Sonoma County is one of the most diverse and celebrated wine regions in the world, producing a wide range of varietals and styles reflecting its unique geography, climate and history. Located in Northern California, just north of San Francisco, Sonoma wineries number more than 400 with 18 different American Viticultural Areas (AVAs).
The region’s climate is heavily influenced by the Pacific Ocean, which moderates temperatures and provides cool breezes and fog helping create the ideal conditions for growing grapes. Sonoma County’s soils are also diverse, ranging from volcanic ash and sedimentary rock to alluvial and sandy loam, which give different flavors and textures to the wines.
Sonoma is particularly known for its Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon, but the region also produces exceptional Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and many other varietals due to its varied terroir and microclimates.
It’s also famous for its sparkling wines, particularly those made in the traditional French Méthode champenoise.
In addition to its exceptional wines, Sonoma County is loved for its beautiful scenery, charming towns, world-class dining and unsurpassed hospitality. As California residents and wine lovers, my spouse and I truly enjoy our getaway escapes to Sonoma Valley, and we always make a point to add some new wineries to our list every time we visit.
That being said, we do have our favorites, for their wines, views, commitment to sustainability and the overall ambience of the winery and vineyards. Our favorites however, are always subject to change as we explore deeper into this amazing California wine country paradise.
If you’re planning a Sonoma trip, just be sure to check the websites as some of the wineries in the valley are now requiring reservations for tastings.
Jordan Vineyard & Winery
This family-owned estate is located in Healdsburg in the Alexander Valley AVA. It was founded in 1972 by Tom and Sally Jordan. The estate spans over 1,200 acres, with 112 acres dedicated to grapevine cultivation.
This one of Sonoma wineries focuses on Bordeaux-style varietals, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay their flagship wines. Jordan also produces a small amount of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec.
We love Jordan’s wines, but also its verdant property tucked among the rolling hills of the picturesque valley. One would think at a quick glance you were in Bordeaux, France, not California.
With more grapevines than the eyes can see, this French-inspired chateau also sports 18 acres of olive trees, two lakes, and a herd of donkeys and goats grazing contentedly in its bucolic pastures.
Korbel Champagne Cellars
A historic winery known for its high-quality sparkling wines, beautiful setting and commitment to sustainability, Korbel is located in the picturesque Russian River Valley AVA.
The winery was founded in 1882 by the Korbel brothers who immigrated to the United States from Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic).
Korbel is best known for its sparkling wines, which are produced using the traditional méthode champenoise. It produces a wide range of these sparkling wines, including brut, extra dry, and sweet cuvées, as well as a range of non-sparkling gems like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Gamay.
Visitors can stroll through the quiet awe-inspiring property nestled along the Russian River amidst a towering redwood grove as they enjoy its vine-covered winery buildings and flower-lined walkways.
Kenwood Vineyards, also known as Kenwood Winery, sits in the heart of Sonoma Valley. The winery was founded in 1970 by John Sheela and his brother-in-law, Donn Reisen, with the aim of producing high-quality, affordable wines that would showcase the unique terroir of the region.
They have been highly successful receiving numerous accolades and awards for their wines, including “Winery of the Year” by Wine & Spirits magazine.
Kenwood produces a wide range of varietals, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. They are also well-known for their red blends. Their Jack London Cabernet Sauvignon is named after the famous author who once lived on the property.
We love exploring the winery’s rustic but picturesque grounds featuring picnic areas, gardens, and views of the surrounding mountains. It’s a delightful place to visit.
Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Renowned film director, producer and screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola founded this Sonoma winery in 2006 in Geyserville.
The winery is situated on a 24-acre estate and produces an impressive range of high-quality wines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Zinfandel. A number of unique and experimental types, such as a skin-fermented Pinot Grigio and a red blend named after Coppola’s daughter, Sofia, are also among their offerings.
Of no surprise, the winery is also home to a number of unique attractions, including a swimming pool, a movie gallery, a bocce court, and a restaurant that serves locally-sourced, farm-to-table cuisine. The rustic yet elegantly-appointed tasting room offers a variety of experiences, including guided tours and tastings, food and wine pairings, and private events.
Chateau St. Jean
This was the first of the Sonoma wineries we ever visited back in the early 2010s.
Even after several visits to the area since then, the grand French-inspired Chateau St. Jean in Kenwood still makes the cut as one of our favorites.
In 1973, Rod Strong founded the winery which has since become one of the most well-known and respected wineries in the entire county.
Like the others on our list, Chateau St. Jean produces a range of high-quality wines, including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, along with several blends. The winery’s flagship wine is their Cinq Cépages Cabernet Sauvignon, a spectacular blend of five Bordeaux grape varieties.
The tasting room offers visitors a variety of options, including guided tastings, food and wine pairings, and private tours of the vineyards and winery. Stunning grounds feature gardens, fountains, and stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery
Located in the heart of Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley, Ferrari-Carano is renowned for its award-winning Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon. But its flagship wine is their Fumé Blanc, a Sauvignon Blanc aged in French oak barrels. Tuscan reds here are also very popular.
The tasting room offers spectacular vistas of the surrounding hills and vineyards. And the five-acre grounds include footpaths, bridges, a stream, fish ponds, and thousands of tulips and other colorful flowers on display.
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards
In the 1980s, José Ferrer, ventured from Barcelona, Spain, to Sonoma, California with his wife Gloria in search of the ultimate region to make sparkling wine. They settled upon Carneros and established Gloria Ferrer.
For the Ferrers, whose Spanish sparkling wine growing heritage goes back generations, the potential success of Los Carneros was a virtual certainty, even before it became an established AVA.
Carneros’ warm days, cool nights, predictable winds, summer fog, and a long growing season coax their grapes to maturity slowly and consistently with a desirable balance of sugar and acidity. As a result, this AVA and their vineyards are the perfect environment for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines and sparkling wines.
Ferrer’s house style of sparkling wine is rooted in a dynamic blend of innovation and consistency. Here winemakers use creativity, ingenuity, and a gentle hand to evoke the distinctive Carneros terroir through Pinot Noir-dominant sparkling wines.
Set on a piece of property that pioneered pre-prohibition Sonoma wineries, Scribe Winery attracts a young, hip crowd to its peaceful location for Pinot Noir, Sylvaner, and skin-fermented Chardonnay.
Tastings of Scribe’s coveted wines take place at the estate’s renovated historic Hacienda, offering a glimpse of the past while you sip. A connection to the land has always been part of Scribe’s philosophy, which is why the winery has an on-site garden, dedicated chefs and regular farm-to-table dinners.
Buena Vista Winery
This is a must-do for great wine and an eccentric vintner experience. Buena Vista is one of the oldest and most historic wineries in Sonoma County, with a legacy dating back to 1857. Founder Agoston Haraszthy, the self-proclaimed “Count of Buena Vista,” emigrated to Sonoma from Hungary.
The property surrounding this favorite of Sonoma wineries is magnificent, but the real treasures lie within the walls of the historic Press House and Champagne Cellars. From the eccentric Cave of Curiosities to the eclectic tasting rooms and fascinating wine history museum, it’s one unforgettably unique experience.
Gunlach Bundschu Winery
California’s oldest family-owned winery has been crushing grapes since 1858, sporting 11 different varietals. Its Gewürztraminer is a favorite paying homage to the family’s German roots, as founder Jacob Gundlach brought this grape over from his homeland in the mid-19th century.
The winery is situated on a lovely 320-acre estate at the base of the Mayacamas Mountains, and its vineyards are planted with a variety of grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc.
As a result, Gundlach Bundschu produces a range of wines, including both red and white varietals, as well as blends. Some of their most popular include the Estate Pinot Noir, Estate Chardonnay, and of course, the Rhinefarm Vineyard Gewurztraminer.
There’s no doubt that on our next wine adventure to Sonoma, we’ll find another favorite or two to add to the list. But that’s all part of the fun, isn’t it?
On your next trip to Sonoma, let us know which winery stood out for you!wine