The Sonoma County wine country often plays second fiddle to its Napa Valley counterpart. However, the wine is just as good, often comes at a better rate and is less touristy than the county to the east. Plus, with the county’s location along the Pacific coastline comes a temperate climate perfect for growing grapes. Daytime temperatures in the area average about 71 degrees Fahrenheit and the night temperatures stay mostly in the 40s. This region of the country is especially known for its chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir varietals, with more than 49,000 acres of vineyards owned by about 180 wineries in the county. Sonoma County cheese is another major attraction, with Cowgirl Creamery offering some of the best brie cheese in the state. It, of course, pairs perfectly with the wines, making this wine country a true gem for winos to visit. Here are just five that make it noteworthy.
Paul Hobbs had a dream to open a winery, and that he did in in 1991 in Sebastopol. The winery has since grown to be one of the top in California, receiving awards for its pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, and putting West Sonoma’s wine country along Route 116 on the map. The winery owns several small production vineyards across Sonoma County and Napa Valley — the most notable of which is the 14-acre Katherine Lindsay Estate, named for Paul’s grandmother who established the Hobbs New York family farm. Visitors can get a taste of this delicious wine on one of the appointment-only tours and tastings offered at the winery.
Iron Horse Vineyards was the most westerly vineyard in Sonoma County when it opened in 1979, and it now has 160 acres dedicated to growing grapes. As customers make their way to the winery, they will cross a small bridge, pass the organic vegetable gardens and drive up an oak-lined drive, located between an alternating row of palm and olive trees. Known for its estate chardonnays and pinot noirs, the winery is especially known for its vintage sparkling varieties. Iron Horse offers tastings from its rustic, outdoor tasting room, which offers tasty wine matched by some of the best views of Sonoma wine country.
Jordan Winery owners Tom and Sally Jordan share a love for French food and wine. As such, they opened their European-inspired winery in Healdsburg in 1972. The chateau winery is known for its cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, and it has a very French feel. Guests will drive up the tree-lined drive to a mansion covered in ivy and highlighted by red window shutters and a red-tile roof. The estate tour and tasting includes a personal tour, as well as a tasting of the wines and olive oil paired with the cuisine handcrafted by the estate’s Executive Chef Todd Knoll, who blends Asian and French cuisines with local ingredients for a quintessential Sonoma meal.
A prominent winery in Sonoma County, Hanna Winery owns 600 acres of land across four vineyard estates. Dr. Elias Hanna, a cardiac surgeon with a proclivity for the countryside founded the family winery in 1985 and it has been since run by his daughter, Christine. Living in Sonoma County her whole adult life, Christine Hanna has brought a do-it-yourself approach to the business. Her cookbook, The Winemaker Cooks, includes recipes that pair well with the Hanna’s food-friendly wines. One of the recipes is a Spanish shrimp and chorizo dish that Christine suggests eating with a full-bodied red. Guests can come get a taste of the award-winning wines in the tasting room that features a wrap-around veranda ideal for taking in the views of the vineyards while soaking in the delicious wines.
Yes, Jacuzzi Family Vineyards is owned by the Jacuzzi family that started the bath and spa product that bears its name. Several brothers from the family moved to Northern California in the early 1900s and started the famous bath product company. Valeriano Jacuzzi, however, also decided to buy 161 acres of farmland and applied for a license to make wine for home consumption in 1936. The rest is history, and to this day, the winery continues to attract guests as one of the first wine stops on the Highway 121 route up to Sonoma. Plus, its wine tastings are completely complementary. Guests with a more advanced palate, however, may want to try one of the private tastings that include a tour, as well as a wine tasting paired with either cheese or the winery’s famous olive oil.