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Three days in Sonoma. What to do?

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Round Rock, Texas
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Three days in Sonoma. What to do?

We are traveling to Sonoma in mid August and staying just off the square. We like just about all wines- with a preference for the reds. I am a little overwhelmed in deciding where to go for the best (and not necessarily the most popular) wineries. We will have 3 full days to explore but don't want to miss anything. Also any ideas you have about mud baths/spas in Calistoga would be appreciated as well.

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1. Re: Three days in Sonoma. What to do?

Ac',

Do you have any expectations for wineries? In other words, any particular aspects/characteristics such as history or architecture etc that would be of particular interest to you?

also, are you planning to take tours?

Understanding what your expectations are will help in suggesting places.

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2. Re: Three days in Sonoma. What to do?

You are in a target rich environment when it comes to beautiful red wine when staying in Sonoma. The town proper now has a number of tasting rooms with solid productions. And driving up valley (to the north) you can find any number of great places. Don't leave out the larger legacy houses either, though they can get crowded on a weekend. Just be patient. I have not been to Sojourn's tasting experience in town but I hear its very good. More for the wine enthusiast. Eighth St. now sports a row of new tasting rooms off square. (See what I mean?) Gunlach Bundchu and Barthlolomew Winery are verry fun. GunBun has been in the family for 150 years; a family with a proven sense of humor but you'l have to see for yourself. Up Valley it's Mayo Family, Loxton, Wellington, Kenwood,Chateau St. Jean, Benziger in Glen Ellen, and if you like Italian varietals, VJB is NOT to be missed. Ledson is a great place for fun, young servers and an over-the-top caste. And the Queen of the Valley for reds is always St. Francis, though their tasting room can get quite crowded. Lin Durling Artisan

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3. Re: Three days in Sonoma. What to do?

For the mud bath/spa, check out Indian Springs Resort in Calistoga. :)

Hixson, Tennessee
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4. Re: Three days in Sonoma. What to do?

Hi Acfeller,

Here is a good map of the wineries in Sonoma County to help you in your search. sonoma.com/visitorsinfo/Sonoma_County_Winery… It does not include every winery, but has most of them.

In Sonoma you have several tasting rooms. One I would highly recommend is the Sojurn tasting room. They have whites, Cabs, and some realy good Pinot Noir.

Up and down the valley, there are some great wineries. In Glen Ellen, you might want to check out B. R. Cohn, has good wines and a great tasting room for olive oils. Plus, lots of Doobie Brothers memorabilia. In Kenwood, Chateau St. Jean, Ledson (just to see the mansion) on up to Paradise Ridge just south of Santa Rosa.

I would definitely spend one day in the Healdsburg area where they produce some of the best Zinfandel in the world. Check out Wilson, Mauritson, Passalaqua, and a host of others. Right in Healdsburg, taste at the Williamson tasting room where they throw in little tidbits of food with the tasting and it is FREE.

If you carry the Visa Signature Card, Many of the wineries in Sonoma County will waive the tasting fee and some will give you a discount on purchases. If you don't have one, it may be worth getting one just for this trip.

For the mud baths, you will almost have to go to Calistoga in Napa Valley. While you are over there, taste at Bennett Lane, great cabs and one of the best cab blends around, Maximus, and for the money, can't be beat. Also visit Chateau Montelena, the winery featured in the movie "Bottle Shock". The wines in my opinion are just average, but the building and grounds are beautiful. Zahtila has a good selection of varietals.

Have a great time.

-Hawkeye

Edited: 22 July 2011, 20:53
united states
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5. Re: Three days in Sonoma. What to do?

Lin,

Has the construction on the VJB tasting room been completed?

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6. Re: Three days in Sonoma. What to do?

No. They're hoping for some time in December. LIn Durling Artisan.

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7. Re: Three days in Sonoma. What to do?

The aforementioned Benziger winery in Glen Ellen has a great tractor/tram tour of its biodynamic, sustainable vineyards. You should make reservations, however. It costs about $15 but includes tasting, and the setting is beautiful.

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8. Re: Three days in Sonoma. What to do?

We recently discovered a business called "designated drivers".

http://www.designateddrivernapa-sonoma.com/

If you like wine, can spend at least a half day, and are interested in "behind the scenes" at small wineries, this is a great option.

What they do is drive your car (they are insured for this) and take you to some special off the beaten path wineries that they have relationships with.

This option is of course more expensive than a standard wine tour, but what a great experience, and the owners are incredibly nice people.

This was one of the MOST special experiences we've ever had in wine country - and we've been there a lot.

Have a wonderful time - Sonoma is awesome.

united states
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9. Re: Three days in Sonoma. What to do?

Ac'

Just a note...you realize that you will never see everything in 3 days, right? ;)

Winery choices are best set by personal preferences and expectations, IMO. If your desire is to experience an array of facilities, and you aren't particularly interested in tours, then I offer this proposal:

Plan a basic orientation for your self before you arrive- get a feel for where your wineries of interest lie by using a map- I like the individual area maps you can print from www.wineroad.com and the interactive planning map at www.winecountrygetaways.com- and concentrate on a particular area each day rather than attempting to bounce all over the county.

I think most folks agree that the primary area for red drinkers will be in the north county near Dry Creek and Alexander Valley AVA's. Up there you will find many smaller producers who sell only from the winery and sometimes online. There are not as many "grand" facilities in that area as you will find down in Sonoma Valley and Carneros, so expect more rustic to home-style places....Ferrari-Carano and Sbragia are the 2 exceptions that immediately come to mind, but there are probably others ( Coppola in Geyeserville).

There is a great blog called "Drink Dry Creek" that discusses wineries in the area and reviews some of the offerings. He seems to have a penchant for the smaller facilities and reviews them with some regularity.

This is the area to go for zinfandels, as you probably know, but we enjoyed several Sauv. Blanc offerings from there on our last trip up there so don't be afraid to try those, too.

Alexander Valley is better known for Cabs, and again more rustic facilities.

Chalk HIll would probablly be the exception to that. The wine cave at Alexander Valley Vineyards is pretty neat, and the Stryker facility is pretty cool- nice picnic area, too.

On another day you could focus on the more western part of the county where the Russian River AVA crosses 101 and stretches to the coast. This is where the sparkler producers are, and the main grapes are Pinots and Chardonnay. Its very rural out that way and a big contrast to both Dry Creek and Sonoma Valley.

Out here you will find the monster places like Korbel and Kendall Jackson just down the road from tiny places like Sunce and Hook and Ladder.

And Iron HOrse is worth the drive for the view from the tasting area, but know that their tastings are held outdoors at a stand-up "bar" composed of planks between wine barrels, so on a chilly day its not too comfortable.

You have to really work to get to Iron Horse, but its an interesting stop if you like sparklers or have read Joy's book.

Since you are staying in Sonoma, I would explore that area last. Sonoma Valley/ Carneros has great diversity in facilities from Chris Loxton's miniscule place in Glen Ellen to Steve Ledson's castle in Kenwood, and the Itallian villa of Jacuzzi. Down here you will find more wines in the European style; lighter bodied and more "elegant" . Also, there are several places that focus on Rhone varietals, like Cline and Imagery, which are an interesting change.

Don't forget to look beyond the wine and wineries while in the area....there are several lovely parks as well as museums and gardens to enjoy in Sonoma.

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10. Re: Three days in Sonoma. What to do?

Regarding the post on hiring simply designed drivers who will drive your rental car - you should know that even a company that formally presents these rental-drivers for your rental car are not randomly drug tested per the DOT and Public Utilities Commission as you will find with licensed and permitted transportation firms. A PUC sanctioned TCP (charter) means zero tolerance during the operation and State oversight of the operating permit. That said, there's no reason it can't work beautifully but you should know there is a layer of protection that is not afforded the customer.

Edited: 23 July 2011, 17:55