Napa and Sonoma

Going back for the first time in 5 years. What are not miss places in either? Or should I just post this in travel? Trying not to spend a fortune on tasting rooms but I know that has become more difficult now. We like most everything so nothing particular out of bounds.

Thanks in advance for any help.

Might want to check the first topic in Wine Talk. “Planning your visit…”

Two places I loved visiting in Sonoma were Calluna and Hobo. Opposite ends of the spectrum wrt venue. Calluna is at David’s beautiful house on top of a hill with the most gorgeous view. Hobo is in the warehouse that houses the winery and when we visited the furnishings were eclectic. Our visits for each was hosted by the owner/winemaker and lasted about an hour. I set up appointments with each a few months prior and then confirmed again a few days prior.

I really can’t say enough good things about either one. Great people making great wine.

Edited to add that you won’t see the ghostwriter wines on the Hobo website but Kenny did also pour one of those as well.

Lawrence, here is a list of my favorites and where I purchase my wines. All but two are in Sonoma. My purchases of Napa wines is rare these days. Will give a brief description of each and where they are located. In no particular order. You can bunch several of these together based on location and make a leisurely day of tasting.

Bedrock: Big variety, zins, syrah, whites, blends. Tasting room in the town of Sonoma
Ceritas: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and one cab. Location in Healdsburg. Appointment necessary
Dirty and Rowdy: Mourvedre, chenin Blanc, white and red blends. I think Hardy takes visitors by appointment. Location Kenwood
Idlewild: Piedmont Varietals grown in Mendocino. Arneis, cortese, dolcetto, barbera, nebbiolo, red and white blends. Tasting room in Healdsburg
Calluna: Cabernet and Bordeaux varietals, blends. Location Windsor. Appointment necessary.
Jolie Laide: Eclectic variety of wines, Melon, Gamay, Grenache, Syrah, Trousseau Gris etc. Not sure if Scott sees visitors, call for an appointment. Location, Barlow in Sebastopol
Ryme: Eclectic variety of wines. Two different vermentino, cab franc, alianico etc. Appointment necessary. Location Forestville
Scherrer: Big variety, Cabernet, zin, pinot noir, syrah etc. Appointment necessary. Location Forestville
Leo Steen: Three different Chenin Blanc, grenache, syrah, chardonnay. Tasting room in Healdsburg
Ruth Lewandowski: if you want to try “Natural Wines” sans soufre. White and red blends, sangiovese, merlot. Tasting Room in Healdsburg above the Idlewild Tasting Room. Appointment necessary.

In Napa I have a couple whose wines we enjoy.

Frogs Leap: Variety of wines, Cabernet, Zin, merlot, chenin blanc etc. Location in St Helena. Appointment necessary.
Matthiasson: Variety of wines, red and white. Location in Napa. Appointment necessary

We live out here so if you need other recommendations for food, lodging, sights to see, things to do other than wine, just ask or shoot me a PM.


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Great list, Tom! I’ll add a few places in Sonoma County that I visited just a couple of weeks ago - enjoyed all of them: Two Shepherds, Gros Ventre, Smith Story (all in Windsor), Freeman (in Sebastopol), MacLaren (in Kenwood), and Raft (in Santa Rosa). All will require appointments other than Two Shepherds, which I believe has regular weekend tasting hours. Frankly, I don’t know a lot about Napa Valley wineries, though I had good visits at Dakota Shy and Detert, in the same facility just off Silverado Trail near Rutherford - these will require appointments too. The suggestions above of Calluna and Hobo are good too.

Thanks Tom will do. I don’t see much buzz about Napa tasting anymore. Lots in Sonoma but they haven’t gone price crazy as of yet. Some of the Napa tasting rooms I looked at had imaginative tasting cost. A few that we went to in Sonoma like Domaine Carneros got a bit a bit pricey as well.

For Napa I learned many years ago that the $40.00 dollar Cab I enjoyed is not 3 times better at $120.00 and certainly not 6 times better at $240.00. I guess that’s an epiphany :slight_smile:

In Sonoma I find a great deal of grape variety and the quality of wines is excellent. Of course it really helps to be living in the middle of Sonoma Wine Country. I get to taste at all Open Houses and Pick Up Events. In regards to fees most producers, including the ones I listed above will not charge a tasting fee if bottles are purchased. Each wineries policy is a bit different but virtually all are very accommodating to visitors.


We were in Sonoma a year ago and my two favorite standouts were The Donum Estate and Repris. Highly recommend both for not only the wine but the whole experience, you will not be disappointed.

We are big fans of off the beaten path exceptional boutique wineries.

We are actually heading to Napa over Valentines Day weekend and have appointments at:

Kelly Fleming
Dakota Shy

In Dry Creek, I highly recommend Talty for Zinfandel. These are closer to “Zin for Bordeaux lovers” than rich, ripe, high octane wines. Shows a touch more oak than Once and Future, but far less than Ridge, and it integrates with time. He has an estate Zin and then I believe 3-4 other bottlings he does each year, and they’re always fantastic.

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Another vote for Calluna. Met them courtesy of Mr. Stoneking. Really nice wines and nice folks.

There’s also downtown Healdsburg, which is the singularity of tasting rooms.

Do you have a preference on wines? Pinot? Cab? Others? Boutique/small places or the big houses? There are so many choices…and I can see in the thread above quite a few great places to taste have been mentioned.

The value in Napa is gone to me. If I hadn’t already booked it, I would have taken it off our list. The tasting costs have gotten ridiculous. There is hardly any walk-in tasting anymore. Seems that Napa just wants you to buy their wine, not come taste to know what to buy. Most of the Napa wineries still charge the tasting fee even if you buy wine. Sonoma seems so much easier and laid back. The costs are way less.

Headed out there next week to celebrate my 40th birthday.

2 Nights in Healdsburg with tastings at Donum, Liocco, Williams Selyem, Copain and Idlewild. Dinners at Barndiva and Valette
2 nights in Yountville with tastings (thanks to Aaron and Claire Pott for introductions) at Otra Vez (V. Arroyo’s project), Perliss, Young Inglewood, Di Costanzo, Perliss and O’Shaughnessy, Dinners at French Laundry (thank you Amex) and Goose & Gander.

Alot of these thanks to all the good feeback on this board so thanks to you all!

Sounds great, but that’s a LOT of tastings packed into a short time frame. I would seriously consider paring back, unless you have experience doing this, and know you can survive lol. Nice restaurants too, which you will want to be able to enjoy after saturating your palate all day, both food and wine. At least think about it [cheers.gif]

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Highly recommend Rafanelli in Dry Creek. Delicious wines, they don’t charge for tastings and the scenery is spectacular. You’ll need to call and make an appointment.

Reminds me a one of my favorite quotes:
“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience well, that comes from poor judgment.” - A. A. Milne.

Some of us need to learn the hard way, I know I did. We slept (more like passed out) through our first dinner reservation during our first trip to Wine County.

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That is is a LOT of visits in two days!

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Hi Keith, looks like a nice visit to Sonoma-Napa. You probably already know this but just in case. Donum is located a bit south of the Town of Sonoma. It is a solid hour drive (or more on a weekend) to Healdsburg and surrounding area where all your other Sonoma Wineries-Tasting rooms are located.
I mention this to give yourself the needed time to get where you are going.

Enjoy your visit, it’s a nice time of the year…


Many very good suggestions. As noted above, the Visiting Sonoma thread has a lot of helpful info.

I am usually in SF several times a year, and try to get at least a 1/2 day in Sonoma (with a lunch a Il Molino Central–which is insanely good) every time. On the last visit, we tasted at Bedrock. Great experience. Very highly recommend.