The fall will be an exciting time of year to visit the fabulous wineries of Sonoma County. With the harvest season in full swing, all of the area’s wineries will be buzzing with activity, some hosting elegant harvest parties and festive wine tasting events. Regardless of what winery to visit in the breathtaking Sonoma Wine Country, visitors are certain to have an unforgettable time during the harvest season, whether it’s an intimate trip through some of the region’s most important appellations or a lavish celebration with gourmet dining. Here are just five outstanding Sonoma County wineries to visit this fall.
Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves
9711 W. Dry Creek
Located in the breathtaking Dry Creek Valley Wine Region of Sonoma County, Bella Vineyards is a small, family-owned winery best known for its award-winning zinfandel wines. Led by owners Scott and Lynn Adams, the winery resides on a property known as Lily Hill Estate, whose winemaking history traces back to 1915 and still retains 10 prized acres of the original old-vine zinfandel. The tasting room is housed within the nearly 7,000 square feet of caves situated just below the vineyard and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. except for certain holidays and tasting is just $10 per person. A popular stop for bicycle day trips such as those offered by Getaway Adventures, Bella Vineyards also features 60 and 90-minute tours of the estate, with the latter featuring a personal wine blending experience.
Buena Vista Winery
18000 Old Winery Road
Sonoma, CA 95476
Founded in 1857, Buena Vista Winery is the oldest commercial winery in California and a must see for first time visitors to the Sonoma Wine Country. Located just minutes from the City of Sonoma’s historic plaza in the Carneros AVA, the legendary winery resides on its original site and not surprisingly, is designated as a California Historical Landmark and a winner of a multitude of awards. Now under the ownership of Jean-Charles Boisset and Boisset Family Estates, the historic winery underwent a major renovation in 2012, which included the grand reopening of its historic Champagne Cellars and restoring the Press House, the site for the winery’s magnificent tasting room. Best known for its cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, chardonnay. pinot noir and rosé, Buena Vista Winery is open daily except on major holidays and also offers tours of the Champagne Cellars and specialized tasting of its Private and Grand Reserve, as well as a wine blending program in the Cave of Curiosity.
Valley of the Moon Winery
777 Madrone Road
Glen Ellen, CA 95442
The oldest operating winery in the idyllic community of Glen Ellen, Madrone Estate has a long history of winemaking in the Sonoma Wine Country and produces three of the region’s most prestigious wine brands. Purchased by the Stewart Family in 2012, the historic estate has been producing fine wines from vineyards that were first planted in 1863 and for a lengthy period was known as Valley of the Moon Winery before reverting back to its original Madrone name and back to Valley of the Moon. After the acquisition, the winery was renovated and now features a fabulous new tasting room, a spacious patio, a creekside bocce ball court and dog-friendly vineyards. Tasting fees are just $15 but waived with the purchase of two bottles and appointment are not required. The wine production is led by emerging star winemaker Kat Doescher, who oversees the winemaking programs for the popular Valley of the Moon and Lake Sonoma Winery brands.
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Preston Farm & Winery
9282 W. Dry Creek Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448
Another very charming place to visit in the Dry Creek Valley is the family owned Preston Farm and Winery. Led by the uniquely talented couple Lou and Susan Preston, the gorgeous property features a 125-acre Demeter Certified Biodynamic Farm, complete with farm animals and petting area, a small production of old vine zinfandel and carignane and acres of fruit trees. producing 25 varieties of heirloom apples, olive oil, peaches and other tree-borne fruits. Visitors can enjoy estate wines in the spacious tasting room but can also browse through some impressive gift items like the estate’s superb organic olive oil, pickled vegetables, freshly baked bread from the onsite bakery and books with titles like Biodynamic Gardening and Nourishing Traditions. The property also has a smaller farm store, a picnic area and bocce ball court.
St. Francis Winery
100 Pythian Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95409
The fall months will be a great time to visit St. Francis Winery and not just because the harvest is in full swing. In October, the award-winning winery will host its 19th annual Blessings of the Animals, a fundraising event to support the Humane Society of Sonoma County. Additionally, visitors can enjoy wine and food pairings from Executive Chef Trevor Eliason who leads the winery’s restaurant twice named the “#1 Restaurant in America” by OpenTable. St. Francis Winery also offers an Estate Vineyard Tour & Tasting which includes a walk through its certified sustainable Wild Oak Estate Vineyard and Vegetable Garden, Private Estate Dinners and other special events, which may include presentations by winery’s two extremely knowledgeable winemakers, Katie Madigan and Chris Louton.
About the Author:
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who has covered national/international travel for CBS Local and all things San Francisco for CBS San Francisco. He is a Media Fellow of Stanford University and a member of the Freelance Council of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW).
He is a lifelong resident of Santa Cruz County, in California.