7 Sonoma wineries even novices will love

6 mins read

Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips. 
Sure, you’ve heard of Napa (which rocks, obviously). Now it’s time to head 14 miles west and check out Sonoma, its slightly underrated kin. Known for being larger and somewhat less commercial, the area boasts more than 450 wineries, specializing in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel. It’s the home of plenty of wine superstars you’ve probably heard of, including Ravenswood, Kendall-Jackson, Korbel, and Francis Coppola.
But what if wine tasting for you is more passive pleasure than passion? Plot twist—Sonoma still has the potential to be the weekend getaway of your dreams. Located a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean, summers are warm, and winters are short, meaning you’ll have all matter of produce to munch on while you live your best outdoor life. Bonus: If you do fall in love with a wine you’ve sampled along the way, price points per bottle tend to be a bit cheaper than their Napa counterparts.
Ready to fall in love with a new region? From fun group activities to scenery to sip to, here’s a few of our favorite wineries and tasting rooms. Double-check their websites for the most updated visiting information, and let the happy hours begin!
RELATED: 10 women-owned wineries for your next girlfriends getaway

If you like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, or Syrah, Red Car Winery is for you. But if your preferred wine is just red, you’ll enjoy the winery’s unparalleled atmosphere. Landscaped with biodiversity in mind, their Zephyr Farms Vineyard is a perfect place to catch an ocean breeze and relax to the sound of wind gently blowing through the redwoods. Keep an eye open for events like forest bathing walks, where guides lead you through simple grounding exercises to encourage a deeper appreciation with nature. 

This spot is both women-founded and environmentally conscious.  In addition to practicing sustainable growing practices, the winery also donates $4 from each bottle sold to establish marine protected areas and reduce over-fishing around the globe. Ironhorse Winery’s Sebastopol location is the perfect place to get a low-key education about the good stuff. Join them for a tasting in the gazebo, or overlooking their stunning hillside vineyard (both by appointment only) and ask any question you can think of about their Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.

Queer-owned and LGBTQ friendly, Eco Terreno prides itself on a welcoming environment for humans, animals, and bees—which inspired their curvy insect-like label and have made a home in the estate’s stunning, insect-friendly garden.

Regularly considered to be one of the best tasting rooms in the Sonoma area, Corner 103 prides itself in being an unintimidating learning environment. Stop by for a happy hour, or pick a few favorites from their appetizers, main courses, and decadent desserts, and let your server help you decide what libations you’ll need to complete the meal.

Named for the patron saint of animals, St. Francis Winery has the perfect tasting room to enjoy with your four-legged friend. Experts will love the food and wine pairings, and vertical-specific flights. However, you don’t have to possess oenophile-level knowledge, just a sense of adventure: The best way to enjoy the spacious property is via a tasting trolley ride through the vineyards, where you’ll be able to sip alongside the vines that produced your drink.

After Paradise Ridge’s owners got engaged in a sculpture garden in 1960, it seemed natural that they’d populate their Sonoma-area winery with memories of the happy moment. Cut to 2021, and their Russian River Valley Estate is a veritable open-air gallery (and Burning Man art refuge). Snap a selfie next to the permeant Love sculpture, or check back regularly to see installations from local artists. (If you love both wines and love good views, the romantic grounds are also available for weddings.)

Fans of a good story will appreciate Martinelli Winery. The vineyard’s lore claims folks told Tuscan-born immigrant Giuseppe Martinelli, “You’d “have to be a jackass” to farm the property’s 60-degree slope. But despite losing one tractor to the treacherous incline, the family has been doing just that since 1880, creating some of the area’s best Zinfandel in the process. Stop by for a traditional tasting, or sign up for a full-fledged walking tour to learn about every step between the soil and the bottle.

Tagged: California, San Francisco
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