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Wine Country and Redwoods Tour Wineries

On our Muir Woods and Wine Country Tour we enjoy the woods in the morning and typically visit three wineries and occasionally one more in the afternoon, depending on the available time, the weather, the length of the lunch break, the efficiency (read: speed) of tasting participants, etc. There are about 650 wineries to choose from, but, using our years of experience and reams of research, we have narrowed down the list of wineries to a short list of the best based on several criteria. The list of "winners" not only represents the best that California Wine Country has to offer, but also keeps the average costs down, and allows us to provide free tasting samples at each of our stops on this tour. We like to cover the range in size from small and homey, to large and grand, always with an eye for visual appeal, friendly atmosphere, good presentation, and good value.

Winery List

Click on the link below to learn more about the wineries we visit:

Chateau St. Jean
Chateau St. Jean

Chateau St. Jean is located in the heart of the beautiful Sonoma Valley, and has long been recognized as a leader in Vineyard Designated wines.Winemaker Margo Van Staaveren uses her 30 years of winemaking expertise at Chateau St. Jean to highlight the best of each vineyard in their wines.

In 1999, Chateau St. Jean was the first Sonoma winery to be awarded the prestigious "Wine of the Year" award from the Wine Spectator Magazine for its 1996 Cinq Cépages Cabernet Sauvignon, a Bordeaux-style blend of "five varieties." The winery received high acclaim again when it received the "#2 Wine of the Year" from Wine Spectator for its 1999 Cinq Cépages Cabernet Sauvignon.

Chateau St. Jean is not only well known for its great tasting wine, but their elegant landscape is abundant with exotic trees, flowers, and spectacular water features, which provides visitors with a perfect backdrop for an afternoon of wine tasting.

Cline Winery
Cline Winery

Cline Cellars is a truly picturesque vineyard and winery. Their magnificent landscaped grounds are surrounded by 350 acres of vineyards and lush lawn surrounded by 5, 000 rose bushes. This historic property was site of a Miwok Village, the first camp of the Sonoma Mission, a natural hot spring bath house of the early 1900s, a horse ranch and today it is the perfect place for a picnic in the wine country.

Cline Cellars History ... After spending his childhood summers learning farming and winemaking from his grandfather, Valeriano Jacuzzi (of the pump and spa fame), Fred Cline founded Cline Cellars in 1982, in Oakley, California. Fred started the winery with the $12,000 inheritance from the sale of Jacuzzi Bros. In 1986, Fred's brother Matt joined Cline Cellars as winemaker after studying winemaking at the University of California at Davis. In 1991, the winery facilities relocated to the Sonoma Valley on a 350 acre estate in the Carneros District. The Cline Brothers, Fred and Matt, are Zinfandel and Rhone varietal specialists. Their holdings include some of the oldest and rarest vines in California. They are best known for the one hundred year old plantings of Carignane, Mourvedre and Zinfandel grapes they farm in Oakley, California. The Mourvedre represent approximately 85% of California's total supply of this fascinating and versatile varietal.
 

Gloria Ferrer

Gloria Ferrer was the first sparkling winery located in the Sonoma Carneros region of California in 1986. Gloria Ferrer embodies Spanish wine-growing history, time-honored tradition, and centuries-old winemaking practices. This winery produces varietal wines, such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as sparkling wines, from the fruit-forward Blanc de Noirs to the richly structured Carneros Cuvée. To preserve their flavors and aromas, they hand harvest grapes themselves.

Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards is the gateway to Sonoma Wine Country and was recommended in the National Geographic Best Trips of 2012 list. From their Vista Terrace, there are spectacular views of Carneros vineyards and estate olive trees. The award-winning oil made from these olives is sold exclusively in the tasting room.

Homewood Winery
Homewood Winery

Dave Homewood looks like he never left the beach, but he moved from the Midwest into wine country, and got his tan in the Sonoma sun, not Malibu. Homewood is a very small operation, and you can see almost all of it from the parking lot, which holds about 7 cars. His car license plate is “RDRDBTR” and his truck’s is “SNMARED” so you know where his heart lies when it comes to making wine - and drinking it!

Making around 3000 cases per year, he does make a great Chardonnay, which is natural considering the location in the heart of the Carneros, known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which is another of Dave’s specialties. He also has great Merlots, Cabernet Sauvignons, and Zinfandels. He has hired knowledgeable and personable servers, and a trip to Homewood is always fun and informative, and Dave usually stops by to say hello and maybe answer a few questions.

 

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

Famous for the bath spa that bears their family name, the Jacuzzi family, also own a winery and vineyard located in Sonoma Valley, California. Over a century ago, the Jacuzzi family emigrated from Italy to Washington and eventually to Northern California. Starting their operations with 161 acres, the family now owns a total of 940, mostly in the Petaluma Gap of the Sonoma-Carneros Region.

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards practice and promote responsible farming practices using a variety of unique farming methods and imaginative fertilizers. For example, instead of using pesticides to prevent weed growth in their vineyards, Jacuzzi employs a friendly herd of sheep to 'weed' crops, and pull any remaining weeds by hand. Also, instead of petroleum-based fertilizers, Jacuzzi trust “Compost tea”, a concoction of molasses, fish emulsion, rock dust and microbes to fertilize their vines.

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards is a pleasure to visit and their Italian heritage is evident as soon as you step foot inside their winery and tasting room. Enjoy a selection of varietals including Barbera, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Primitivo and Sangiovese amongst a magnificent European ambiance set by the Italian artwork and furnishings. The director of wine-making at Jacuzzi, Charlie Tsegeletos, has a penchant for reds which are big and dark and whites that are bright and fresh and this is reflected in the wines produced. Also on-site in Jacuzzi is the award winning Olive Press where guests can enjoy a sampling of the most decadent Extra Virgin Olive Oil produced in California.
 

Kenwood Vineyards
Kenwood Vineyards

Located in the village of Kenwood in the northern half of Sonoma Valley, Kenwood is a medium-large operation, producing several hundred thousand cases per year. Founded in 1970 in the old Pagani Winery, they have had exclusive access to the Jack London Ranch for the better part of 2 decades. 

Jack London was a famous author from the early 20th century, who invested his royalties in land and grapes near Glen Ellen, just south of Kenwood. Kenwood is well known for its Sauvignon Blanc, but also produces some fine Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Merlot, mostly in small lots, but a whole lot of lots!

 

Loxton Cellars
Loxton Cellars

Chris Loxton would have been the 4th generation of Australian grape ranchers, but for some reason they encouraged him to go into Physics, and he ended up in Southern Illinois, teaching particle physics.  But his upbringing left him with wine in his blood (it was well above the legal limit!) and he applied his scientific mind to the problem of how to break into the business as fast as possible – by commuting from Australia to California every year and getting two harvests, two crushes, two of everything under his belt each year.

So he became the 4th generation involved with wine in his family, but he’s here in the heart of Sonoma Valley making great Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Late Harvest, Shiraz AND Syrah wines, and an award winning Port made from grapes imported from the family vineyards in Australia.  His very small operation, about 3000 cases per year, is also one of the most accessible, as you park next to his Syrah vineyard, walk past the fermentation vats and grape press as you enter, and stand next to the aging barrels as you taste his great wines, served by Chris himself unless he is busy actually making the wine out on the pad.

 

Madonna Estate

Madonna Estate began in 1922 with a 24-acre vineyard and winery. The Bartolucci family was successful in growing organic grapes. They practiced natural farming methods (dry farming) as well as traditional and modern wine-making techniques. They are the third oldest winery in the Napa Valley producing a variety of wines, including Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dolcetto, Barbera, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Muscat Canelli.

 



Mayo Family Winery
Mayo Family Winery

Mayo Family Winery was founded in 1993 and currently has two winemaking facilities as well as three tasting rooms in California. Mayo Family Winery believes that single vineyards produce the highest quality and satisfying wines. They have a wide variety of wines including red wines, white wines, sparkling wines and even a dessert wine. Some of Mayo's unique but lesser known wines are worth a try: Carignane, Alicante Bouschet and Sangiovese.

 

Nicholson Ranch

Ramona Nicholson began to plant vineyards in 1996 and the first wine harvested was in 2000. This family-owned winery is located in the southern foothills of Sonoma Valley and is well-known its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They use sustainable farming practices, such as dry farming. Nicholson Ranch uses a five-level, gravity-flow system to product the highest quality wines possible.

 

Roche Winery

Roche Winery was first created from a farmland where the Roche family raised beef cattle. With the dream of owning a vineyard, the Roche family turned the area to vineyards. The family planted 10 acres of Chardonnay and 10 acres of Pinot Noir in 1982. Roche Carneros Estate Winery was opened in 1989.

This family-owned and operated winery crafts small batches of premium wine, located a stone's throw from our Sonoma Plaza lunch stop. Indoor & outdoor wine tasting bars and shaded garden patio with an outdoor fire pit make this winery a favorite wine tasting stop.

 

Schug Carneros Estate Winery
Schug Carneros Estate Winery

The Walter Schug has a long history of experience in making wine for Phelps and others, but he wanted to start his own, which finally happened in 1980. They specialize in wonderful Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, but also make great Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, and even a sparkling Pinot Noir!

 

Valley of the Moon

Originally part of General Vallejo’s huge estate, the first grapes were planted here in 1863. The current stone wine cellar was built in 1887. Prohibition made for hard times and dormancy, but it was reawakened when the Parducci Brothers bought it and named it Valley of the Moon in the 1950’s. The tasting room is a huge open room filled with elegant gifts, and artwork for sale. The wine list features Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. (Small groups)

 

 

Viansa Winery

Founded by Sam and Vicki Sebastiani, Viansa (from Vicki and Sam) has the experience of three generations of winemaking put into every bottle wine, most of which are sold exclusively at the winery. In addition, the Old-World Tuscan style winery offers a delicious variety of gourmet foods that can be sampled in conjunction with their refined wine to make an unforgettable experience. A whole new level of flavor and taste are discovered when mixing special foods with special wines.

 

VJB Vineyards and Cellars
VJB Vineyards and Cellars

A young Vittorio and Maria Belmonte emigrated from Italy to Boston in 1963. Vittorio dreamed of continuing the family tradition of wine-making, so they naturally ended up in California and opened a restaurant. Their sons Henry and Victor wanted to open up a winery to complement the restaurant. 

Before their dream reached fruition, tragedy struck and Young Victor died, and the family honored his memory by naming the winery VJB, Victor’s initials. They concentrate on Italian grapes, like Barbera, Primitivo, Sangiovese, and Montepulciano, but they also have Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. There is a nice little Italian Cafe Citti next door.