Visit the Wineries of Sonoma County

The Mayacamas mountain range forms the border between Napa and Sonoma counties. Although only a few miles separate these two stellar northern California wine regions, they are totally different from one another in terms of geography, style and attitude.

But what both Napa and Sonoma have in common is exceptional wine, great dining and a wealth of tourist delights.

Sonoma County is 1,604-square miles of rolling hills and valleys that stretch west to the Pacific Ocean. At its southernmost tip, the city of San Francisco is only thirty minutes away. With a total of 13 American Viticultural Areas and over 200 wineries, Sonoma County is second only to Napa County for number of wineries in California.

Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are the leading white wine varietals and Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Zinfandel are the most planted reds. What makes Sonoma unique is the startling differences in climate and soil that allow the production of all of these varietals with excellent results. From the cool, foggy Sonoma Coast region to the heat and sun of Dry Creek Valley, winemakers have discovered how to tap into their particular micro-climates to achieve superior results in the glass.

Starting at the southeastern end of the county, there are several overlapping growing regions including Sonoma Valley, Los Carneros, Sonoma Mountain and Bennett Valley. There are a number of wineries to visit in these areas including the historic Buena Vista Winery, sparkling wine specialist Gloria Ferrer, Chateau St. Jean, Arrowood, B.R. Cohn and Landmark Vineyards.

Heading north and west from the city of Santa Rosa, the Russian River Valley is a large appellation with many outstanding producers such as Williams Selyem, J Vineyards, Merry Edwards, Siduri, Martinelli, Gary Ferrell and Hartford Family.

The town of Healdsburg is an ideal central point from which to explore the Dry Creek Valley, Chalk Hill, Knight’s Valley and Alexander Valley regions. Surrounding the quaint Healdsburg town square are more than a dozen tasting rooms, many within walking distance. Zinfandel does exceptionally well in this area and noted producers include Seghesio, Ridge/Lytton Springs, Sausal, Limerick Lane and Rosenblum.

Continuing north from Healdsburg through the Alexander Valley, good wineries to visit include Jordan Winery, Chateau Souverain, Geyser Peak and Simi. Silver Oak also has a tasting room here as well as in Napa Valley.

The sprawling Sonoma Coast appellation is the largest in the county and produces excellent wines, but only a small group of wineries are scattered from the very fringes of the rugged coastline all the way south to the southernmost tip of Sonoma County. With over 200 wineries to choose from throughout Sonoma’s valleys, hills and coast, it’s easy to see why this is a favorite destination for those who appreciate wine.