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  Sonoma County     [all categories]
  Sonoma - Wineries to Visit
  What should a newbie do?

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Author Topic:   What should a newbie do?
damombo
Member
posted 03-29-2011 04:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for damombo   Click Here to Email damombo     Edit/Delete Message
Yes, it's a heckofalot of information - but we all do love visiting and exploring and sharing.
One thing that helped me early on was to have a map of the area handy so I could see the logical progression - that way I didn't have us backtracking or making too many left turns (at least on the Napa side where traffic can get intense). Also having a little cooler along with water and cheese and crackers to snack on.

IP: 98.198.194.134

yesilovewine
Member
posted 03-26-2011 04:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for yesilovewine     Edit/Delete Message
Glad you are finding some of this helpful.
You might like trying out the trip planner at wine country getaways' website. Its lots of fun to play with because you can type in your trip and it will give back directions between stops- its helpful in planning an efficient day of wine tasting.
I also like the criteria choices for their itinerary suggestions.

IP: 98.232.221.183

Wascallywabbit
Junior Member
posted 03-26-2011 01:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Wascallywabbit   Click Here to Email Wascallywabbit     Edit/Delete Message
This is all great information and certainly helps in the planning process. I am very thankful for the input!

IP: 96.224.75.144

Hawkeye
Member
posted 03-26-2011 12:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hawkeye   Click Here to Email Hawkeye     Edit/Delete Message
I meant to add that if you are looking for wineries and locations, check here for Sonoma.
http://sonoma.com/visitorsinfo/Sonoma_County_Winery_Map.pdf

and here for Napa
http://napavalley.com/visitorsinfo/Napa_Valley_Winery_Map.pdf

If they have a black dot in front of the name, no appointment needed. a burgandy triangle in front of the name means it needs an appointment. Cheers.

IP: 68.169.189.111

yesilovewine
Member
posted 03-26-2011 10:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for yesilovewine     Edit/Delete Message
Good Morning!
I was re-reading this thread and see that I forgot to address your tour package question.
I'm never sure if people are asking about a 'winery tour' or 'a tour of wineries' when this comes up, so let me try to see it both ways....
if in your package deal you have in mind something that includes visiting several wineries as well as a facility tour, to the best of my knowledge ( which we will see how good that is ! ) the tour bus style deals do not include that- they are strictly winery-to-winery jaunts. If you hire a limo company, I think that they can accomodate that request with enough advance notice. They may be limited in which wineries they will set up a facility tour, but I believe I have read reviews of limo tours that included a winery facility tour too.
These 'hire a driver" businesses, from what I have read so far, seem to be the most flexible in what they offer. It seems that since they are driving your vehicle they let you set the itinerary - or assist you in coming up with one-so that its really all about what you want to see/do.
I don't know if stacyswinestop has email set up through here, but tours are her business and you could ask her more about it. Also, I think I told you that Lexacon is often recommended, by a TA source I respect, as a hire a driver company.
Am I helping or confusing at this point???
Gee, with all the mistakes I'm making today I'd wonder about this post! Sorry folks...my hands are freezing and I keep hitting the wrong keys!

[This message has been edited by yesilovewine (edited 03-26-2011).]

[This message has been edited by yesilovewine (edited 03-26-2011).]

[This message has been edited by yesilovewine (edited 03-26-2011).]

[This message has been edited by yesilovewine (edited 03-26-2011).]

IP: 98.232.221.183

Hawkeye
Member
posted 03-26-2011 08:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hawkeye   Click Here to Email Hawkeye     Edit/Delete Message
Hi Wascallywabbit,

How exciting, your first trip to wine country. I will bet you leave being hooked. Yesilovewine is well versed in the Sonoma County area so she gives you some good advice. I would suggest that you take one or maybe two winery tours but after that, they all get to be pretty much the same. Some of my favorite wineries in the Healdsburg area are Williamson, just off the square in Healdsburg, Wilson who has many award winning Zinfandels at decent price points, at Mauritson ask if they still do the flight of Rockpile Zins, and Passalaqua, on Dry Creek Road. There are many others along this road that you might want to try. Wilson has a picnic area that overlooks the vineyards that is very nice.

Just on the north edge of Healdsburg is Simi Winery which has a very nice tasting room.

You might also want to consider a trip on Hyw 138 which runs through the Alexander Valley. Try Stryker, Robert Young, Hawkes, Sausal, Alexander Valley Vineyards and Hanna Winery with incredible views from the deck of their tasting room.

I would think that at least one day you would want to go over to Napa. Just follow Hwy 138 over to Calistoga, a very pretty drive. You will hit bridge construction a couple times, but the wait is no more than 15 minutes at each site. Just before you get into Healdsburg is Bennett Lane Winery which has an incredible Cab blend called Maximus at a good price point. Chateau Montelena, the winery featured in the movie "Bottle Shock" is there and worth a visit, Two incredible wineries in the area are Zahtila and Barlow, both by appointment and have incredible reds. Then you can go on south either on the famous Silverado Trail or Hwy 29 and stop at some of the hundreds of wineries.

When you go tasting, try mentioning that you are new and want to learn about wines and most of the tasting rooms will take you under their wings to teach you. If they don't, just leave.

Good luck on your 40th birthday surprise and have an incredible time. Cheers!

IP: 68.169.189.111

yesilovewine
Member
posted 03-25-2011 01:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for yesilovewine     Edit/Delete Message
Regarding tours...I have never taken one myself- we have always made our own itineraries and driven ourselves- but someone I respect a lot on Trip Advisor is in the hotel business and she often recommends Lexacon tours. My understanding is that they drive YOUR vehicle and will tailor your visits to your desires. You might try giving them a call. Also, there is a poster to these boards who offers tours- see the wine stop posts.
If you seem to prefer reds at this point, then you are really well set in Healdsburg. You have the intersection of three of the largest wine production areas in Northern Ca at your fingertips. Since you are really on an exploratory visit, your best bet may be to just hang out in Healdsburg tasting at the different tasting rooms on your first day. That would offer you a vast array of wines to taste in easy proximity to one another so you can make mental comparisons pretty easily. Williamson is a favorite there, and I hope to try Stephen and Walker Trust's place next time we visit. Sunset Magazine has had some great articles on wine tasting in Sonoma County in the last 2 years....I believe that the Healdsburg tasting rooms was a focus in one of them as matter of fact, so check their on line archive. Also, Tasting and Touring magazine has done some great pieces on Healdsburg..and you can access those on line as well.
I know of 2 horseback riding opportunities, one is at the coast in Bodega Bay and the other is a vineyard ride at Roche winery in Sonoma Valley/Carneros. I read about another choice recently, but now I can't recall where it was...it may have been one of the "ranch" wineries. It just sounded neat because a picnic was included in the deal and they started early in the day so you would possibly get a real feel for the influence of the morning fogs.
Another tasting option you might enjoy would be one of the tasting room cooperatives like "Locals". Again, its a good chance to try a variety of wines from multiple wineries in a single location. There are the "Family Wineries" enclaves- one is in Dry Creek and I believe the other is in/near Glen Ellen- and there is "The Cellar Door" and Enotecea (SP?) in the town of Sonoma right at the square near the theater. Those are the ones I know, but there are others. Look under tasting room cooperatives to get a better list.
If you are not interested in driving yourselves, which many folks prefer, then hiring a driver through Lexacon or another company is a good idea in my opinion. This allows you to maintain some control over the itinerary and the length of stay where in a group setting you are at the mercy of "majority rules", so if the rest of the group likes a place you aren't thrilled with you are still stuck there until the group moves on. I just like to have some control over my visits; if I like it we stay a while and if we don't we move on.
If you have good weather, then you will have lots of great picnic site choices. Many of the wineries have picnic areas, or patios where you are welcome to bring lunch and enjoy the view. It is a courtesy to buy a bottle of their wine to enjoy with your meal, and they are usually happy to provide glasses and an opener. Some of our favorite places to go for that would be Passalaqua, Wilson, Dutcher Crossing, DeLoach or Stryker. I understand that Bella, Sbragia and Armida are also good picnic locations.
If you think you would like to go to a non-winery place to picnic, then Armstrong Preserve, Jack London park or the coast are all good choices.
You will have great scenic views all over the county. You might enjoy a Segway tour of the area! They aren't for me, but folks seem to enjoy them.Dry Creek Road, Sonoma Valley and the Olivet Rd. areas are among our scenery favorites. If you get the chance to be at Paradise Ridge's main facility at sunset you will have a real treat. .. that is a million dollar view in my opinion.

IP: 98.232.221.183

Wascallywabbit
Junior Member
posted 03-25-2011 11:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Wascallywabbit   Click Here to Email Wascallywabbit     Edit/Delete Message
Thank you for the feedback.

In terms of our taste in wine, it has not been developed as of yet. So we look forward to attending some tours to find out what we like. At home we enjoy mostly reds. But we are up for anything.

I am looking forward to taking in the scenery so the horseback riding sounds wonderful. If anyone can recommend a good place I would love that.

I also hope to try the picnic idea.

Are there any suggestions for a guided winery tour package that includes a little of everything - large scale and small?

IP: 173.251.49.250

yesilovewine
Member
posted 03-24-2011 08:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for yesilovewine     Edit/Delete Message
What a weewwy nice pwesent!
You have come to the right place for suggestions....!
You don't need to be "well versed" in wines to enjoy wine country, that is the first thing you need to know. Everyone has to start somewhere and lucky for you the folks in Sonoma County are really good at respecting the beginner...at least that has been our experience. Most any winery tasting facility is staffed by very knowledgable folks who can, and will be happy to, answer any questions that you might have. Just let them know that you are new to wine and then listen to what they say. Interestingly, you will learn new stuff at each place because every wine maker has a different "take" on wine, so you will learn tons just by asking simple questions.
Several of the wine-related websites have good sections to help the beginner get an idea of what to expect and a sense of tasting etiquette- winecountrygetaways.com 's is very good and I believe that the one here at wine country has been updated so you might check it out.
Healdsburg is an excellent base town as you will have good access to many wineries as well as exceptional dining options if you are into food. It is also relatively easy to get to Napa Valley from there should you decide to take a day to try that area.
When you ask about experiences, are you talking about wine experiences or do you have something broader in mind? Sonoma county is huge and goes from the mountains that divide it from Napa Valley all the way to the coast, so you have a lot of different environments to work with. A coastal day is very possible and would give you a chance to see some really amazing scenery. Some other things that you could investigate that would be different and memorable would be taking a hot air balloon ride, exploring a vineyard on horseback, taking a guided vineyard hike, participating in a farm-to-table program or perhaps doing a food pairing event at one of the wineries. a picnic in Armstrong Redwoods Preserve would also be a great thing to do.
Given that your trip will be in September, you will be there at the beginning of "Crush" which is the harvest season. The individual wineries have a plethora of special events at that time of year, so if you have a winery that you are familiar with or would like to know more about you should check their schedule of events for your time frame.
As far as wineries to visit, my first inclination is to say to take the tour at Korbel. First, it "goes" with such a monumental birthday event ( sparkling wines), and what I have seen about the tour and the facility leads me to think that it would be a great introduction for you.
The next thing would be to try and mix up your winery visits to include some familiar ones and some small producers that you have never heard of. Luckily there are quite a few tasting rooms right around the square in Healdsburg, so getting started will be easy.
If you could say what kinds of wine you like- just general stuff like sweet or dry, red or white....varietal if you know it- that would help to point you to good spots.
Since you will be in Healdsburg, I feel sure that you would enjoy visiting Seghesio. They are SUCH nice people and they offer a couple of special events which you might enjoy.
Do take advantage of your concierge's services at your lodging place. They can get you tasting passes and provide you with directions as well as some insider info on good places to go tasting.
Hopefully others will chime in here and offer other suggestions, but maybe this will get you started.

IP: 98.232.221.183

Wascallywabbit
Junior Member
posted 03-24-2011 06:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Wascallywabbit   Click Here to Email Wascallywabbit     Edit/Delete Message
I am planning a surprise 40th birthday trip for my husband in September. I am staying in Healdsburg.

We will be there for 4 days and are not well versed in wines.
Can someone suggest some ""must" experiences for us to do. What would be the best wineries for people like us?

IP: 96.224.75.144

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