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.

Matanzas Winery

Sonoma Wine Country Labor Day Weekend Getaway

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


As summer draws to a close, it’s time to indulge in a relaxing long weekend – in Sonoma! Sonoma County is the place to be this Labor Day weekend for three exquisite days under the late summer sun and stars sipping fine wines, listening to jazz and sampling delicacies.

What’s in store for the weekend?

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

Sonoma labor day weekend getaway: Friday

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend 2015

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is Sonoma County’s largest charity event with 200 wineries pouring thousands of world-class wines and 60 local chefs serving a wide range of fabulous culinary creations.

Friday winemaker lunches

The Labor Day weekend kicks off on Friday with dozens of wineries hosting lunches throughout Sonoma County with expertly crafted food and wine pairings.

* Insider tip – jump on this quick: Tickets for lunch with international Winemaker Nick Goldschmidt at Baci Café and Wine Bar in Healdsburg are still available. Goldschmidt wines are a perfect example of single vineyard source wines from both the Alexander Valley and Napa Valley Oakville appellations.

The opportunity to sample a wide selection of Goldschmidt wines as Nick guides a tasting paired with Baci’s Chef Shari’s locally-sourced cuisine will make for a memorable and sumptuous start to the weekend. Goldschmidt luncheon details: Friday, September 4, 12:30 – 3:00pm, $85

Sonoma Starlight

Sonoma StarlightUpdate: This event has sold out.

The place to be Friday evening is Francis Ford Coppola Winery for an enchanting evening of wine, food, music and dancing under the stars at Sonoma Starlight.

The evening begins with a sparkling wine reception, then moves on to an abundance of Sonoma’s seasonal offerings served alongside wines from over 25 local wineries.

At 8:00pm, it’s time to hit the dance floor when the band begins to play.

Sonoma Starlight details: Friday, September 4, 6:30 – 10:00pm, $125 general admission, $175 reserved seating.

Sonoma labor day weekend getaway: Saturday

Taste of Sonoma

Taste of SonomaHow’s this sound for the perfect Saturday afternoon?

Sample from 200 wineries pouring thousands of world-class wines as you stroll through MacMurray Estate Vineyards and taste delicacies prepared by 60 local chefs. From the Gloria Ferrer Bubble Lounge, to featured wine and food pairings, to grill stations, the Taste of Sonoma will dazzle the taste buds of of wine lovers and foodies. Taste of Sonoma details: Saturday, September 5, 11:00am – 4:00pm, $165 per person, $195 per person Grand Reserve.

George Benson at Rodney Strong Vineyards

George Benson at Rodney Strong Vineyards

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.

Mindi Abair at Rodney Strong Concert Series 2014
Mindi Abair at Rodney Strong Concert Series 2014
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In its 25th year, the Rodney Strong Vineyards’ summer concert series has delivered the biggest names year in and year out.

We’ve seen B.B. King, Michael McDonald, Mindi Abair, and more at Rodney Strong and, this labor day weekend, we’ll add ten-time Grammy Award winner, George Benson, to the list!

* Insider tip – get your tickets now: The Rodney Strong concerts have a strong following and with George Benson performing on such a big weekend in Sonoma, tickets will sell out – so don’t wait.

Rodney Strong Summer concert with George Benson details: Saturday, September 5. General admission tickets $75, VIP $110. Doors open at 4:00 p.m., show starts at 5:00 p.m.

Sonoma labor day weekend getaway: Sunday

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

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend 2015 continues on Sunday with two options for wine and food lovers:

  • Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction 2015Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction. The flagship event of the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction on Sunday. The auction is an opportunity to bid on a selection of rare, world-class experiences and wines while supporting Sonoma County charities. Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction details: Sunday, September 6, 12:30 7:00pm at Chateau St Jean in Kenwood. Tickets are $500 per person.
  • Winemaker Barbecues. Multiple Sonoma wineries will host Sunday barbecues for a more casual way to celebrate Labor Day. From ribs to sausages to kebabs, each winery will pair their grilled fare with fabulous Sonoma red wines. Winemaker barbecue details: Sunday, September 6, 12:30. Tickets are $85.

We hope you’ll join us for a fabulous Sonoma labor day weekend! Remember to designate a driver or hire a car service. Enjoy!


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
Rochioli Vineyards & Winery

Rochioli Vineyards & Winery

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


Just a short drive from downtown Healdsburg in Sonoma Country, Rochioli Vineyards & Winery overlooks the floor of the Russian River Valley amidst Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc vines.

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

While the tasting room is small and casual, with a friendly staff, quiet areas to sit outside and cats wandering about.

Rochioli Vineyards & Winery
Rochioli Vineyards & Winery Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Rochioli Vineyards & Winery, Sonoma County, California is located at 6192 Westside Road Healdsburg, CA 95448

Rochioli Vineyards & Winery
Rochioli Vineyards & Winery Photo: Kim Hull © 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.

Red Car Tasting Room

Red Car Tasting Room

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


Red Car Tasting Room
Red Car Tasting Room Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

 

Red Car Tasting Room
Red Car Tasting Room Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

 

Red Car Tasting Room
Red Car Tasting Room Photo: Greg K Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

 

Red Car Tasting Room
Red Car Tasting Room Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Red Car Tasting Room is located at 8400 Graton Road Sebastopol, CA 95472.


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.