Sonoma's wine scene has flourished so much in the last generation that many of the county's viticultural pioneers have become international tastemakers, producing at massive scale.
Dig a little deeper, though, and you'll find a clutch of boutique wineries whose taste and style is dictated by terroir, not by the trends guiding the bigger guys.
At Sonoma's small, often family-run wineries, a few dedicated folks see the process through from start to finish.
"We all have a hand in our product from soup to nuts," says Alice Warnecke Sutro, the 33-year-old founder of Sutro Wines in the Alexander Valley who is bringing a youthful approach to an age-old business.
Like Sutro, many among this new generation of craft winemakers like to be involved in the process as early on as the farming, before nurturing their wines through production and harvest, and ultimately to marketing and sales. The result is small batches of bright, bold, and deeply loved wines.
As warmer months approach, Sonoma's artisan winemakers are rolling out their most refreshing, thirst-quenching wines. Get a taste or a bottle at these Sonoma craft wineries.
Inizi WinesPhoto courtesy of Inizi Wines/Facebook
Inizi Wines' 2017 Rosé of Charbono
This craft winery, founded by two couples whose male counterparts met at Fresno State. emphasizes terroir and the production of simple, pure wines. Inizi is one of two artisan wineries sharing tasting room space at the Guerneville Bank Club, built by fellow winemaker Alice Warnecke Sutro's great-grandfather in 1921. At the renovated historic building, Inizi is pouring its 2017 Rosé of Charbono ($24), a refreshing soft-pink wine with strong aromas of hibiscus flower, salted melon, and fresh cranberry. Bottles can be ordered online or at one of more than two dozen restaurants and merchants including Hog Island Oyster Co. in Tomales Bay and K&L Wine Merchants in San Francisco. // 16290 Main St (Guerneville), iniziwines.com
Bannister Wines' 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir
This family winery began producing in small-batches back in 1989. Today, Brook Bannister, who grew up helping his parents Marty and Gary on the vineyard, runs the operation. Bannister is known for excellent pinot noir (including their gold medal–winning 2014 Campbell Ranch Pinot Noir. But as the warm weather approaches, it's their 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir ($24)—a robust wine with flavors of ripe cherry, strawberry, rose hip and tropical fruit—that deserves some attention. Only their second attempt at a rosé, and the first they've sold commercially from a small batch of 56 cases, you can get a taste at their boho-cool tasting yurt or boho-cooler new tasting room at the Jimtown store (advanced reservations required), or order a bottle online. // bannisterwines.com
The selection of wines at Alma Fria.(Courtesy of Alma Fria)
Alma Fria's 2014 Plural Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
After three generations in the wine business, the Holtermann family decided to go into business for themselves, growing grapes and producing wines on the Sonoma Coast under the label Alma Fria. The cool coastal fog of their estate vineyards makes for elegant and complex pinot noirs and chardonnays in which Alma Fria strives to express their love of land and family. As the warm weather advances this spring, the winery's 2014 Plural Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($40) is waiting to cool you down with its wild aromatics of Meyer lemon, mandarin orange, and lime leaf. Pick up a bottle from Alma Fria's online store. // almafria.com
Scribe Winery's 2016 Skin Fermented Chardonnay
Like many of Sonoma's artisan wineries, Scribe Winery is a family affair with a long history: Brothers Andrew and Adam Mariani are fourth-generation farmers and winemakers who have been producing small-batch wines since 2007. The brothers' skin-fermented chardonnay began as an experiment with a traditional winemaking process and some uncooperative grapes. After 101 days fermenting in their skins, the original batch resulted in a delicately balanced golden-hued wine with floral and tropical fruity notes; an experimental success that has become part of Scribe's annual portfolio. Taste the 2016 Skin Fermented Chardonnay ($38) at the winery (advanced reservations required) or order some from their online store. // 2100 Denmark St (Sonoma), scribewinery.com
Sutro Wines.(Shoshi Parks)
Sutro Wines' 2017 Sauvignon Blanc
Although Alice Warnecke Sutro's family has been growing grapes at their property, Warnecke Ranch, since the 1970s, she and her husband Eliot Sutro were the first to try their hand at estate-grown wines. Under the label Sutro Wines, the couple began in 2012 with cabernet and merlot crafted from Alexander Valley's rich alluvial soils, hitting double gold right out of the gate with their 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. This spring, Sutro Wines is releasing its first warm-weather white wine: a 2017 Sauvignon Blanc ($28) with notes of passionfruit and grapefruit peel with fennel undertones. With just 28 cases made this year, get a sip at Sutro Wines' tasting and vineyard tour (advanced reservations required) or order a bottle from their online store (shipping in April). // 13301 Chalk Hill Rd (Healdsburg), sutrowine.com
Sebastien Wines' 2016 Montepulciano
Born in Southern France, Sebastien Pochan has been in the wine industry since moving to Healdsburg in 1995. After 20 years in the game, Pochan is dipping his toe (or, more accurately, his grape-crushing feet) into making his own wines, under the label Sebastien Wines. Here he specializes in Montepulciano; the upcoming 2016 vintage (due out this spring) is a fruity, black cherry and currant-flavored red juicy enough for warm weather sipping. With only 48 cases for sale, preorder a bottle ($25) from their online store before they're gone. // sebastienwines.com
Belden Barns' wines thrive in warm weather.(Courtesy of Belden Barns/Facebook)
Belden Barns' Blanc de Noirs Sparkling Wine
The crew at Belden Barns' travelled a rough road to be able to produce quality estate-grown wines. The historic vineyard, acquired in 2005, had to be painstakingly coaxed back into production after being ravaged by virus. Today, the lovingly restored fruits of their labor are at the center of not only Belden Barns' wines, but they show up in the wines of half a dozen other makers in the region. Celebrate the coming fairer months with Belden Barns' sparkling Blanc de Noirs ($38), a dry, medium-bodied brut with notes of citrus and dark cherry. Belden is in the process of developing a tasting room so, for now, grab a bottle from their online store or at a number of SF restaurants and retailers including Lazy Bear, Foreign Cinema and Bi-Rite. // 5561 Sonoma Mountain Rd (Santa Rosa), beldenbarns.com
Preston Kalogiros' 2016 Viognier & Sauvignon Blanc
The creativity of many artisan winemakers in Sonoma goes beyond wine to artistic expression in paint, sculpture, and wood. A collaboration between two visual artists, the craft label Preston Kalogiros exemplifies the kind of curiosity and imagination they bring to their art, wrought in grapes and fermentation. This spring, Preston Kalogiros' just-released 2016 Viognier & Sauvignon Blanc ($26), with its light honey color and nose of Meyer lemon, sweet red pepper and yellow apple, is a tiny batch (just eight cases) of drinkable high art. Get your own bottle (quickly!) at Preston Kalogiros' online store. // 9282 W Dry Creek Rd (Healdsburg), prestonkalogiros.com
Carpenter Wines' 2015 Semillon
Growing up in Wine Country, young Jake Hawkes attempted to make his first chardonnay before he'd even graduated high school. These days, Hawkes and his wife, Laura Carpenter Hawkes, are crafting small batches of estate-grown chardonnay and semillon whose vines date back to the 1970s. As they describe it, Carpenter Wines' 2015 Semillon ($30) has "a ton of tang and citrus rind...and the finish is like sucking on a river stone"—the perfect makings of a summer white. Schedule a tasting and vineyard tour (advanced reservations required) or order a bottle from Carpenter's online store. // 14255 Chalk Hill Rd (Healdsburg), carpenterwine.com