Requesting recommendations of Sonoma wineries for novice wine drinkers

HI, I"m a frequent lurker, but rare poster. Unfortunately, my discovering this board has resulted in a significant increase in our annual wine purchases and consumption due to the numerous recommendations of those on the board.

I had a request for recommendations. My wife and I travel fairly frequently from LA to Napa with friends for wine weekends. We are planning another trip at the end of March, but have decided that this time we will spend the week in Sonoma. In addition, we will be joined by my 21 year old son and two of his friends, all of whom are novice wine drinkers (although my son has expressed a fondness for Yellowtail). We will be spending one day in Napa and are considering taking them to Mondavi, Beringer, Duckhorn or St. Supery for their wine education programs. I’d appreciate any recommendations for wineries in Sonoma that would be particularly interesting for novices who have never been to a winery.


If you are going to take them to biggies you mentioned in Napa how about going the other direction in Sonoma and visit Joseph Swan.

Thanks for the recommendation. i like the idea of poking around at the smaller wineries in Sonoma. Also, i should add that while we are fans of full throttle Dry Creek zins, Sonoma pinots and Napa cabs, we drink and enjoy a pretty wide range of varietals and styles.

Some of my favorite Sonoma wineries to visit, most are walk-ins:

Papapietro (Dry Creek)
MacPhail (Healdsburg) - appt
Siduri (Santa Rosa) - appt
Merry Edwards (Sebastopol)
Martinelli (Sebastopol)
Freeman (Sebastopol)
Littorai (Sebastopol) - appt
Hartford (Forestville)
Freestone (Freestone)
Landmark (Kenwood)

Hope that helps, enjoy!

if you’re in Glen Ellen, I highly recommend Imagery.

Wellington in Glen Ellen makes great, affordable wines. Plus, Peter Wellington and his staff are very welcoming and have an obvious passion for what they do.

This is a great recommendation. Its a fun place to visit, the wines are solid with a pretty broad spectrum of varietals.
They commission a different artist to do each wine label and they display the original work in the tasting room, so if your
guests get bored with the wine they can look at the art work.

I would look at the following places.

Siduri/Novy - by appointment. Not the fanciest with the office park location but the number and variety of wines you get to taste is hard to beat especially when you also consider the quality. They always have great deals on what they are tasting and it is a great opportunity to taste wines made from a wide variety of locations.

Zepaltas - by appointment. If you do Siduri, you have to do Zepaltas since he does tastings at Siduri where he is the assistant winemaker. One of my most memorable tastings was a barrel sample of the 09 Suacci pinot. Incredible wines.

Other places I have been and would recommend are Woodenhead, Papapietro Perry, Kokomo and it’s out of the way but Peay is another gem. I have only been to their place in Cloverdale (our trip happened to coincide with their pickup party date) but friend who have taken the long drive to the vineyard have said it is worth the time and effort.


Very close by, I’d also visit Loxton, a small production winery with an Australian (IIRC) wine maker. He’s always been on-site in the tasting room when I’ve visited and is happy to discuss what they’re doing.
Not far away in Kenwood, I’d visit the Enkidu tasting room (Paul is on the board here so may chime-in). And Audelssa in the Glen Ellen village. Neither are on-site of the vineyard or production facility, but both have a good cross-section of wines and are happy to talk about their business.

Oh! It’s not my favorite place for the actual wine, but taking your novices on the tractor tour at Benzinger (about 0.5 mile up Jack London Ranch Road from Audelssa) would be educational. You get to go through the vineyards, discuss organic and/or biodynamic techniques, etc. I understand that doing the reserve tasting here is worth the differene versus the standard line-up.

If you are looking for education, try to get ahold of Kent Humphries of Eric Kent wine. Not the most glamorous tasting - usually done in his warehouse at Copain Crush. But our tastings with him have involved a ton of barrel samples from different vineyards, samples from different elevations of the same vineyard, and samples from different stages of the blending process. Kent is a great guy and we have thoroughly enjoyed tastings with him.

Arista and Rochioli on Westside Road always makes for a nice afternoon.

If the weather is good, a tasting at Scribe can be a great experience - beautiful property, very promising wine.

For novices and even geeks, I would hit Ferrari-Carano. Wines are good, grounds are beautiful, cellar is replica of Chateau Margaux. Copain and Papapietro (and also nearby Kokomo) are a great stop but the wines are starting to get more pricey.

Good thread, and good recommendations. I’ll be in Santa Rosa in March, and my girlfriend and brother and his wife will be there with me. I’m thinking of hitting up Copain and Ferrari-Carano, as I’m sure the wine and overall experience will be really nice. Thanks for the info on Siduri. I’m thinking an appointment is in the works. Cheers.

Copain. You won’t be disappointed! One of my favorite tasting room experiences ever.

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Arista, already mentioned, is a nice stop with a lovely setting. Nearby is Moshin, which has a very interesting range of wines for newbies and pros alike. Both of these are just across the bridge from Swan. Going north, another good stop is Inman. And,if you are going to be there a week, how about Ridge? Great Zins… and the other Ridge wines are there for the tasting too!

Freeman is appt…just saying. Great wines and great people.

Plus if Eric B heads up the tasting, you can taste his own wines.

Wow, thanks for all the great recommendations. We’ve been to both Ridge tasting rooms and enjoy their wines. We’ve also in the past tried to make it to Ferrari-Carano, but have never actually been there. We’re pretty excited about trying some new places and broadening my son’s exposure to his parents’ “hobby.”

thanks everyone.


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Bedrock, duh!!