Have you ever visited a winery hoping for a private tasting, and instead had to jostle for position at the bar in the tasting room? Perhaps you found a seat in the corner but didn’t enjoy that beer-bar ambiance? For many, the attraction of wine tasting is what they imagine to be the intimate experience of it: the opportunity to inhale the bouquet, swirl it in your glass, hold it in your mouth and discover the flavors. That’s tough to do in a crowd.
Wine Tasting in Sonoma County
For the ultimate in wine-tasting encounters, look for wineries that don’t cater to the crowds. If you have to go all the way to California to do it, that’s OK, because it’s worth the trip (get a free visitor’s guide and wineries map for your visit). Sonoma wine tasting at select wineries is made by appointment, ensuring you an intimate setting in which to learn about and experience wines on a personal level. Here are some of the top places to do just that.
St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
In Santa Rosa, you’ll find St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, chosen by Open Table as the top U.S. restaurant in 2013 and 2015 and one of Wine Country Table’s top spots for wine and food pairings. It features a multi-course menu sampled through small tasting plates that arrive at your table along with a wine expert to explain how wines are paired with the recipe ingredients. A sample menu can feature pan-seared cobia, chicory-mushroom salad, duck rillettes, claret-braised beef, and chocolate crumble. Make reservations on OpenTable or by calling 707-538-9643.
Jordan Vineyard & Winery
Visit Jordan Winery for award-winning wines and an overall excellent Sonoma wine tasting experience, also noted as a top spot by Wine Enthusiast, Sunset and American Airlines’ Celebrated Living magazines, as well as Sonoma travel advice website, Wine Country Table. This Healdsburg estate offers four tour and tasting options, all of which include food pairings with wine tasting.
- Library Tasting: Three wines and hors-d’oeuvre pairing, estate olive oil and artisan cheeses.
- Winery Tour & Library Tasting: If you have the time, you can pair the above tasting with a tour and an additional hors d’eouvre by the winery chef.
- Estate Tour & Tasting: Take in the idyllic estate views at four destinations, featuring four wines with chef food pairings, olive oil and artisan cheeses.
- Holiday Tour & Tasting: Enjoy champagne and caviar before a tour of the barrel room, then a seated tasting with three more wines, cheese, cookies with homemade hot cocoa ganache.
The winery resembles a French chateau and alone is worth the trip. The winery and estate tours are offered May through October; the holiday event is offered for a few weeks in December. For reservations, book online or call 707-431-5250.
Mayo Family Winery
The small town of Kenwood is home to the Mayo Family Winery, which specializes in award-winning varietal wines. This family-run winery offers an intimate, café-like setting where you can enjoy pairings that match seven different wines to gourmet dishes. A sample menu includes spiced pomegranate pork, wild mushroom risotto, crab, chicken posole, maple leaf duck cassoulet and poached pear. For pairing reservations, call 707-833-5504.
Wine is meant to be savored and enjoyed. A great day-trip for locals and a vacation highlight for those further afield is a one-of-a-kind experience in Sonoma’s wine country. Make your appointment soon.