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Oenophiles and casual tipplers alike savor Sonoma’s laid-back wineries, which produce highly acclaimed bottles with less fuss and traffic than next-door Napa. More than 350 wineries dot the region’s 13 appellations, so expect a diverse crop of both landscapes (fog-cloaked coasts, tranquil river banks, tree-covered mountains) and wines (late-season zinfandels, spicy pinot noirs, creamy chardonnays).

Sonoma Wineries

Bella Winery

Specializing primarily in zinfandel and syrah, this boutique winery is too small to accommodate big tour groups, making it perfect for more intimate tastings.

9711 West Dry Creek Rd., CA, 866-572-3552,
Tags: winery | wine tasting

Chateau St. Jean

Score a complimentary tasting pass on their website; or splurge on wine and food pairing classes, a sensory seminar to fine-tune your taste buds, or a class on creating your own wine blend; known for their chardonnays and merlots.

8555 Sonoma Hwy., CA, 707-833-4134,
Tags: smart splurge | winery | wine tasting

Clos du Bois

Drawing numerous tour groups, this well-known winery offers a complimentary tasting of two wines each day; for $5 you can try up to seven. Tours require reservations, and picnic grounds make a perfect lunch stop.

19410 Geyserville Ave., CA, 800-222-3189,
Tags: winery | wine tasting

J Vineyards & Winery

J Vineyards features numerous food/wine-tasting options: The Bubble Room offers rare vintages with superb bites ($55), the J Terrace has garden views ($35), and the Visitors Centers is fun and casual ($25).

11447 Old Redwood Hwy., CA, 888-594-6326,
Tags: winery | wine tasting

Kendall-Jackson Wine Center

Even travelers who prefer smaller, boutique wineries should visit this commercial heavy-hitter’s home base to see the meticulously constructed gardens (tours available at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm daily), two of which are wine-themed. The red and white wine-themed “sensory gardens” each grow herbs, plants, and flowers that help visitors articulate the tastes and textures of wine varietals – think tobacco, black currants, and chocolate cosmos in the red garden – while the white wine patches harvest global herbs and plants such as gardenia, pumpkin, and sweet marjoram. Tastings from $5.

5007 Fulton Rd., CA, 800-769-3649; 707-571-8100,
Tags: winery | outdoors | wine


In the heart of the Russian River Valley, this champagne maker features a popular rose garden tour, champagne cellar tour, and a deli for picnics on the property.

13250 River Rd., CA, 707-824-7000,
Tags: winery | wine tasting

Larson Family Winery

The wine is pretty great, but the key to Larson Family Winery is that everyone is welcome (including kids and pets); view rodeo racehorse memorabilia, play bocce ball, explore the grounds, or just relax in the picnic area.

23355 Millerick Rd., CA, 707-938-3031,
Tags: family | editor pick | winery | wine tasting

MacMurray Ranch

Hollywood legend Fred MacMurray – of My Three Sons fame – bought this 1,500-acre ranch 1941 and raised cattle on the land for 50 years. Today, his daughter Kate MacMurray helps manage the farm, which planted its first grapes in 1996 and consistently produces acclaimed bottles of pinot noir and pinot gris. Note that the property is only open to the public during the annual Taste of Sonoma Festival and some Wine Club member events.

9015 Westside Rd., CA, 888-668-7729,
Tags: winery | outdoors | wine

St. Francis Winery & Vineyard

Lawyer-turned-vintner Christopher Silva helms this Sonoma Valley winery, a local staple that has been churning out acclaimed fruit-forward wines since 1979. Retreat to the tasting room patio to sample charcuterie pairings, all while taking in the vivid Mayacamas Mountains, seasonal lavender blooms, and seemingly endless rows of orderly vines. Tastings from $10.

100 Pythian Rd., CA, 888-675-9463,
Tags: winery | outdoors | wine

Thomas George Estates

Wine tasting focuses as much on the atmosphere as the grapes at this Russian River Valley winery, opened by father-and-son duo Thomas and Jeremy Baker in 2008. Although a standard tasting room is open daily, visitors can also opt to buy a bottle and picnic on the scenic grounds or arrange a 4-hour boat tour of Lake Sonoma, complete with a full wine tasting (available May through October, $45). Tastings from $5 (fee is waived with purchase).

8075 Westside Rd., CA, 707-431-8031,
Tags: winery | outdoors | wine

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