Going to California: Sonoma and Napa

Hi all,

This silly viking will be leaving for The Sunny State with three wine-friends on thursday and am curious to hear, if there are some must visits in the above mentioned areas?

We will only be around for one week and have already made some appointments with a few Napa-wineries and (Yes! - I’m so happy about it!): Mike Officer at Carlisle and Abe Schoener of Scholium fame (or is it rather infamous? :stuck_out_tongue:). Can’t wait to visit those two!

I’m particularly interested in Sonoma and especially Pinot Noir and I know some of you here are in the know (maybe produce yourselves?)

Specifically saturday 4th and monday 6th are free, will it be possible to visit a few wineries with such short notice?

Thanks in advance!

Best regards,



Let’s drink some Pinot; give me a shout!

Copain in Healdsburg is a great visit. Beautiful estate, great wines, and Wells Guthrie is a super nice and thoughtful winemaker. Among the best pinots in the area, though they source mostly from Anderson Valley for their pinots.

I’ve heard Littorai is very interesting to visit, and I imagine Ted Lemon has lots of wisdom to impart. Not sure if they have their own facilities to visit, but John Raytek/Phoebe Bass of Ceritas and Jamie Kutch of Kutch Wines are also very nice and making some of the best pinots in the area too.

I have heard that Rod Berglund of Joseph Swan and John Holdredge of Holdredge Wines are fun to visit too. For non-pinot, I believe Ridge has a Sonoma tasting room too.

I just got back from there. I would definitely go see Thomas DeBiase. I would also recommend Joseph Swan and Rochioli.

You know the nice thing about that area is that, unlike Napa, many wineries are open without appointment. So you can just drive the area and stop where you like.

We did this one day and came across Bacigalupi Vineyards (John Tyler wines), surprisingly good stuff.

One last thing, you might try Roadhouse wines in downtown Healdsburg, I was pretty impressed with their stuff.

If you like sparkling wine, Iron Horse is well worth a visit.

Why? Explained here: Napa winery visit recs? - WINE TALK - WineBerserkers

Ridge has a tasting room in Dry Creek Valley north of Healdsburg.

For other non-Pinot options, Nalle and Ridge in the Dry Creek area are making great Zinfandel. (Nalle also makes a Pinot and I believe have a Pinot-Zinfandel blend in the works.) Sky Vineyards atop Mt. Veeder is supposed to be excellent too for Zin and Syrah but I haven’t been able to check it out yet. Would also recommend Mayacamas and Stony Hill, though again not Pinot. These are all great, educational places with solid wine and beautiful venues.

Without knowing your person style preferences or the exact areas you’ll be at/near, I second Iron Horse (Joy is absolutely lovely), Corison (Cathy is the same – classically-styled CS). I’d say these are two really awesome visits that if time and location allow should not be missed.

Tons of PN in Russian River Valley (and Carneros). Different styles from bright fruit 14.5-ish percent alc. (such as Lynmar) to the more subdued (like Woodenhead).

A few of my favorites fwiw: Davis Family, Inman, Russian Hill, Siduri, Twomey

Don’t miss some of the good Syrahs while you’re in the 'hood.

I’ll emphatically second the Copain recommendation–a pretty spot and excellent wines, and Wells Guthrie is extremely engaging.

We also enjoyed very much our visit to Siduri’s facility, but the scenic factor is absent as it’s located in a sort of light industrial park.

Thank you Thomas, you’ve got a pm!

Also thank you all for the reco’s! grouphug I’ll talk to the others and try to pursuade them to drive as fast as possible to see as many places as time allows.

I think we’ll see if Copain has the time to see us. Tried a few of their wines already and they were great. And you can’t go wrong with a recomendation from Limerandall [wow.gif]

Best regards from Denmark [berserker.gif]

I highly recommend you visit Sojourn in Sonoma. Their tasting room is in a cool little house right off the square downtown. They make great Pinot’s and Cab’s, they use Riedel glasses (a nice touch), and they are good fun people as well…all in all a laid-back but classy experience.

Siduri, Twomey, and Sojourn are great choices if you like RIPE high alcohol cherry cola scented modern California Pinots. If you prefer a more classical style then I would recommend Swan, Copain, and Hirsch.


Was just there this past Sunday and definitely recommend merry Edwards, lynmar and Hartford in Sonoma for Pinot.

Also, for napa, you should definitely do white rock. I also highly recommend you reach out to Trent at Heibel Ranch Vineyards, it will be the most unique experience you can find.

Hi all,

A much belayed small summary of what turned out to be a great, great trip to California! In fact, I’m still digesting all the inputs. We had nothing but wonderful experiences and many of them would easily have been the highlight of any holiday, except here there were so many of them!

It will be too much for me right now to do a full recap, but I’ll be happy to fill in any blanks if you have any questions.

You guys on here (and another board) helped us so much, I can’t thank you enough for guiding us in so many interesting directions! Of the most noteworthy experiences I’ll mention in chronological order the following:

Saturday May 4th:

-Open House tasting at the Donelan Family Winery in Santa Rosa. Boy, did I have a good time here! Everyone was so nice to talk to, the Donelans and their team served all the wines for free and Tripp Donelan prepared really excellent homemade pizza to boot. For me personally it was very, very interesting as I had been quite a big fan of the wines under the old Pax label but never had the chance to try the style under the new team. I am happy to report, that I enjoyed it very, very much! The wines had become much more elegant and finesse-oriented, seemingly more “french” in style, but in the way California does so well; The wines are still rich and full-bodied - no thinness here - but still fresh and balanced. Good job! What a great impression the Donelan’s left! Btw, I just learned that the Donelan’s are changing head-winemaker just now, so I may have to go back soon to check up on the new winemaker’s style

-Next up was a beautiful afternoon for us at Copain near Healdsburg. We arrived about half an hour early, only to find ourselves greeted and served a glass of chardonnay in the chairs outside while enjoying the great view above the Russian River. What made it even more beautiful was the quality of their Pinot Noir’s. The brief moment i put my nose to the first glass of pinot I am not able to describe. It was everything I hoped and I couldn’t get my smile off the face. Even Kristian, a die hard Cabernet fan, had to admit that these were actually quite good, so much so that I know he even bought a few bottles

-As if we hadn’t had enough wine at this point, we headed to Healdsburg afterwards and I went looking for Eric Hall at Roadhouse Winery. I hadn’t been able to reach Eric and unfortunately he wasn’t there but his assistant winemaker David Milner was and he turned out to be one of the most inspiring wine enthusiasts we got to talk to the whole week. I can only recommend visiting this place.

I must rate this day a full 100 points! I still don’t really understand how we were so lucky to experience all this in just one day.

Sunday 5th:

-The following morning I gave Henrik Poulsen a call, I hope I didn’t wake you up Henrik? I didn’t think about the fact that it was sunday, I’m sorry

Henrik wasn’t able to see us on sunday but could fit us in on tuesday. We had an afternoon appointment at Bond, but hadn’t really made any plans before then, so Henrik adviced us to go see Larkmead. That was good advice! Larkmead apparently, is one of the four oldest wineries in Napa but I gotta say: Still going strong! I was very impressed by the quality of their 2010 cabernet. I think it got 95p. by RP, which I think is spot on!

-After that we went to Bond Winery, which for some reason was closed, so we had to go to the facilities of a sort of a country club, don’t recall it’s name. It was a beautiful place though. We were greeted by a lovely young woman, Mollie Maisch, who had a dreamy look in her eyes when talking about the wines, which were world class of course and as good as Larkmead was, it was still surpassed here. We had a tasting sample of the five Bond’s made in 2006 and a sip of a third, not yet released Harlan project called Promontory. Altogether a great experience!

Monday 6th

-This day took us to Littorai in Sonoma which was an entirely different experience from what we had tried at this point. Everything was organically and bio-dynamically grown and all sorts of Steiner principals were carried out. If you’re a believer or not, the wines were certainly right up there with the best. Intense, rich yet very well balanced. I think they could generally use a little more time than what I’d expect the Copains to need. These may ultimately be greater wines. I’m not sure. Still; A great, great experience!

-Next up was an attempt to look out the richest, densest, thickest, most “new world” tasting pinots of the Sonoma: We headed to Sonoma and went in to try the wines at SoJourn. Mission accomplished I’ll say. So much so that I must also say, they’re not my preferred style but definitely premium quality! After that we went to try the wines at Walt - also with a tasting room in central Sonoma. These were extremely full-bodied, “new world” too - perhaps not exactly at the level of SoJourn but not shabby at all.

We went to Wholefoods and I picked up some Cherry Coke and Beef Jerky and couldn’t help thinking about the diversity, that California has to offer.

Tuesday 7th was a big one:

-We started out at Scribe Winery in Sonoma. A wonderful winery in beautiful settings and “European” styled wines. We started with a bone dry Sylvaner and then a Riesling. Both were fine but ultimately too expensive given that I can get Alsace and Germany at about half the price for the same quality. The Pinot Noir, however, that fell right in my ballpark! Stylewise right up there with Copain’s lightest and I loved it!

-After that visit followed a few busy hours, where we visited Henrik poulsen at the Alpha Omega Winery in Napa, were shown around the facilities and talked about being a dane in the Californian wine business, about Henrik’s small side project called Release and other fun stuff. We tried a spectacular barrel sample of a Chardonnay. It was a pleasure meeting you Henrik, thanks again!

-Then we took a deep breath. Next up was an appointment with Abe Schoener of Scholium fame. We had been offered to see the winery and been invited to dinner afterwards and i gotta say I was excited to see it all and meet Abe. Me and my friends were introduced to his wines many years ago when Jay Hack brought the 2002 Hudson Syrah to Copenhagen for us to try. It was of such high quality I’m not able to do it justice and heavily addicting. We have tried many of Abe’s wines through the years and had to visit Abe, when we were in California. And wow, were we in for a treat!

To be continued…

(I’m outta time right now, will update later. The evening at Abe’s I’ll never forget and happy times tasting with Mike Officer at Carlisle the following day)

Sorry I missed you! We hung out just yesterday in the winery with a board member, Corey from Chicago, and had a lovely time.
Did a lot of 2012 Pinot barrel tasting, and it was very nice to hear his thoughts, as we are bottling right after labor day.

Is the Party at Abes still going? Where is the write up?

Hans let me know next time you are in the valley I will taste you as well on little fun stuff at AO :wink: