A weekend is not enough for Sonoma, but we have to start from somewhere.
To make most of the weekend getaway without running around, two or three wineries a day is ideal. This way, you have time to visit wineries calmly and enjoy the tastings as much time as you wish. When you’re making your plan, make sure you have a reservation, and consider which wineries are open on Sunday for visit.
Before going to Sonoma, I did my research and talked to local people for their recommendations. After this exploration, I came up with five of the best wineries to visit in Sonoma County. In this post, you’ll find the story of each winery visit for Saturday and Sunday, and recommendations of places to eat late lunch after the visits.
Here are the five wineries to visit in Sonoma County:
- Marimar Estate
- Iron Horse Vineyards
- Sbragia Family Vineyards
- Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery
- A. Rafanelli Winery
A sunny Saturday morning in July. We started to drive from Napa to Sonoma and after a challenging curvy drive, we arrived at the Russian River. Since we were early for our first visit, we made a small walk in the vineyards. It’s such a nice season of the year, the grapes are as green as the leaves, but they are close to veraison to change their colors from green to yellow or purple.
Weekend Getaway Day 1
Marimar Torres came to the USA in 1975 to introduce Torres wines. As she was very successful as the ambassador of Spanish wines in the USA, she stayed and decided to plant a vineyard in 1986. That’s how Marimar Estate had started its naissance.
As the time for our appointment arrived, we entered the property and the statues of dogs welcomed us. These are the family dogs; Chico, Bonita and Brandy who gave their name to some of the wines of the estate.
We drove up and we found ourselves in front of a Catalan style cottage house. Inside of this house a very refreshing welcome was waiting for us, with a glass of their delicious blend of Chardonnay (%60) and Albariño (%40) from 2013. The aromatic notes of Albariño in the nose and silkiness of the Chardonnay on the palate make a good couple and complement each other.
We entered the dining room, very spacious and decorated with furniture from Catalonia. Our tasting table was set on the terrace, with a breathtaking view. The winery focuses on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but they also have other varieties, Syrah, Tempranillo and Albariño. Our tasting consisted of the white and red wines coming from Don Miguel Vineyard in Russian River Valley, and red wines coming from Dona Margarita Vineyards in Sonoma Coast.
Here are the wines at Marimar Estate’s tasting:
- Chardonnay Doble Lias 2013 – Unfiltered
- Chardonnay Bonita’s Hill 2013– Unfiltered
- Chardonnay La Masia 2013
- Albariño 2014
- Pinot Noir La Masia 2014 – Unfiltered
- Pinot Noir Earthquake block 2014 – Unfiltered
- Mas Cavalls 2014
- Chico’s Run 2013 – Unfiltered
- Pinot Noir 2004
Their style and how they use the specialty of the soil and climate with proper winemaking methods showed in each wine we tasted. The wise usage of the lees during aging, and unfiltering the wines makes a difference. Moreover, they have organic farming certificates and apply biodynamic practices.
Marimar Estate has a club which organizes interesting events for wine and food lovers. At the cottage you can see a photo of Marimar Torres cooking paella on a giant paella pan for the visitors in the dining room. You can also buy her cookbooks about Spanish and Catalan cuisine, for inspiration in the kitchen and for food and wine pairings.
Placing the vivid flavors of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and colorful views on our memories, we passed to our second winery in the Russian River.
Iron Horse Vineyards
”Iron Horse is a place to go for the sparklings!” told everyone, so we couldn’t miss it. We entered the property from the road surrounded by palm trees. As we just stopped by without reservation, we didn’t have a winery tour and we found ourselves directly in the tasting bar. It is an open-air bar that’ll make you feel like you’re at the seaside. It has a very casual and summery atmosphere. If you’re an oyster lover, make sure to stop by on Sundays. They’re serving oysters to pair with their heavenly sparkling wines.
The sparkling wines we tasted at Iron Horse Vineyards with an enjoyable view are:
- Ocean Reserve 2012 Blanc de Blancs
- Wedding Cuvée 2012
- Classic Vintage Brut 2011
- Russian Cuvée 2011
- Brut ‘’X’’ 2011
- Brut Rosé 2008
For the late lunch, we made a quick stop at Mom’s Apple Pie. This is a very casual small shop/café focused on pies, but they also have fresh and tasty sandwiches. If you have some sandwiches to begin with, make sure to finish your meal with pies. I tried both the pumpkin and apple pie, both were delicious.
Weekend Getaway Day 2
Let’s begin the sunny Sunday of our weekend getaway in Sonoma.
Sbragia Family Vineyards
We started our day with the Zinfandel vines on the hills of Sbragia family vineyards. The winemakers of this winery are Ed Sbragia and Adam Sbragia. The winemaking history of the family comes from their Italian roots, starts with grandfather of Ed who immigrates to the valley from Tuscany, and continues until today with Sbragia family vineyards which was created in 2001.
As we climbed the hill to arrive, we took a small walk between the pretty Zinfandel rows. Afterwards, we entered to the tasting spacious area. We had an unforgettable experience there thanks to Mehmet Yiğit Keskin, M.Sc. Enology and Viticulture, who served us a selection of their wines and explained the details from the vineyard to the winery. His passion and knowledge showcase the family made wines at their best.
After the tasting, you can take your last glass of wine to enjoy in the terrace with a stunning view of the landscape.
Here is the list of the wines that we tasted in Sbragia Family Vineyards:
- Sauvignon Blanc Home Ranch, 2015, Dry Creek Valley
- Chardonnay Gamble Ranch, 2013, Napa Valley
- Rosé of Zinfandel Gemma 2015, Dry Creek Valley
- Merlot Home Ranch 2012, Dry Creek Valley
- Zinfandel La Promessa, 2013, Dry Creek Valley
- Cabernet Sauvignon Godspeed, 2011, Mt Veeder, Napa Valley
Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery
First of all, it has an amazing garden! To reach the winery, you’ll pass through the garden called Villa Fiore. It’s full of flowers, different varieties of trees (there is even a cork oak), a pond full of goldfish, and bronze sculptures. This garden is designed by Rhonda Carano, co-owner of the winery together with Don Carano. There is also a sculpture of her in the middle of the flowers to give a lasting presence with her own words ‘Flowers make everyone feel at home.’
We made the tasting in the Villa Fiore Tasting Room, where you can also taste the wines of Lazy Creek Vineyards owned by Don and Rhonda Carano, together with the wines of Ferrari-Carano. Moreover, there’s a very nice souvenir shop full of wine-themed decorations, books, table clothes, kitchen utensils and more.
Here are the wines at Ferrari-Carano Winery’s tasting:
- Lazy Creek Vineyards, Gewürztraminer, 2015, Anderson Valley
- Lazy Creek Vineyards, Rosé of Pinot Noir, 2015, Anderson Valley
- Ferrari-Carano, Chardonnay, 2014, Sonoma County
- Ferrari-Carano, Tré Terre, Chardonnay, 2013, Russian River Valley
- Ferrari-Carano, Fumé Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, 2015, Sonoma County
- Ferrari-Carano, Siena, Red blend, 2013, Sonoma County
- Ferrari-Carano, Zinfandel, 2014, Dry Creek Valley
- Ferrari-Carano, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013, Alexander Valley
- Ferrari-Carano, Baci, Natural dark chocolate flavored red wine
A. Rafanelli Winery
The entrance gives the feeling of entering the home of someone familiar. It was for a reason that the Rafanelli family has been making wine in the Healdsburg area since 1900. They moved to Dry Creek Valley in the early 1950’s, where the fourth generation of the family is currently making wine with the same passion.
Afterwards, we found our way to the tasting room which is actually the barrel room at the same time. They welcomed us, offered us a glass of their Zinfandel (2014) and offered us to take a small walk through the hill. Looking at this view, enjoying the wine coming from there is priceless. We also had a look at their garden facing through the vineyards before going back to the tasting room. This is a small garden growing many things inside, colorful flowers, sunflowers, vegetables, fruits and herbs. All these help to continue the feeling of being at home.
Turning back to the cellar we tasted their Cabernet Sauvignon (2013), which was fabulous with its complex aromas of black fruits, vanilla and mocha. It was a very pleasant atmosphere, tasting the wines in between the barrels.
We had our late lunch in Dry Creek General Store thanks to the recommendation of a local friend. When we saw that the store was completely full with a long queue for the sandwiches, we knew that it was a good recommendation. There are many meat and bread options you can choose. My selection was the French dip sandwich, with roast beef, gruyere cheese and caramelized onions on sourdough bread, which comes with a soup besides. It was a good sandwich worth waiting in the queue. Everybody looked happy eating in this place.
This was a delicious weekend get away where we discovered different tastes created by passionate people. As I said in the beginning, a weekend isn’t enough for visiting the best wineries in Sonoma, but it makes you feel the identity of the county and gives you the desire to go back.
All images © 2017 by Wines of Nesli. All rights reserved.