commercialization.

Nevertheless, the US as a whole ranks only 4th in wine production and produces less than half what France and Italy individually produce.

The Barreltasting partying has really gotten out of hand, tho.
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Old Apr 5th, 2012, 03:12 PM
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easytraveler - I try to give relatively current information when I post.

Most people want sincere information, not outdated opinions. Given that, I do have to get off my soapbox simetimes.

In this case, the folks are staying in Healdsburg for only a couple of days. Why send them hither, thither and yon?, when they just want to know how to get around and have a good time?
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Old Apr 5th, 2012, 06:47 PM
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Rastaguytoday: Why send them hither, thither and yon?

Because they asked about the Ticket to the Wine Road and the participating wineries are scattered "hither, thither and yon"?
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Old Apr 6th, 2012, 12:05 PM
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easytraveler - tomsd wanted to send them to Calistoga, which probably won't work for the Sonoma Wine Road. I've given them a map of the local area, as have you.

This reference to Healdsburg, means in the general area, not to the Napa Wine Country.

tomsd is stuck in a '70s time warp.
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Old May 1st, 2012, 03:00 PM
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hi. new kid here, but I have used the Ticket to the Wine Road program, so I can help.
I don't have the current list of participants at hand, but as someone said earlier, the best use is if you were planning to go to several of the locations anyway, not to plan your trip around what's offered.
Given that you only have 2 full days in the area, you would probably be happiest not using the TTWR program this trip, but exploring around Healdsburg on a drop-in basis.
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Old May 2nd, 2012, 04:15 AM
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NE, we were in Napa and Sonoma in March this year. I planned to visit 4 or 5 wineries and maybe we could have met that schedule if we hadn't enjoyed talking to the pourers at each winery. We went mid-week so the wineries were wonderfully quiet. The most we did in any of our 5 days in the area was 3 wineries.

When we were in Sonoma County we were based in the city of Sonoma so didn't get as far north as Healdsburg. To save some money we used coupons found here. Sorry for some reason I can't cut and paste the links so I'm typing them in--hope they are useful to you this way

www.econcierges.com/sonoma

www.trendexperience.com/coupons.html

www.sonoma.com

It was our first trip to California for wine tasting and we can't wait to go back. Have fun, Deborah
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Old May 2nd, 2012, 05:23 AM
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You bet I will send someone hiter and yonder in beautiful wine country. Rasta - U B getting old brother. 30 miles driving in Wine Country is a treat, even if it's more congested now. Just chill and enjoy the sights.

And I mentioned Chateaux Montelena for the beautiful winery/setting as well as having good wines (BTW - not because we knew the former owner.

Just to refresh your memory - in case you have been hitting that Hookah too much. http://www.montelena.com/
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Old May 2nd, 2012, 08:47 AM
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We just got back from a week in SF, with an overnight in Healdsburg, this was our 4th trip to the area. There are many beautiful wineries near Healdsburg, both to the east and west, many give free tastings. This trip we explored eastern side of the Sonoma area. Some of the outstanding wineries we did were Jacuzzi, De Lorimier, and Cappola. Most of the hotels/motels in the area can supply you with free wine tasting coupons. We did a Sunday and Monday. On Sunday the wineries were moderately busy, on Monday they were virtually empty. In Healdsburg we dined at the Thai restaurant near the Safeway - it was excellent and inexpensive. The next day we had pizza in Geyserville at Diavola Pizza another great find. Geyserville is a tiny little town with a real western feel.
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Old May 12th, 2012, 11:43 PM
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If you decide to skip the "Ticket", you might want to take a look at the new Wine Spectator ( June 2012) for ideas- the cover/feature is on Sonoma...and that is the county not just the town.... Also, there is a pretty good website called winecountrygetaways.com that offers daytrip itineraries and they are a pretty good mix of winery types and well situated for access to one another.
If you are based in Healdsburg, you will surely want to visit Coppola just because of the movie stuff. That is also one of the few wineries that has an onsite restaurant, so its good for breaking up a day of tasting. You could spend one whole day just tooling around in Healdsburg visiting the tasting rooms and boutiques, but that seems wasteful...
For something a little different you might enjoy signing up for one of the Seghesio's Family Table meals. They vary seasonally, I believe, but friends of ours loved it when they went.
One of the prettiest wineries in that area, IMO is Everett Ridge. The view from there just goes on forever. They are a little tricky to find, but worth it- and picnics are allowed, if you're interested.
For a fun cave experience, head up to Bella- the tasting room is actually in the cave where they cellar the wine. I've heard that Alexander Valley Vineyards also has a nice cave experience, but haven't been.
If you go to Alexander Valley though, you should stop in at Jimtown Store- very unique and old-timey. Stryker is another cool facility in that area.
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