Sonoma County is a world-class wine producing region and visitors from all over the globe come to tour our wineries. The many unique wine growing regions - known as appellations or AVA's - represent geographic slices of Sonoma County with micro-climates and soils best suited to specific varietals and growing methods. There are nearly 60,000 acres of vineyards, over 400 wineries and 17 appellations within Sonoma County and each acre, winery and appellation has it's own flavor and style!
Most of our vacation homes lie within the Russian River Valley Appellation - named for the Russian River, of course. Sonoma County is the largest producer in Northern California's Wine County, so there's quite a bit of ground to cover if you want to try several appellations. To help you, we've put together descriptions of several of the closest appellations, a list of the closest wineries (to our office), recommended drivers, great events for wine lovers and resources for more information.
Russian River Valley: At the heart of Sonoma County - geographically, at least - the Russian River Valley Appellation grows mostly Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel grapes, and in that order. There are approximately 15,00 vineyard acres and 70 wineries in this region. Additional information.
Dry Creek Valley: Just north of the Russian River Valley Appellation and following Dry Creek, this appellation farms over 9,000 acres of grapes and has over 60 wineries. This region is best known for big Zinfandels and many old vine plantings. Additional information.
Green Valley: Nearly surrounded by the Russian River Valley AVA, the Green Valley of Russian River Valley Appellation (as it's formally known) grows primarily Pinot Noir and Charonnay grapes in its 3,600 planed acres. The thick fog layer sticks around much of the day for these and other cool loving crops like the Gravenstein apple. Additional information.
Sonoma Coast: Arguably one of the most scenic appellations, it stretches the full length of the county hugging the rugged coast. With approximately 2,000 planted acres of mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes and fewer than 10 wineries, the Sonoma Coast is a more sparsely populated region. Most of the grapes grown here, travel inland for processing. Additional information.
Alexander Valley: This region lies just east of the Dry Creek Valley and follow the northern run of the Russian River. Cabernet Sauvignon reigns in Alexander Valley. There are roughly 15,000 planted acres and over 40 wineries. Additional information.
More than half of Sonoma's 17 appellations reside on the eastern side of the county. For more information about these, we recommend this page.
The 20 Closest Wineries:
We've compiled a list of the 20 wineries closest to our office in Guerneville here. Each has a tasting room that is open daily (check for holidays), but there are many more available by appointment only.
A Few Favorite Routes:
Sometimes we're lucky and great tasting rooms are located near each other! In all cases we recommend picking 3 or 4 wineries to try in a day - any more and you won't taste the differences - and traveling with lots of water and snacks. Travel safely and designate a non-drinking driver.
Westside Road: Aptly named, Westside Road travels along the western side of the Russian River. The sounthern tip of the road intersects with River Road near the Hacienda Bridge in Forestville. We recommend traveling from south (at River Road) to to north (towards Healdsburg) and stop for dinner in Healdsburg before heading home. The Westside Road Wineries Association has additional information.
Eastside Road: You can probably guess - runs along the east side of the Russian River. There are fewer tasting rooms along Eastside Road, so plan to stop at Riverfront Regional Park for a picnic under redwoods or a walk around the lakes. This is an especially good stop if you have kids or dogs that need to stretch their legs. We recommend traveling south to north on this trek as well, but turn back to the freeway after merging onto Old Redwood Hwy and stop for dinner in Windsor.
Taste Route 116: Following Highway 116 from Forestville to Sebastopol (or vice versa) you'll see plenty of options for wineries to visit. The folks at Taste Route 116 have grouped together and built a map and events to make experiencing these wineries even easier. There are plenty of restaurants and places to stop for snacks and amusement along the way. Visit their website for additional information.
Tours and Drivers:
The best way to experience wine country is without driving! Between guided tours and private drivers, everyone in your group can sample the local vino and take in the views. There are tours and drivers to suit groups large and small.
Falcon Mike's Adventure Bus & Limo Services: (707) 887-9854
California Rivers Wine Tours: (707) 579-2209
Woody's Wine Tours: (707) 396-8235
Healdsburg Vino Tours: (707) 843-6701
Platypus Tours: (707) 253-2723
Terrific Tours: (707) 658-2748
Wine Country Events:
Sonoma County is home to some fantastic wine-focused festivals and events. And chances are good you'll get the best bang for your buck trying a wide range of wines all in one place by visiting one of these events. These are just some of the annual wine events we love. There are so many more to explore!
January: Winter WINEland
March: Barrel Tasting Weekends
April: Passport to Dry Creek Valley
September/October: Sonoma County Harvest Fair
October: Pinot of the River
November: Wine & Food Affair
Orgainizations and Resources:
There are more than a few websites with information about wine country and how to enjoy wine, so we've narrowed the list down to some of our favorites.
Sonoma County's Website; Food & Wine Page
WineCountry.com's Sonoma Section
Winery Geek's Mobile App
iVisit Sonoma County App - available in iTunes.