Sonoma County, adjacent to Napa Valley, is part of San Francisco’s Bay Area and only a short drive from the illustrated Golden Gate Bridge is home to almost 60,000 acres of vineyards and more than 400 wineries. Within the borders are 16 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs, or appellations) – each with its own distinctive characteristics. This diversity makes the area one of California’s best Wine Country destinations.
Sonoma is synonymous for an easygoing, down-home – not to the mention the patchwork of valleys, mountains, riverbeds, plains, and benchlands. Even though it’s a kicked-back mentality, Sonoma County Wineries are as passionate and innovative about their wine-making as their rich sister Napa County. With only two and a half assigned to Sonoma County, I carefully hand-selected the below listed wineries. How I wish I could stop time to experience the glory of Sonoma County.
I fell in love with Martinelli from the very first sip I tasted at the exclusive and dazzling Staicole Wines annual industry tasting where the delightful Ms Regina Martinelli showcased her fine family’s fine wines. Needless to say Martinelli was on top of my to-do list while traveling to Sonoma. The Martinelli family has been growing grapes in the Russian River Valley since the 1880’s.
Martinelli Winery produces hand-crafted quality wines from their estate vineyards. Limiting production and hand farming produces fine quality fruit that in turn with minimal intervention during the wine making process delivering high quality Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Zinfandel.
I still recall with great pleasure how the Terra Felice tasted. Aged in new French oak for 8 months before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. The Terra Felice was smoky and meaty, yet was surprisingly bright on the palate. You can connect with Martinelli via their Website, Facebook, or Twitter.
Seghesio Family Vineyards
Established in 1895, when Edoardo Seghesio planted his first Zinfandel vineyard in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley, Seghesio Family Vineyards specialize in Zinfandel, including wines made from century-old vines, as well as rare Italian varietals.
It’s a shame we on the East Coast get to experience only a handful of Seghesio wines especially since their vast portfolio comprises of Sonoma Zinfandel, Home Ranch Zinfandel, Cortina Zinfandel, San Lorenzo, Old Vine Zinfandel, Arneis (ancient Italian white varietal), Pinot Grigio, Barbera, Sangiovese, Omaggio, and Venom.
We are particularly impressed with the intense structure, fresh acidity, and jammy ripeness of Rockpile Zin. The Sonoma County Zinfandel was simply put beautiful. Full-on red fruit with crisp acidity, and intense inky concentration – this wine will win even the non-zin vinos. Connect with Seghesio via their Website, Facebook, or Twitter Page.
Most of us in our journey in wine immersion have tasted Chalk Hill’s Estate Red or their hand-crafted, estate-bottled Chardonnay. But did you know that Chalk Hill Estate offers culinary tour including a a sit-down tasting of Chalk Hill wines paired with several small plates prepared by Executive Chef Didier Ageorges?
The spectacular 1300-acred property boasts 300 acres of vineyards, wilderness areas, winery, hospitality center, culinary garden, residence, stables, equestrian pavilion, sports fields, fishing and swimming ponds, and guest houses. Not to mention Chalk Hill is the only 100% estate winery in the Chalk Hill AVA nestled within the Russian River Valley.
From the creamy and rich Sauvignon Gris, to the highly perfumed Viogner, the delicate Chardonnay, the luscious Estate Red, the incredibly juicy Malbec, and the concentrated Syrah – Chalk Hill tantalizes your palate with a wide array of elegant wines. To find out more about Chalk Hill visit their Website, Facebook, or Twitter sites.
First things first – Not only is Benziger certified organic by Stellar Certification Services, all four of Benziger’s estate vineyards are Demeter-certified bio-dynamic, an intensified form of organic farming. Chemical treatments are forbidden; Benziger relies instead on composting, natural predators, cover crops and biodiversity below and above ground. Flowers, insects, birds, cows, sheep and chickens all play a part in this approach at Benziger—each has a job in maintaining the cycle of life on and in the land. Benziger’s commitment to environmentally friendly farming practices in itself is a good enough reason to support Benziger.
Tasting Notes: Benziger’s Sonoma Mountain Estate Tribute 2010 made entirely from estate grown grapes is a classic bordeaux blend with velvety tannins and smooth finish. The 2011 de Coelo Pinot Noir, Terra Neuma showcased intense ripe red fruits with silky texture and soft tannins. You can literally taste mother nature at it’s best in Benziger’s wine. Kudos!! For more information connect with their Website, Facebook, or Twitter Page.
Davis Family Vineyards
I was introduced to Davis Wines by our friends, with the same namesake. I am always game for trying new wines especially Pinot Noirs. Sensual, silky, provocative earthy aromas and flavors – Pinot Noirs exude elegance and complexity in each sip. You can see my the reason for my endless fascination with Pinots.
Owner and winemaker Guy Davis established his winery in Russian River Valley just south of the town of Healdsburg. He handcrafts a modest seven acres of Pinot Noir near his home from small lots that are limited in production. Different soil types and micro-climates make up his Starr Ridge, Horseshoe Bend and Soul Patch single vineyard Pinot Noirs.
Most prestigious and successful of the red Rhone varieties, Syrah makes concentrated, deeply colored wines that can be rich and complex. It is on its way to becoming one of the most important red grapes in California. Thanks to our avid Syrah onephile friends, we had the pleasure of tasting a vertical at Montemaggiore.
Nestled high on the mountainside, the only way you could experience Montemaggiore is strictly through word of mouth or the adventure-seeker who is on the mission to find the delightful Syrah in Sonoma County.
Montemaggiore wines are made exclusively from our mountainside estate vineyards in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County. Lying 750 feet above the valley, the vineyards are steeply terraced on the eastern edge of the coastal range hugging the Pacific Ocean. The steep mountainside is responsible for naturally low-yielding vines and the concentrated flavors in their wine.
Lisa Ciolino is the owner/winemaker who takes the minimalist approach when it comes to wine-making, applies sustainable farming practices, organic materials, and Biodynamic principles to accentuate and conserve the unique terroir of their mountainside property and ensure the highest quality winegrapes.
Tasting Notes: The 2012 3 Divas a classic white Rhône blend of Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne; the 2012 Rose carried enough complexity to please the most discerning red wine drinkers; vertical Syrah tastings of 2007-2009 showcased black fruits with hints of spices, soft tannins and smooth finish. Their syrahs will definitely improve with cellaring. To learn more about their elegant and restrained Syrahs connect with them via Website or Facebook.
California is a place of breathtaking beauty in nature and high ideals. California wine region’s possibilities know no bounds. Broadly speaking anything is possible in the Golden State. California’s incredibly diverse climate and geography allow California wines to be made in a profusion of styles from a varied number of grape varietals. Not to mention the wine makers are amongst the most innovative and daring souls in the world.
California You touched my soul and satiated my foodie palate – I promise our paths will cross again, very soon. For our Napa adventure – check out my Napa Valley Wineries Article.