Water tower at entrance of Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Sonoma County, California

Martin Ray Winery

Cover: Water tower at entrance of Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Driving up Laguna Road toward Martin Ray Winery, the first thing you’ll notice is a water tower soaring high above the vines against a perfect Sonoma sky. As you turn down the long drive, vibrant flowers and olive trees welcome you to the beautiful, historic winery just west of Santa Rosa.

Flowers & olive trees welcome you to Martin Ray Winery
Flowers & olive trees welcome you to Martin Ray Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While we’d tasted Martin Ray’s wines over the years, this was our first visit to the winery and we quickly realized we’d uncovered a gem. Serene and lavishly landscaped, the winery is one of those where you grab a glass, find a chair near the vines or a table next to the gardens, and casually enjoy the wine country experience.

Relax in a chair near the vines at Martin Ray Winery
Relax in a chair near the vines
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We visited on a Saturday afternoon during Grill 116, a tasting event hosted by 12 wineries along Route 116 in West Sonoma County where attendees sampled their way through wines and grilled specialties along the route.

Grill 116 event at Martin Ray, Sonoma County, California
Grill 116 event at Martin Ray 
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Tasting at Grill 116 at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa
Tasting at Grill 116 at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As visitors meandered about, enjoying the food, wines and a glorious Sonoma afternoon, we caught up with Andy Barker, Director of Consumer Sales & Hospitality, who gave us a tour and shared a bit of the winery’s history along the way – and quite a history it does have.

Kim Hull & Andy Barker, Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Kim Hull & Andy Barker, Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The oldest continually operating winery in Sonoma County

Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Sonoma County, California
Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Oh, the stories the vineyards surrounding the winery could tell. Martin Ray is the oldest continuously operating winery in Sonoma County and one of the oldest in all of California.

Back in 1881, Twin Fir Winery set up a vineyard and winery on this spot in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County. In 1902, an Italian immigrant, Rafael Martini, purchased the winery and, in the years following, Martini further developed the estate, building a stable and bunk house where Italian immigrants stayed during harvest. Today, the Martin Ray Tasting Room is housed in this very structure.

Martin Ray Tasting Room, Santa Rosa, California
Martin Ray Tasting Room
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tanks were crafted from old-growth redwood in 1904 and, soon thereafter, Martini turned the operations over to his sons. The Martinis produced wines that put the winery on the map. Enduring prohibition by producing sacramental wines, the winery survived and the Martinis resumed making wines for the public after it was repealed in 1933.

Old-growth redwood tanks at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Old-growth redwood tanks at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 1950, Enrico Prati joined the Martini family, and the new Martini & Prati label produced wines at the location until the winery was sold to Courtney Benham in 2003.

Martin Ray Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Martin Ray Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Courtney Benham brings Martin Ray Wines to Sonoma County

One of the reasons I love visiting a winery is hearing the history of the vineyard, the winemakers and the winery while walking the grounds and tasting the wine. Somehow, from then on, when the wine fills your glass, the provenance, the terroir, and the winery visit converge in your glass along with the juice, bringing the wine country experience to you as you taste the wine, wherever you may be in the world.

2014 Martin Ray Winery Pinot Noir Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media
2014 Martin Ray Winery Pinot Noir
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

By the time Courtney Benham acquired the Martini & Prati location in 2003, the winery had seen better days and was on the decline. Benham, who had acquired the rights to the Martin Ray brand in 1990, purchased the Martini & Prati vineyards and winery in 2003 and set about renovating the property, bringing it to modern standards, while still embracing its history and tradition.

Today, the winery is a great example of form and function coexisting. The beautiful barrel room serves as a stunning backdrop to parties and events but, when harvest rolls around, the tables are cleared out and the room is used as a production facility.

Beautiful Martin Ray barrel room serves as a stunning backdrop to parties and events Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Beautiful Martin Ray barrel room serves as a stunning backdrop to parties and events
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

State of the art storage facilities are housed in buildings that once were home to over 1.5 million gallons of the old redwood storage tanks. Utilizing a variety of production equipment and fermentation methods, the Martin Ray winemakers have at their disposal the tools required to produce the award-winning, artisanal wines for which they are known and respected.

Martin Ray production facilities Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Martin Ray production facilities
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Barrel room at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Barrel room at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Leaving the barrel rooms and production facilities, we wandered over to the serene setting of the pavilion located under the water tower, which is available for corporate retreats and also used for winery events, such as wine under the stars evenings.

Event pavilion at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Sonoma County, California
Event pavilion at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Lush landscaping at Martin Ray Winery, Sonoma County, California
Lush landscaping at Martin Ray Winery
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Speaking of wine, it was time to do some more tasting – next stop, the tasting room.

Yield to tasters, Martin Ray Winery, Sonoma County, California
Yield to tasters, Martin Ray Winery
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Martin Ray tasting room

Tasting room at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Tasting room at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Welcomed by a knowledgeable and friendly staff, the low-key tasting room is just what you’d expect in such an inviting atmosphere.

Martin Ray's casual tasting room
Martin Ray’s casual tasting room
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Martin Ray Wines

We’d tasted the Russian River Valley Chardonnay & Rosé during our tour and we really liked both wines and decided to also try/take home a few of the limited release wines. For our chardonnay choice, we selected the 2014 Mill Station Vineyard-Dutton Ranch Chardonnay from Green Valley.

While I’m generally not a chardonnay fan, Greg is, so we try to find chardonnays that appeal to both our tastes. This one fit the bill, refreshing and not too oaky, with a richness and clean finish. As far as the rosé – we’d loved the 2015 Estate Grown Rosé. Bone dry, complex, crisp – just a perfect summer wine.

Next up, the 2013 Puccioni Vineyard Dry Creek Zinfandel. Robust with an earthy tone and nicely balanced. Liked it, and in the box it went.

Martin Ray 2013 Puccioni Vineyard Dry Creek Zinfandel
Martin Ray 2013 Puccioni Vineyard Dry Creek Zinfandel
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Time to get serious, we moved on to the 2013 Martin Ray Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. A truly special wine, the Cab was full bodied, rich and simply divine. This one was a definite purchase and probably will make an appearance around the holidays.

Martin Ray 2013 Martin Ray Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley
Martin Ray 2013 Martin Ray Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Martin Ray 2007 Diamond Peak District Cabernet Sauvignon
Martin Ray 2007 Diamond Peak District Cabernet Sauvignon
Photo: Ryan Hull © Chasing Light Media

Martin Ray has a small quantity of older vintages available in their library collection. Highly-praised by fans and pros alike, you can also find Martin Ray wines on many quality restaurant wine lists.

Certified Sommelier and general manager of Boulder, Colorado’s L’Atelier, Ryan Hull explains why he regularly features Martin Ray wines in the restaurant:

Martin Ray was legendary…one of the first to bring the French philosophies of wine making and vineyard management to California. The proof is in the pudding. This is apparent from the juice in the glass.

I was recently pouring the 2007 Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon by the glass and nearly every customer opted for a second. Amazing vintage, incredible complexity and luscious fruit.”

– Ryan Hull, CS & GM, L’Atelier

Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Visiting Martin Ray

Getting there: Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery is located on the quieter side of the 101, about 10 miles west of downtown Santa Rosa. The address is 2191 Laguna Road, Santa Rosa, California 95401.

Hours: The tasting room is open daily from 10am to 5pm.

Book a tour or reserve a box lunch in advance. The winery welcomes visitors to pack a picnic and enjoy the beautiful gardens while having lunch or, call two days in advance to order a box lunch for your visit. A variety of tours and tastings are available and can be reserved on the Martin Ray website.


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Martin Ray water tower, Santa Rosa, California
Martin Ray water tower, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Rodney Strong Vineyards

Rodney Strong Vineyards

Cover: Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


 I knew I couldn’t be an old dancer, but I could be an old winemaker.”
Rodney Strong

In 1959, after a successful career in dance, Rod Strong married his partner, Charlotte Ann Winson, moved to northern California, and became a winemaker. The couple purchased an old boarding house and began making their first wines using bulk wine Strong purchased, then blended to his taste.

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 1962, Strong acquired a 159-acre vineyard and winery in Windsor, California, acquired additional vineyards in the Russian River Valley in 1968, and then, in 1970, began construction on a winery.

Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rockaway, Rodney Strong, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Strong was one of the first to plant vineyards in Sonoma, where fruit orchards were prominent at the time. An early advocate of single vineyard wines, his wines were were both of high quality and an excellent value.

That winery is now the site of the tasting room for Rodney Strong Vineyards – a beautiful location where visitors can sample the world-class wines for which Rodney Strong has become known over the decades, take a tour of the winery or attend one of the many events held throughout the year.

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 1979, Rick Sayre, the winery’s current head winemaker, joined Rodney Strong as a winemaker.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Head Winemaker: Rick Sayre, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tom Klein, who had met both Rod Strong and Rick Sayre in 1979 as a consultant to the winery, acquired the winery in 1989. Since that time, they have installed state of the art facilities and employed leading edge winemaking techniques in their pursuit of crafting world-class wines.

The Klein family also has a commitment to protecting the environment and operates the winery with a carbon impact of zero, making Rodney Strong Vineyards the first carbon-neutral winery in Sonoma. Additionally, the winery was officially certified by the California Sustainable Winegrower’s Alliance for its continuous improvement in the adoption and implementation of sustainable winegrowing practices.

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rodney Strong Tastings

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From complimentary tastings to the estate and reserve tastings, Rodney Strong Vineyards offers visitors a wide variety of options for sampling their wines. Friday through Sunday, The Terrace’s tranquil setting is a perfect spot to relax and enjoy wine flights or food & wine pairings (reservations are recommended).

The Terrace, Rodney Strong Vineyards
The Terrace, Rodney Strong Vineyards Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rodney Strong Events and the Summer Concert Series

Throughout the year, Rodney Strong hosts a variety of events from its harvest party and grape stomp to the highly acclaimed Summer Concert Series.

Boney James, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Boney James, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For over two decades, the Summer Concert Series has entertained wine and music lovers in a spectacular, intimate vineyard setting.  Learn more about the Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series »

Georee Benson at the Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series
George Benson at the Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rodney Strong Tours

Rodney Strong offers a complimentary tour of the vineyards and winery, subject to availability. The tours are a perfect way to learn about the winery’s history and catch a behind-the-scenes view of how the wines are made. Tours are offered daily at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm.

Getting to Rodney Strong Vineyards

Rodney Strong offers tastings and tours to its visitors daily throughout the year. Check the Rodney Strong Vineyards website for hours, events and to schedule reservations.

Rodney Strong is located just off the 101 near Healdsburg, California.

11455 Old Redwood Highway
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 431-1533
(800) 678-4763

Rodney Strong Vineyards
Kim Hull @ Rodney Strong Vineyards
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Michel Schlumberger winery

Michel-Schlumberger

Cover: Michel-Schlumberger winery, Sonoma Country, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


A gently winding road heads through rolling hills and vineyards to the spot where Jean-Jacques Michel first planted vines to establish his winery in 1971.

Michel-Schlumberger winery, Sonoma Country, California
Michel-Schlumberger winery, Sonoma Country, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On the west edge of the Dry Creek Valley, the area has both the cool climate conditions and the gravely soil to produce premium Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Chardonnay grapes.

Michel-Schlumberger winery, Sonoma Country, California
Michel-Schlumberger winery, Sonoma Country, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 1991, Jacques Pierre Schlumberger joined Michel and the Michel-Schlumberger brand was formed. Since that time, the Michel-Schlumberger Benchland Estate has gained worldwide recognition for their Bordeaux-style wines.

Michel Schlumberger winery
Michel-Schlumberger wineryPhoto: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Michel-Schlumberger is a beautiful estate influenced by both the European backgrounds of Michel and Schlumberger and the architectural heritage of California missions.

Michel Schlumberger
Michel Schlumberger Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From the reflecting pool to the overflowing baskets of flowers, to the inviting chairs found throughout the winery, Michel-Schlumberger offers a tasting experience that exudes a welcoming warmth.

Michel Schlumberger winery
Michel Schlumberger winery Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With one of the few tastings where guests find a quiet area to sit and enjoy the wines, Michel-Schlumberger offers one of the most relaxing guest experiences in all of Sonoma and Napa.

Michel-Schlumberger winery, Sonoma Country, California
Michel-Schlumberger winery, Sonoma Country, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On our visit, tasting room manager Ryan Leonhardt circulated from table to table, pouring wines for guests, taking the time to explain each wine, and then allowing them to experience the wines at their leisure.

Michel Schlumberger winery
Michel-Schlumberger winery Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to both a classic and a reserve tasting, Michel-Schlumberger offers five-course food and wine pairings on select days of the week and a daily vineyard tour and tasting option.

Michel Schlumberger tasting room
Michel-Schlumberger tasting roomPhoto: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Getting to Michel-Schlumberger

Michel-Schlumberger is located about 10 minutes west of downtown Healdsburg.

4155 Wine Creek Rd
Healdsburg, CA 95448
707-433-7427


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Michel Schlumberger winery
Michel Schlumberger winery Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Iron Horse Winery, Sonoma County, California

Wine tasting in Sonoma

Cover: Sonoma Country, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


The wine region of Sonoma is the quieter side of Northern California wine country.

Located just 45 minutes north of San Francisco, the Sonoma wine region includes over 400 wineries that range from large brands to small family owned properties. Generally more relaxed than Napa, Sonoma is a great place to unwind, enjoy the perfect weather, take in the scenery and sample some world-class wine.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Mustard and vines, Rodney Strong, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Where to stay

Santa Rosa is the largest city in Sonoma County and has the most hotel options which range from chains to luxury retreats.

The Hyatt Vineyard Creek is close to downtown Santa Rosa, just across from Railroad Square, an area of restaurants and shops. The property has a large fire pit in the courtyard and the restaurant, Brasserie, turns out some tasty cuisine and has a nice patio. The Hilton Sonoma Wine Country is located in northern Santa Rosa on a hill with a beautiful view of the valley. The Lanai rooms have access to a shared deck overlooking the pool area, with each room having a private table & chairs. The Hilton’s patio is a great place to dine or enjoy a glass of wine and they serve a popular brunch buffet.

Just north of Santa Rosa is the Vintner’s Inn, a beautiful hotel in the midst of the vineyards with fountains, lovely décor & meticulous landscaping. One of Sonoma county’s best restaurants, John Ash & Co, is located on the property and home to our favorite happy hour in the area.

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A little further north is Windsor, which has several hotel options, including a Hampton Inn & Holiday Inn Express.  Windsor Town Green is a great gathering spot with shops, restaurants and in the summer, a wide variety of activities and concerts.

Healdsburg is just further north and is known for their fabulous square filled with restaurants, tasting rooms and shops and a variety of hotels. To the south of Santa Rosa is Petaluma, which has a vibrant downtown and the town of Sonoma, which also has a wonderful historic square.

Getting around

Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Step 1 – select a designated driver. Wine tasting is great fun, but drinking and driving are not. Roads can be narrow and winding, so drive slow. Sonoma is an agricultural community and farm equipment can be entering and exiting properties.

Dogs run off leash. People ride bikes. So, leave the hurried place of the city behind, select someone to drive and enjoy the slower pace of Sonoma. An even better option – hire a car service. The drivers know the ins and outs of wine country and there’s no better way to see and taste your way through Sonoma.

Special events

Sonoma is host to hundreds of events each year with highlights being the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend held each Labor Day weekend and the Rodney Strong Vineyards / KJZY Jazz Concert Series.

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series

George Benson, Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series
George Benson
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Imagine sitting amidst the grapevines sipping world-class wine while listening to the sounds of a legendary musician as the sun slowly sets.

No need to imagine – it’s the Rodney Strong Vineyard concert series – the magical venue that brings out locals and visitors alike. World-class acts ranging from Chris Botti to Mindi Abair to George Benson entertain in the intimate environment surrounded by beautiful vineyards, creating a perfect evening of wine, relaxation, and music.


Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is Sonoma County’s largest charity event held annually with hundreds of wineries pouring thousands of world-class wines and local chefs serving a wide range of fabulous culinary creations.

Tasting

Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Home to almost 60,000 acres of vineyards, Sonoma County has 17 different American Viticulture Areas (AVA) or appellations (growing regions) producing a wide selection of varietals including Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah.

Yield to tasters, Martin Ray Winery, Sonoma County, California
Yield to tasters, Martin Ray Winery, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If targeting visits to specific wineries, it is best to check with them via phone or their website before visiting – some wineries are by appointment only and hours vary for tasting rooms. Sonoma.com has a good list of Sonoma wineries to do so.

Otherwise, you can simply set out in one direction and follow the signs. Most wineries have a tasting fee; some have full tasting menus with numerous options. Some wineries refund the tasting fee with purchase.

Our favorites

We’ve visited quite a few wineries throughout Sonoma county. When we go, we usually grab a camera and take a few shots as we taste.

Martin Ray Winery

Wine tasting at Martin Ray, Sonoma County, California
Wine tasting at Martin Ray, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rodney Strong Vineyards

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County
Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Michel-Schlumberger

Michel Schlumberger winery, Sonoma County
Michel Schlumberger winery, Sonoma County
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Iron Horse Vineyards 

Iron Horse Ranch and Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Iron Horse Ranch and Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Matanzas Creek Winery

Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County
Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

St Francis Winery

St Francis Winery, Sonoma County
St Francis Winery, Sonoma County
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Red Car Tasting Room

Red Car Tasting Room, Sonoma County
Red Car Tasting Room, Sonoma County
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Kenwood Vineyards

Kenwood Vineyards, Sonoma County
Kenwood Vineyards, Sonoma County
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rochioli

Rochioli Vineyards & Winery, Sonoma County
Rochioli Vineyards & Winery, Sonoma County
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Kenwood Vineyards

Kenwood Vineyards

Kenwood Vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Established in 1970, Kenwood Vineyards produces well-loved wines in several different groupings – the Table Wine Series, Sonoma Series, Reserve, Jack London Vineyard and the Artist Series.

Kenwood Vineyards
Kenwood Vineyards
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A mix of old and new, Kenwood Vineyards’ cellar dates back to 1906 but has been modernized with more than 125 stainless steel fermenting tanks and large oak uprights, and 20,000 small French and American oak barrels.

Kenwood Vineyards
Kenwood Vineyards
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located in the Sonoma Valley along Highway 12, Kenwood Vineyards has a strong local following in Sonoma County. The tasting room is a typically a mix of regulars picking up cases of their favorites and visitors to the valley exploring the “small lot” or “cuvee” style of wines that Kenwood is known for.

Kenwood Vineyards
Kenwood Vineyards
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Kenwood Vineyards
Kenwood Vineyards
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to Kenwood Vineyards’ 22-acre vineyard at the winery location, Kenwood also sources grapes throughout the Sonoma County including Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma Valley and Sonoma Mountain.

Kenwood Vineyards
Kenwood Vineyards
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Kenwood Vineyards
Kenwood Vineyards
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Kenwood Vineyards

Kenwood Vineyards is located at 9592 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, CA 95452.

Kenwood Vineyards
Kenwood Vineyards
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County

Matanzas Creek Winery

Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


A hidden gem in Sonoma County, Matanzas Creek Winery is off the beaten path, located in the Bennett Valley just outside Santa Rosa.

Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Situated between Taylor Mountain, Sonoma Mountain, and Bennett Peak, viticulture in Bennett Valley dates back to the 1800s when Isaac DeTurk began growing grapes and producing wine. However, DeTurk’s venture was short-lived due to a phylloxera outbreak that destroyed his grapes. Prohibition soon followed, and significant grape growing was not seen again in the valley until it was revived by Matanzas Creek Winery.

Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Founded in 1977, Matanzas Creek Winery quickly put the area on the map as a top wine producing region with their Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines.

Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Adding to their world-class wines, Matanzas Creek planted lavender gardens along the drive into the winery in 1991.

Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Truly spectacular in sight and smell, lavender gardens, native grasses and olive groves greet guests, inviting them to enter the inspiring and tranquil environment.

Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With a tasting room tucked amongst the trees above the vineyards and lavender gardens, Matanzas Creek Winery is a perfect spot to spend a quiet afternoon taking in the panoramic view while sampling their excellent wines.

Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The yields of the lavender fields are used to create a wide assortment of lavender products and decorative accessories – all available in the beautiful, spacious tasting room.

Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Enjoyed on the deck outside the tasting room, the Matanzas Creek artisan cheese, and wine pairing is one of our favorite leisure pursuits in Sonoma County. Sampling limited-production wines and local artisan cheeses, combined with the serene setting, make for the perfect wine-country afternoon.

Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Matanzas Creek Winery

Matanzas Creek Winery is located at 6097 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95404.

Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

St Francis Winery, Sonoma County

St Francis Winery & Vineyards

St Francis Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


St. Francis Winery has created wines since 1983 in the Sonoma Valley.

St Francis Winery, Sonoma County
St Francis Winery, Sonoma County Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventure © Chasing Light Media

St Francis owns over 415 acres of vineyards and was the first to plant Merlot in Sonoma County. Well-balanced and fruit-forward, St. Francis wines are crafted with 100% handpicked fruit.

St Francis Winery
St Francis Winery, Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventure © Chasing Light Media

The sprawling mission-style tasting room has a relaxed atmosphere overlooking the vineyards and the surrounding Sonoma hills.

St Francis Winery
St Francis wines, Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

St Francis Winery & Vineyards

St Francis Winery & Vineyards is located at 100 Pythian Road at Hwy 12, Santa Rosa, CA 95409


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Dog-friendly St Francis Winery
Dog-friendly St Francis Winery, Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media