Uncover a Unique Wine Tasting Experience in Sonoma
Not all wine tastings are created equal. Sure, the wines themselves set certain tastings apart from others. Sometimes, however, supplemental options and activities can help create a one-of-a-kind wine tasting experience you’ll remember forever.
Across Sonoma County, a handful of wineries have become skilled at building one-of-a-kind, unique wine tours for travelers in conjunction with good old-fashioned wine-tasting. Here are six of our faves.
Ultimate Wine Tasting Experiences in Sonoma County
Most visitors to Jordan Winery in Healdsburg never get to see the vineyards—they spend most of their time at the winery chateau. This is what makes the Estate Tour & Tasting so special. The three-hour luxury wine tour starts at the chateau with scones, homemade jam and Champagne before guests are shuttled out into the 1,200-acre ranch for an up-close-and-personal perspective of the chef gardens, vineyards, lakes, oak trees and vistas galore. Along the way visitors will stop to meet some of the property’s farm animals, enjoy vegetarian food pairings with Jordan Chardonnays while looking out over the lake, savor a 360-degree view from the estate’s tallest point while sampling estate olive oil and tasting Jordan Cabernets paired with a bento box filled with wine country delicacies prepared expertly by Executive Chef Todd Knoll. $125
1474 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg, CA, 800-654-1213, jordanwinery.com
The property at Belden Barns, on Sonoma Mountain, has been a dairy farm, a prune orchard, and a rural retreat. This history is very much part of the winery’s identity today. Though the destination doesn’t technically have a tasting room, Belden Barns hosts visitors for private tastings, and those often include a tour and walkabout of the 55-acre property. Upcoming expansion plans include a tasting room with a commercial kitchen and creamery, as well as some farm animals. Today, visitors will check out the 3-acre farm, sample some home-cooked food pairings, and marvel at the view of San Pablo Bay. This wine tasting experience ends at the “Wishing Tree,” an old oak tree where guests can write and hang wishes for posterity to record. For wines, guests will enjoy seven varietals, including two sparkling wines and a gruner veltliner, the only one in Sonoma County.
5561 Sonoma Mountain Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95404, 415-577-8552, beldenbarns.com
Alexander Mountain towers over the Alexander Valley, beckoning visitors to explore. And that’s precisely what they do on the Mountain Excursion from Stonestreet Winery. On this adventurous 3-hour tasting experience, guides drive visitors from the valley floor to about 2,400 feet up the mountain, regaling them with history and stories along the way. The morning tour includes a stop for lunch, while the afternoon tour is just a ride and wine-tasting. Along the way, the group stops for lunch—paired with Stonestreet wines, of course. $150-$200
7111 Highway 128, Healdsburg, CA 95448, 707-433-9463, stonestreetwines.com
The Culinary Tour & Tasting at Chalk Hill Winery, the most recognizable face of the Chalk Hill appellation, includes a little bit of everything: A tour of the winemaking facility and the organic culinary garden, an amuse-bouche prepared with produce from that garden, and a seated tasting of estate wines paired (by Master Sommelier Robert Smith) with four different courses of food from Chef Larry Forgione. The experience starts at 11 a.m., usually lasts two hours, and it is available Tuesday through Saturday. One thing is certain: Nobody is leaving hungry. $120
10300 Chalk Hill Road, Healdsburg, CA, 707-657-4837, chalkhill.com
Located just outside Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen, Benziger Family Winery is one of Sonoma County’s oldest family-owned wineries. The winery offers a handful of different options for seeing the ranch up-close. On the Biodynamic Vineyard Tram Tour ($30), for instance, visitors take a tram out into the vineyards to learn about biodynamic farming and explore a wine cave. The Tribute Estate Tour ($50) is pretty much the same itinerary, except it adds wine and barrel tastings along the way and a seated tasting of estate wines in a private room inside the cave. $30-$50
1883 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, CA 95442, 888-490-2739, benziger.com
Without experiencing it yourself, it’s difficult to describe the Pinzgauer Excursion at Gundlach Bundschu Winery, just outside the town of Sonoma. It’s part vineyard tour and tasting and part thrilling amusement park ride. Visitors board an open-air, 12-person military vehicle and tour the Bundschu family’s 320-acre estate, disembarking to taste wines paired with cheese and charcuterie as well as enjoy a spectacular view of the Sonoma Valley. This unusual wine tasting experience is available Thursday through Monday and lasts 1.5 to two hours. $65