Summer’s slow fade into fall brings with it the harvest and many delicious reasons to seek out small, intimate tasting rooms. Some are located on rural country roads, others down quaint and quiet alleys. Many are featuring special food-pairing events and live music through October.
Abbot's Passage, Sonoma
27 E. Napa St.
Katie Bundschu is the sixth-generation vintner behind this label of five limited-production wines made from field blends grown in small local vineyards. They range from a Chenin Blanc-Verdejo white blend called Sightline to a Cabernet Sauvignon dubbed Due West made from Moon Mountain AVA fruit. Three or four tastes are available ($25 or $30). The tasting room also features merchandise for the adventurous traveler, and offers interesting workshops. Each workshop includes a glass of wine; space is limited.
Bowman Cellars, Graton
9010 Graton Road
This recently opened tasting room spotlights the Bowman family’s Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a blanc de noir sparkler. They founded their winery in 2013, launched the brand in 2017, and opened for tastings a few months ago. In addition to the tasting fee of $15, wines are also sold by the glass, and with advance reservations you can enjoy food pairings (a grilled truffle-cheddar cheese sandwich, for instance).
Davis Family Vineyards, Healdsburg
52 Front St.
The setting is just a few blocks from the hustle and bustle of the Healdsburg Plaza, and overlooking the Russian River. Guy Davis has been making excellent Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Syrah for many years, and the whole family chips in to help. Try the wines for a $10 fee, and add a cheese pairing for two or box lunches made from local ingredients (advance reservations required). There’s even a bocce court. Open Thursday through Monday for walk-ins, other days by appointment.
DeLorimier Winery, Geyserville
2001 Highway 128
Down a lane off Highway 128, deLorimier produces Cabernet Sauvignon from many Dry Creek Valley and Alexander Valley vineyards. A flight of wines ($15) might begin with an estateSauvignon Blanc and estate Chardonnay, then progress to Primitivo and Cabernet. The “rare and reserve” Cabernet tasting ($45) is available twice daily Wednesdays through Sundays, with advance reservations.
The limited production wines available on the tasting menu at Enkidu include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Syrah, and Petite Sirah. Enkidu also makes Odyssey Syrah, with pomegranate and blackberry flavors. Winemaker and owner Phillip Staehle uses fruit from the Russian River Valley and also Lake County, among other locations. The tasting fee is $15, waived with $50 wine purchase.
Harvest Moon Estate & Winery, Santa Rosa
2192 Olivet Road
If you want to see how grapes are made into wine, Harvest Moon invites you to sit and sip on its patio and watch the activity of the harvest firsthand. Two tasting flights are offered ($15 each), one of still wines and one of sparklers. On weekends this includes the estate dry sparkling Gewürztraminer, a sparkling Pinot Noir rouge, and even a sparkling Zinfandel. Estate olive oils are also for sale.
Highway 12 Winery, Sonoma
498 First St. E.
Complimentary tastings are rare in Wine Country, but Highway 12 offers tastes of its current releases – from a Sauvignon Blanc to a Cabernet Sauvignon – free of charge. For a $10 fee, step up to a selection of limited and reserve wines. These include a Bordeaux blend, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc. Ask about their Highwayman Proprietary Red Blend, a past “Best of Class” winner at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. Founders and winemakers Michael Sebastiani and Paul Giusto also produce wines under the Carneros Highway label.
Inman Family Wines, Santa Rosa
3900 Piner Road
Winemaker Kathleen Inman established her namesake winery in 2000. She also farms a 10-acre parcel in the Russian River Valley called the Olivet Grange Vineyard. From this vineyard Inman coaxes stellar Pinot Noir, which accounts for most of the output of this small-production winery. The tasting room offers a flight of whites and reds ($20), including a rosé of Pinot, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, two Pinot Noirs, and a red blend called Whole Buncha Love. Inman also makes sparkling wine, including the estate-grown Whole Buncha Bubbles. Walk-ins are welcome for wine sales; tastings are by appointment only Thursdays through Mondays.
Jean Edwards Cellars, Sonoma
29-C E. Napa St.
One of the new kids on the block – located in the Sonoma Court Shops – this tasting room offers a flight of four Cabernet Sauvignons ($25). Other options are Rhône-style wines such as a cuvée blend (under the Cooper’s Cuvée label), along with Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes are primarily sourced from vineyards in Napa Valley, including the Mount Veeder, Rutherford, Calistoga, and Oak Knoll AVAs. Founded in 2004, Jean Edwards Cellars has an annual production of about 700 cases.
Kokomo Winery, Healdsburg
4791 Dry Creek Road
Winemaker Erik Miller and grower Randy Peters had a lot to celebrate this summer, when their Kokomo 2016 Pinot Noir Gopher Hills Block captured a perfect score of 100 at the North Coast Wine Challenge competition. That particular wine is sold out, but Kokomo makes many other varietals, including an award-winning Cabernet and a Grenache rosé. A tasting flight is $10; other experiences (reservations required) include two wine and cheese pairings (both $25).
Locals Tasting Room, Geyserville
21023-A Geyserville Ave.
What happens when you bring together under one roof approximately 60 wines made by nine small boutique wineries, where they can all be sampled? You have a wine collective, in operation on Geyserville’s main drag for 16 years. Even better, tasting at Locals is complimentary. Choose from a wide assortment of varietals, produced primarily from Sonoma County fruit (with a few exceptions). One award-winning and particularly lauded wine on the tasting menu is the William Gordon Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
Moshin Vineyards, Healdsburg
10295 Westside Road
Numerous tasting experiences are available at Moshin, accompanied by rotating art exhibits. A basic tasting is $15; seated tastings, cellar and vineyard tours and tastings, and a deluxe tour and tasting range from $30 to $120 (reservations required). Pinot Noir is the star, with up to 12 selections produced annually. Moshin also makes Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Merlot. It also produces a port-style dessert wine called Whisper in the Dark. Look for the large hummingbird sculpture at the winery’s entrance.
Pedroncelli Winery & Vineyards, Geyserville
1220 Canyon Road
Now in its 91st year, the Pedroncelli family business spans four generations of working the land and creating their flagship Zinfandels and Cabernet Sauvignons. It is the oldest family- owned winery in the Dry Creek Valley, and it welcomes visitors to enjoy a five-wine tasting flight for $10. This might include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and signature Cabernets and Zins. Enhanced experiences include a tasting paired with cheese, a heritage tour and tasting, and a lunch and tasting option ($25 to $35, with reservations).
Silver Oak Cellars, Healdsburg
7300 Highway 128
The anticipation is over. This brand-new facilityopened earlier in the summer for those seeking exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon. Based in NapaValley, Silver Oak built this structure using the latest in green construction techniques and reclaimed materials. It sits on a property originally deeded to Cyrus Alexander, and the surrounding 75 acres are planted to Cabernet grapes. Walk-in tastings are $20, while the Silver Tour and Tasting is $30. Private tours, seated tastings, and food-and-wine pairings can also be arranged ($30 to $90).
Tara Bella Winery & Vineyards, Santa Rosa
3701 Viking Road
A bit off the beaten track in the Russian River Valley AVA, Tara Bella welcomes visitors by appointment only. The boutique winery produces an estate Cabernet Sauvignon and a reserve Cabernet, from grapes grown on the property in separate vineyards only steps away from each other. (Yes, Cabernet in Pinot Noir-intensive Russian River Valley.) All the farming, winemaking, bottling, and labeling take place here, and the bottle closures are hand-dipped in red wax. The lovely two-story structure that greets visitors is the cellar room and tasting room. A spacious suite on the second floor is available for booking; check with the winery for details.
Trattore Farms, Geyserville
7878 Dry Creek Road
“Tasting” at Trattore includes wine, food, and estate olive oils. It specializes in Rhône varietals such as Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier, and also produces Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and others. Tasting fees are $20 (estate wines) and $30 (reserve). Sink your teeth into a panini sandwich ($25, including a glass of wine), or a charcuterie option ($30). On Sundays through October, order a wood-fired pizza to pair with your wine. Ten acres of olive orchards supply the assortment of flavored oils available for tasting, milled on-site. A vineyard, olive orchard, and olive mill tour is also available. If you love old tractors and gorgeous vistas, don’t miss this tasting room.
Trecini Cellars, Santa Rosa
684 Seventh St.
Aficionados of Sauvignon Blanc, take note: Trecini’s Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc is a multiple award winner. The Vicini family also produces Zinfandel from their vineyards in the Rockpile AVA, along with Merlot and Pinot Noir. After a long restaurant career, Italian- born John Vicini began growing grapes, and the family now sources from several of its vineyards. The seated tasting ($15) takes place in an intimate setting. Walk-ins are welcome, but calling ahead is encouraged to make certain space is available.
VJB Cellars, Kenwood
60 Shaw Ave.
The Belmonte family established their winery 15 years ago and opened this showplace tasting room and marketplace in 2012. The family grows Italian wine varietals not often seen in California, such as Montepulciano and Aglianico. They also produce Sangiovese and a red wine called Dante, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese. Tastings begin at $15 (no appointment necessary). Experiences requiring reservations include a seated tasting in the piazza ($35), and the “owner’s” tasting in an intimate setting with members of the Belmonte family ($125).
Zialena Winery, Geyserville
21112 River Road
Come for the wine, stay to enjoy this sleek, modern facility east of Geyserville that opened less than two years ago. The Mazzoni grape-growing family produces Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and a red blend called Cappella. Taste a flight of four wines for $15; add $10 to try two more wines from the library or reserve collection. Current production is about 3,000 cases. Fun fact: The Mazzoni brother-sister team running the winery named it Zialena (“Aunt Lena”) after their great aunt.