Find Dazzling Fall Colors in California at These Sonoma Wineries
There may be parts of California that don’t have a pronounced change in seasons, but Sonoma County isn’t one of them. Adorned in vineyards, forests and rivers, the region offers a range of fall foliage colors that will astound even the most jaded eye, visually translating an earthly connection between climate, geography and season.
In fall, while the wine grape harvest is happening, the vines either swell with grapes still getting ripe, or, as the season progresses, shut down and get ready to sleep for the winter. This is when the reds, oranges and browns of the leaves begin, and the late-season light takes on warmer, earthier tones.
One of the prettier ways to enjoy fall colors is to loosely follow the pathway of the Russian River, starting from Geyserville and the Alexander Valley, crossing over to Dry Creek Valley which will lead to the southern end of Healdsburg and Westside Road, the beginnings of the Russian River Valley.
From the Russian River Valley, cross the Wohler Road Bridge to join River Road and head west to Forestville, where the Gravenstein Highway eventually connects to Sebastopol. Along the way, you’ve hit several stunning pockets of the region. Here are some of the wineries to visit where the fall colors shine.
Sonoma Wineries with Beautiful Fall Colors (updated September 2022)
Jordan Vineyard & Winery
Perhaps nowhere in Healdsburg is the autumnal transformation more succinct than on the buttercup-painted exterior walls of the Jordan chateau. Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) clings to the north-facing walls, morphing each year into a rainbow of colors. On a recent early-November day, the Boston ivy – from which the term “Ivy League” is derived – was in various states of colorization. Bright green patches contrasted with those of yellow, orange and crimson. Some purple leaves broke off their stems just by touch; greener leaves held their position. In winter, the walls will become barren, with the ivy re-awakening in March or so, with a new set of foliage. The Winery Tour & Tasting gives guests an up-close look at the chateau’s fall colors. $75. (View a time-lapse video of the chateau’s transformation).
Robert Young Estate
Run by the sixth generation of the Young family in the benchlands of the Alexander Valley, Robert Young Estate is a pioneer of Sonoma County . The Scion House, where tastings are held, overlooks the winery and vineyards, with outdoor seating a popular option on the front terrace, side terrace or back patio. Tastings are by appointment and range from the one-hour estate flight ($40) offered multiple times a day to two-hour lunch and tasting ($150); or be immersed in the Vineyard Experience ($150), a two-hour lunch and tasting under the oak trees held in the producer’s Burn Pile Cabernet Sauvignon Block.
5102 Red Winery Road, Geyserville, 707-395-3550, ryew.com
Stonestreet Alexander Mountain Estate
With a tasting room in the heart of the Alexander Valley, Stonestreet’s singular wines are made from grapes grown at higher elevations in its mountain vineyards within the Mayacamas Mountains. Do a Single Vineyard Tasting ($75) or Library Tasting ($100) to dive deeper into the wines, or a memorable Mountain Excursion (inquire) that reaches up to 2,400-feet-elevation to truly understand the vineyards.
7171 Highway 128, Healdsburg, 800-355-8008, stonestreetwines.com
Ridge Lytton Springs
Ridge’s two storied vineyards – Monte Bello in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Geyserville – were planted roughly at the same time, around 1885. Lytton Springs became part of the est[ate in 1991 and features 100-plus-old zinfandel vines interplanted with carignane, petite sirah, grenache and mourvedre. From this perch are views of the beautiful rolling hills of the Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys. From the straw bale winery, tastings ($25-$50) are offered daily by reservation.
650 Lytton Springs Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-7721, ridgewine.com
J. Rochioli Vineyard & Winery
The late Joe Rochioli, Jr. planted some of the earliest pinot noir and chardonnay in the Russian River Valley in 1968. Here, the river pulls fog from the ocean inland, cooling the area so that the grapes retain crisp acidity and freshness. The vineyards encompass 130 planted acres, from the benchlands of Sweetwater and Big Hill to River Block on the banks of the Russian River. The color variation as summer turns to fall is spectacular. Book an estate flight ($25) with optional cheese pairing and take it all in.
6192 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-2305, rochioliwinery.com
Porter Creek Vineyards
Originally founded in 1978 by self-taught winemaker George Davis, son Alex took another path, studying winemaking in school and working at wineries in Burgundy, the Rhone and South Africa before coming home to farm and make the Porter Creek wines. The tasting room is surrounded by Fiona Hill and George’s Hill vineyards where tastings ($30) include five wines.
8735 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-6321, portercreekvineyards.com
Iron Horse Vineyards
A sparkling wine house in the heart of the Green Valley appellation, visits to Iron Horse take place in an al fresco tasting room that fully takes in the colorful views of its Goldridge soil-heavy estate vineyards, where “the fog and sun meet in rainbows.” The vineyard is broken into 39 certified-sustainable blocks along a set of rolling hills. It’s as gorgeous as the wines. Tastings ($30) are by appointment only.
9786 Ross Station Road, Sebastopol, 707-887-1507, ironhorsevineyards.com
A 100-acre home estate that includes Quail Hill Vineyard, Lynmar is beautiful all-year-round, with seasonal gardens that highlight Sonoma County’s ability to grow everything that is delicious. From the expansive outdoor patio or winery tasting room, the senses come alive to all that surrounds. Enjoy a luxurious Collectors Lunch Pairing ($200) by Estate Chef David Frakes, three courses with Lynmar wines that highlight what’s in season.
3909 Frei Road, Sebastopol, 707-829-3374, lynmarestate.com
From its perch along the rolling terrain of the Sebastopol Hills, Littorai is first and foremost a farm, biodynamic, self-sustaining, diversified and integrated to be harmonious with its surroundings. Cows, sheep, chickens and ducks live on property and help with the farming while the winery is straw bale and designed for gravity flow winemaking. Tastings and tours are by appointment only and include a single-vineyard tasting ($65) of pinot noir and chardonnay or Gold Ridge Estate walking tour and tasting ($85) that focuses further on generative farming practices, including animal grazing and the making of agricultural teas and compost.
788 Gold Ridge Road, Sebastopol, 707-823-9586, littorai.com
Any favorite wineries you’d like to see added to the list? Please leave a comment.