California, Clos du Bois, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Geyser Peak, Geyser Peak Winery, recommendations, Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma, Sonoma County, Sonoma County Vintners' Association, wine, wineries
Last August I wrote a post on wineries I recommend in the southern portion of Sonoma County. I promised a future post on wineries in the northern portion, and today is that day! (I’m sure you were all waiting with bated breath.)
As I mentioned in Part I, the Sonoma County Vintners’ Association website can be a great planning tool, and be sure to check your credit cards and wine apps for any special deals and coupons before you go. I won’t repeat the background information I included last time. That’s what the link is for – you can read the earlier article if you missed it or need a refresher!
Geyser Peak Winery
The town of Geyserville is quite nearly at the top of Sonoma County. When my husband and I toured Sonoma and Napa for the first time in 2012, we drove up from Los Angeles, so we started in Geyserville and worked our way down to be (somewhat) closer to home by the end of our tour.
The very first winery we went to was Geyser Peak. After tasting through their offerings, we both wanted to join their wine club. We thought it was probably dangerous to join the club of the first winery we visited on a three-day tour, but we took a chance and have not regretted it. Nearly three years later, we’re still members, and we buy a fair bit of Geyser Peak wine outside of our quarterly club shipments.
We tend to drink more reds than white, and Geyser Peak’s reds are downright spectacular. They’re always powerful, yet smooth, with a lot of dark fruit flavor and just the right amount of tannins. They bottle several single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons. As the name implies, in a single-vineyard bottling the wine is made from grapes that all come from the same vineyard, rather than a blend of grapes from various parcels. Their Syrahs and Petit Verdots are some of my favorite wines ever.
The only way to taste most of Geyser Peak’s higher-end wines is to visit the winery or join the wine club. However, you can rather easily find their entry-level wines, the California Series, in stores throughout the country.
Geyser Peak is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. They have two tasting options: a Premier Tasting (four wines for $10 per person) or a Reserve Tasting (five wines for $15 per person). My husband and I often order different tastings, and then share each other’s so we both get to try all the wines. Reservations are required for groups of 12 or more.
Clos du Bois
Prior to my visit to the winery, I mostly knew Clos du Bois as the maker of a rather decent value-priced Merlot. It was one of my go-to wines when I first started drinking wine on the regular. Their Classic Series wines are available almost literally everywhere. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a wine store that didn’t have Clos du Bois.
If you’re in Sonoma though, the winery is a great place to stop. They have a number of wines that are available only at the winery, most of which you can sample in the tasting room. One of their more interesting reds is an Old Vine Carignane. Carignane (or Carignan) is an old-world Spanish/French grape, more commonly grown these days in Europe than in America. It likes a hot climate and, like other hot-weather grapes, produces big, bold wines.
Clos du Bois charges $15 for a tasting of six wines. At the time we visited, they would waive the tasting fee if you bought three bottles of wine (or joined the club). They are open daily from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Reservations are required for groups of eight or more.
Francis Ford Coppola Winery
If you are a film buff, Francis Ford Coppola is a must-see. In addition to the winery, there’s a museum chock-full of props and artifacts from Coppola’s many classic films. And his Academy Awards are there too! The place can be kind of a zoo, especially mid-day. There are two restaurants and two swimming pools on the grounds, and when we were there in August, there were families with children everywhere.
The tasting room was also a bit crazy when we were there – it’s a very popular winery. They offer several tasting flights. They will pour you a taste of two of their everyday table wines free of charge. The Neighbors Flight is four wines for $20 per person, and the Family Flight (Coppola’s family, not yours) is four wines for $10 per person.
While most Coppola wines are widely available in stores, they do produce a Reserve Series, which is available only at the winery (either in person or through the online store). Another highlight of the wine line-up is the pair of Su Yuen wines. These are specifically intended to match with Asian cuisines, which can be difficult to pair with wine. There’s a Syrah-Merlot blend, which we bought when we visited and later drank with dim sum, and a Riesling.
The winery is open daily from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Reservations are required for groups of 12 or more. I would also recommend reservations for dining or pool passes during the crowded summer months.
Rodney Strong Vineyards
After the chaos that was Francis Ford Coppola, Rodney Strong was very calm and relaxing. We had a pleasant, informative tasting. They offer a complimentary pour of two wines, and they have two levels of tasting flights. The Estate Wine Tasting is $10 per person, and the Single Vineyard & Reserve Wine Tasting is $15 per person. In both cases, the tasting fee is waived with a purchase.
We took home a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and a Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc. Both were simply outstanding. The Pinot was silky and fruity, with a little bit of the vanilla and spice that you get from aging in oak. The Sauvignon Blanc was perfectly tart and crisp, with nice acidity. Both of these bottle are available in stores for reasonable prices ($15-28). Along with the Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, which we served at our wedding, these are among my go-to wines when I want something that I know will be good and won’t cost a lot.
The winery is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Reservations are required for groups of 8 or more.
In addition to tastings, all of these wineries offer various tours. Full information can be found on the individual websites. We tend not to do tours because they take at least an hour and, really, once you’ve seen one tour, you’ve kind of seen them all.
Many of the wineries in Sonoma offer picnic areas where you can relax with a bottle from the tasting room and your own packed lunch. Or you can pre-arrange for a lunch-and-wine paired tasting for your group. There also are a number of small towns with charming bistros scattered throughout Sonoma wine country. I can’t think of a better way to spend a weekend!