We’ve been there: A spontaneous trip to Wine Country leaves you guessing which among roughly 3,000 wineries (that all sound the same) will offer a setting inspiring enough to get all the likes on Instagram.
Our advice: Start with Sonoma's Wine Road, the region’s primary winery association that spans properties throughout Russian River, Dry Creek, and Alexander valleys—in other words, some of the most gorgeous landscapes in California.
Here are some of our favorite stops along the stunning, vineyard-lined route.
Jordan Winery's posh chateau life redefines the ubiquitous wine club.
(Courtesy of Galya T.)
Jordan is the cure for the common winery tour. Understanding that few people enjoy standing patiently inside a chilly warehouse while a vintner rambles on about aldehydes, Jordan offers a handful of tasting options that incorporate our other favorite things in Wine Country: food and the great outdoors.
A 90-minute walking tour and tasting ($80/person) will take you from tank room to scenic terrace, into the chateau's recently renovated library of vintage books and old wines, and finally to a new cellar room for a seated flight with pairings. For a more decadent experience, book the Ultimate Healdsburg Wine Tour ($160/non-members) which begins with breakfast at the estate before you hop on board a Mercedes Sprinter van to explore the vineyards with all their flora and fauna before a paired hilltop lunch.
Trust us on one thing: It pays to join Jordan's wine club: Rack up the points and do whatever it takes to stay a night in their lavish French Country–style chateau.
// Jordan Winery offers tastings Thursday through Monday by reservation; 1474 Alexander Valley Rd., Healdsburg, jordanwinery.com.
MacRostie Winery Estate House
(Courtesy of @macrostiewinery)
Designed by San Francisco’s Gould Evans, the stylish MacRostie Estate House raises the stakes for its tasting room peers. With interiors layered in warm wood, tan leather, and polished concrete, it feels more akin to the chic Wine Country abode of a well-to-do friend. Sip the region’s famed pinot noir and chardonnay as you take in sweeping hilltop views through floor-to-ceiling windows or from one of three outdoor patios.
The signature tasting ($35/person) highlights five MacRostie wines focusing on single-vineyard chardonnay and pinot noir from the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast.
// MacRostie Winery & Vineyards hosts tastings daily for groups up to six by reservation; 4605 Westside Rd., Healdsburg, macrostiewinery.com
The red Adirondacks in the Creekside Lounge are reserved for Truett Hurst members, but there are several lovely outdoor spaces for drop-ins to enjoy wine and picnics.
(Courtesy of @truetthurstwinery)
You’ll find several types of zinfandel and a welcoming staff inside the tasting room, where the Homestead tasting ($35/person) includes a flight of five wines with an optional cheese board ($22/person). But where you want to be is in an Adirondack chair, watching the salmon spawn down at the creek—which yes, lends its name to Truett Hurst's Salmon Run Rosé Cuvee (a special Eco Estate Tour will introduce you to both).
Truett Hurst’s stunning grounds are partly why the winery has such a dedicated following, as is its commitment to organic and biodynamic farming. You'll also find lush vegetable gardens and leafy fruit trees that provide a perfect backdrop for picnics. This winery also gets big bonus points for its family of goats and sheep.
// Truett Hurst is open for tastings 10am to 5pm daily by reservation; 5610 Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg, truetthurst.com.
(Courtesy of VML)
Named for winemaker Virginia Marie Lambrix whose namesake label was born of a pet project for sister winery Truett Hurst, this fetching Russian River Valley winery features approachable, single-vineyard pinot noir and chardonnay from regenerative and organic vineyards. Just like the fanciful art on the labels and the overall ethereal vibes, the property is lush, beckoning you for "Celestial" and "Divine" tastings with cheese boards in the tasting room or outside on the veranda.
// VML is open for tastings 10am to 5pm Thursday through Monday, reservations recommended; 4035 Westside Rd., Healdsburg, vmlwine.com.
(Courtesy of Gloria Ferrer)
Gloria Ferrer, the first sparkling winery in Carneros, offers a distinct escape into Sonoma Wine Country. Blending the brand's vibrant Spanish spirit with a commitment to producing the highest quality Sonoma-grown wines, Gloria Ferrer offers a myriad of immersive experiences for both new and veteran wine lovers. Reserve your visit—unique offerings include the Rosé Exploration, a bubbly lunch, and even pup-friendly tastings—to experience their award-winning wines while soaking in sweeping views of the Carneros estate vineyards.
// Gloria Ferrer hosts tastings and experiences Wednesday through Monday by reservation; 23555 Arnold Dr., Sonoma; gloriaferrer.com
Thank you to our partners at Gloria Ferrer.
(Courtesy of @frickwinery)
Squint and you'll swear you're deep in the French countryside at this secluded winery in the sloping highlands of Dry Creek Valley comprised of "7.77 acres and a man," namely winemaker and proprietor Bill Frick who launched his winery back in 1976 with proceeds from the sale a '57 Chevy. His humble, soulful tasting room is housed in an old country cottage and is just the antidote we need to Napa’s hyper-luxurious excess. Step inside for pours of Rhone varietals like a complex counoise, cinsaut rosé, carignane, and mourvedre. // Frick Winery hosts tastings for groups of four or less, on Saturdays and Sundays by appointment; 23072 Walling Rd., Geyserville, frickwinery.com.
(Courtesy of Lynmar Estate)
Seek out this under-the-radar winery for its elegant and undistributed pinot noirs, exceptional hospitality, and lush garden setting in the Russian River Valley. The 100-acre estate is well-suited to alfresco tastings with pairings ($165/person) and even gourmet wine lunches ($250/person) among the butterflies on the patio. The place is such a delight you may not want to leave—and you don’t have to if you shell out for a night in the aptly named, three-bedroom Bliss House overlooking Quail Hill Vineyard and the Laguna de Santa Rosa.
// Lynmar Estate hosts tastings from 11am to 2pm, Thursdays through Mondays by reservation; 3909 Frei Rd., Sebastopol, lynmarestate.com
Michel-Schlumberger's recently renovated tasting room.
(Kim Carroll Photography)
It's easy to settle into this quiet corner of Dry Creek Valley where Michel-Schlumberger's Spanish Mission–style winery has a courtyard and cozy tasting room for sampling limited production, hand crafted wines in a range of varietals—from sparkling wine made in the Champagne method and a small lot chardonnay to zinfandel, syrah, and cab. If you can get a tour the wildly scenic property, take it: You'll find lakes, vineyards, and the gnarled oak trees that make Sonoma County such an enchanting destination.
// Michel-Schlumberger offers 90-minute seated tastings daily by appointment; 4155 Wine Creek Rd., Healdsburg, michelschlumberger.com.
Preston Farm & Winery
(Courtesy of Preston Farm & Winery)
Somewhere along the slow, unpaved road that leads to Preston Farm & Winery, you'll enter a time warp that transports back you to a simpler time. The bucolic 125-acre property yields down-home pleasures like freshly baked sourdough, estate-pressed olive oil, seasonal fruits and veggies, and homemade pickles. And, of course, wine. Estate-grown grapes include Rhone and Piedmont varieties as well as sauvignon blanc.
The best way to experience this family-owned operation may be with a BYO picnic (two hours for groups up to six, by reservation) to accompany wines purchased from their shop and consumed in the sun-dappled outdoor area set with mix-and-match vintage furniture. Be sure to take a post-lunch stroll in the organic gardens.
// Preston Farm & Winery welcomes walk-ins for tastings on Wednesdays and Thursdays but requires reservations Friday through Sunday; 9282 W. Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg, prestonfarmandwinery.com.
(Courtesy of Foley Sonoma)
Housed in a clean, modernist building that won an Architectural Design Award for Northern California by AIA, Foley Sonoma appeals to design buffs as well a oenophiles. The contemporary winery and tasting room blends into the terrain of the Alexander Valley and the looming Mayacamas Mountains, and is an ideal spot to taste their repertoire of mostly red varietals. Nab a seat on the scenic patio and enjoy a tasting paired with a cheese or charcuterie board. Or, if you're celebrating, book a 90-minute caviar pairing experience ($160/two guests).
// Foley Sonoma is open for tastings 10am to 5pm Thursday through Monday, with reservations preferred; 5110 Hwy 128, Geyserville, foleysonoma.com
(Courtesy of Pech Merle)
There are lots of reasons to make the trek to tiny Geyserville, all of which fit within its charming one-block main street, Geyserville Avenue. In a historic building, the Pech Merle (pronounced "pesh mael") tasting room has exposed-brick walls and an eclectic vibe that's comfortable for tasting their single vineyard Ivy Rosé or North Coast Rouge along with a wood-fired pizza picked up first from nearby Diavola. You can also take your DIY pairing to the gravel courtyard out back.
// Pech Merle, 21001 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville, pechmerlewinery.com