While Napa reigns king of wine country, underrated Sonoma skims under the radar. Time passes slowly here. Instead of tour buses, traffic, and crowds, you can stretch out in the town square with an open bottle of red, bike between wineries without getting run over, and have leisurely conversations with local proprietors.
That being said, high-end restaurants, hotels, and boutiques are popping up and polishing up their games. Travelers wanting a more covert experience need to be a bit more intrepid in their journey. Here are a few of our favorite off the beaten path destinations in Sonoma:
Stony Hill Vineyards held out for 60 years. While they may not be the only Napa Valley winery to have made exclusively white wine for six decades, they are certainly one of the finest. Most famous for their White Burgundy-esque Chardonnay, the family-owned Spring Mountain winery has been going about their business making lovely, balanced and age-worthy wines in pretty much the same way since 1952. And now, a Cabernet Sauvignon joins the ranks of their Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewurztraminer.
On Sunday, October 7th from 2-5 pm, join 18 rockstar family wineries from the group that calls itself NG: The Next Generation in Wine, for their second annual Harvest Party at Napa Wine Company in Oakville. Experience the buzz surrounding the 2012 harvest with an exciting collection of wineries that are united by one unique factor—all of those pouring are the "next generation" of some of Napa Valley's top family wineries. This is your chance to taste a sampling of small-production, sought-after wines from this young and dynamic group in a beautiful setting amongst the vineyards and wineries of Napa Valley.
No doubt you've been seeing heirloom tomatoes everywhere on menus and in stores lately–that's because tomato season is in full swing, and now's the time to eat as many as you possibly can. One way to achieve maximum tomato exposure is to head to the Bardessono Hotel, Spa and Lucy Restaurant & Bar’s and Hill Family Estate’s fourth annual Tomatoville festival. It's a weekend-long extravaganza beginning on September 28 that's chock full of events honoring–you guessed it–peak season heirloom tomatoes.
The past few harvests yielded quality wine, but the tumultuous weather conditions hampered fruit quantity and dampened celebrations. This year, Mother Nature dealt Wine Country a fantastic hand, so there is plenty to celebrate. Here are our favorites parties this season:
On Friday, September 7, the Andaz hotel group debuted their first property in Northern California—Andaz Napa. A fabulous cocktail party was attended by the who's who of Napa Valley, to welcome the reflagged downtown Napa hotel.
Guests enjoyed delicious bites from Napa-to-Table Executive Chef Sarah Linkenheil, with wine pairings from local producer John Anthony and signature sips from Andaz’s resident Cocktail Maven, Caitlin Laman.
The event also featured an impressive art exhibition from local artist Richard Von Saal.
Andaz Napa is located at 1450 First Street, Napa, CA. For more info, visit napa.andaz.hyatt.com
While starting a winery is still exceedingly difficult and expensive, you can now create your own wine with ease.
Experiences range from quick and fun to serious and studious. At the end, you’ll have a custom wine and label, a good buzz, and a better understanding of winemaking.
Here are a few favorites that are open to the public:
Members of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers seemed almost disappointed by how little they had to report on Wednesday, September 5 at the annual harvest press conference held at PlumpJack’s newest winery, Odette, in the Stags Leap district. “We’re here with breaking news that 2012 is going to be the best vintage ever,” joked Amy Warnock, the viticulturist for Stagecoach Vineyards on Atlas Peak.
For many people, wine tasting may be no more than pulling their car into a winery, paying the nominal cost of a wine flight, and moving on to the next tasting room. However, there’s much more to the wine tasting experience in Sonoma. Below, we feature a few unique wine tasting experiences in Sonoma County.
This November 16th, go on a world-class tasting trek in Napa called The Appellation Trail, as part of Flavor! Napa Valley. It's ground zero for wine enthusiasts, because over 100 wineries will be pouring everything from Albariño to Zinfandel.
The Napa Valley has been endowed with the perfect environment to cultivate some of the world’s finest wine grapes, and an exploration of its sub-appellations (defined grape growing areas) reveals the amazing array of soils, microclimates and topography that enables growers and winemakers to craft wines of the finest quality across a broad range of varietals.