A visit to Sonoma wine country doesn’t have to break the bank. You can fill your belly at hundreds of affordably priced restaurants that serve up gourmet food just as tasty at the four-star next door. Spend the night camping under the stars and take advantage of one of the many free activities in the region. And last but not least: enjoy a free wine tasting.
Korbel Champagne Cellars
Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
13250 River Rd., Guerneville
Fancy a free sparkling wine tasting? Head to Korbel, a producer of "California Champagne" since 1882. The winery offers free, 50-minute tours of the historic property, which start in the winery's museum and caves and end with a tasting of four wines. If you don't have time for the full tour, just pop into the tasting room to sample Korbel wines, including sweet, dry and seasonal selections. Order lunch at their deli, which features seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, and enjoy it in the redwood grove outside.
Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Open 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily
300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville
Award-winning movie director Francis Ford Coppola's winery offers visitors a little bit of everything, including a restaurant, pool, expansive gift shop, movie memorabilia and, most importantly, wine tastings free of charge. Belly up to the bar and enjoy a complimentary tasting of two of their signature whites and reds. Make time for a bit of poolside bocce (a visit to the pool itself will cost you a pretty penny but the bocce is free), and wrap up your visit with the Vineyard Walk, an easy one-mile self-guided tour.
Locals Tasting Room
Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
Corner of Geyserville Ave & Hwy 128, Geyserville
Locals is the first independently owned wine collective in California and features over 70 wines from 10 different small producers, most of which you can't find anywhere else but here. You'll frequently find winemakers pouring their wines behind the bar and small bites offered with the complimentary tastings. Owner Carolyn Lewis not only curates the wines, but also the art lining the walls and the vibrant selection of vintage clothing and accessories that guests can peruse, play with, and purchase.
Rodney Strong Vineyards
Open 10 a.m to 5 p.m. daily
11455 Old Redwood Hwy, Healdsburg
Family-owned Rodney Strong Vineyards has been producing a wide variety of wines for over 55 years. From rosé to cabernet, their wines will please even the pickiest of palates. Start with a guided tour, offered twice daily, or explore the property on your own. During the guided tour, you'll learn about the history of the winery, the vineyards and their winemaking practices. Afterwards, sample two free pours of the winery's most popular wines. The property is surrounded by 12 acres of sustainable vineyards and lovely views, so pack a picnic to take it all in (a bottle of wine will cost about $17).
Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
134 Matheson St., Healdsburg
The folks at Williamson are all about the good life and they're committed to sharing this with everyone - even those of us seeking a freebie. Not only do they offer a complimentary wine tasting, but they also toss in a food pairing to go with it! Step up to the bar for their "Fridge Food & Fine Wines" pairing that combines food you might have in your fridge with four Williamson Wines, which may include chardonnay, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and one of their bold red blends. Pairings often include tastes of Williamson's own line of gourmet products - from truffle salt to bacon jam - teamed with local cheeses.
Alexander Valley Vineyards
Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
8644 Highway 128, Healdsburg
This family-owned winery serves up refreshing gewürztraminer, hearty zinfandels, and elegant cabernet sauvignons at their historic property in Healdsburg. The winery is eco-friendly, featuring sustainable vineyards, solar power, and pollinator-friendly gardens, which are over 175 years old. Arrive at 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. for a free cave tour, followed by a tasting of five estate wines of your choice. If it's sunny outside, relax on the patio or take in the vineyard and garden views while you wander and sip.
Open 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily
613 2nd St., Petaluma
The only winery in Sonoma County specializing in port and after-dinner wines, Sonoma Portworks has been producing their unique liquid treats for over 20 years. They offer port, sherry, and grappa which you can taste free of charge at their downtown Petaluma tasting room, while learning about the history of each drink and how it's made. Don't miss the sweet, tart and rich Sonomic vinegar made with Muscat and Cabernet Sauvignon - it makes for a great non-alcoholic option when paired with club soda. Walk off the decadent tasting by the Petaluma River, located just a stone's throw away.
Merry Edwards Winery
Open 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, reservations recommended
2959 Gravenstein Highway N., Sebastopol
A name synonymous with pinot noir, Merry Edwards' wines are critically acclaimed for their complexity and balance. Most wineries with similar accolades offer appointment-only, pricey experiences. But, at Merry Edwards Winery, you can enjoy one of two free experiences: a walk-in tasting that lasts between 15 and 25 minutes - you'll taste three pinot noirs and a sauvignon blanc - or a seated 45 to 60 minute in-depth tasting of seven wines. Be sure to say hello to one of the many winery cats that patrol the property.
Open 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily
5 E. Napa St., Sonoma
This family-owned winery produces a mere 1,500 cases of wine each year from their 12 acre organic Carneros vineyard, just a few miles south of their downtown Sonoma tasting room. The Adastra tasting room offers a relaxed scene as visitors sip wine while checking out the local artwork on the walls. Specializing in primarily pinot noir and syrah, the winery offers complimentary tastings of two of their signature wines, with an estate tasting upgrade available for $20 per person.
Highway 12 Winery
Open 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
498 1st St E
You're guaranteed to be welcomed by a friendly local and a hearty pour at Highway 12's downtown Sonoma tasting room. Located inside a historic building, this tasting room is named after the highway that travels through Sonoma Valley - one of the country's most scenic routes. Start with a splash of sauvignon blanc, which will prepare your palate for a bold lineup of bordeaux varietals: merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc. Don't miss their Highwayman Proprietary Red, a blend not for the faint of heart. Work off your tasting with a stroll around the historic Sonoma Plaza.