Napa is terrific. But equally acclaimed American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) await the wine curious and wine enthusiast. On this one-day wine country tour, you’ll visit celebrated and award-winning wine makers in four distinct AVAs. We’ll go off the beaten path into the benchlands and ridgelines of Sonoma County to discover vintages you will treasure.
Alexander Valley: King of Cabs. The breathtaking Mayacama Mountains loom above the Alexander Valley AVA. On its rolling hillsides of volcanic, calcium, sand and clay soils, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes thrive. Further up the mountain ridges, stressed soil conditions and cool Pacific breezes extend the growing season producing grapes with added color, flavor and complexity. You can taste this sublime marriage of soil and climate in premier wines from Clos Du Bois, Rodney Strong, Ferrari-Carano and Silver Oak.
In the tasting room of our first winery, you’ll come to appreciate the benefits of barrel-aging at a steady temperature and humidity. You’ll learn about sustainable farming and how electricity is spared in naturally cooled caves as you taste wines straight from French-oak barrels.
Dry Creek perfection. Next, we’ll skip over to the small 16-by-2-mile AVA of Dry Creek. The soil here is a gravelly clay loam, strikingly red in color, that is as perfect for grape-growing as it gets. Relatively low precipitation makes it difficult for vines to establish their roots, a condition that makes blockbuster zinfandel, the region’s signature varietal.
At our stop in Dry Creek, you will enjoy a five-wine flight featuring releases from a single-vineyard collection. The tasting takes place alongside aging barrels in a wine cave tucked under 100-year-old zinfandel vines. There, face to face with the wine maker, you’ll learn how they use the gifts of the AVA to make “wines of place”.
Scenic Russian River Valley. The Russian River Valley AVA, in the heart of Sonoma County, is blessed with a climate remarkedly like the Bordeaux region in France. Long, warm days and coastal cooling in the evening enable grapes to mature slowly and retain their acidity. With good reason, this AVA is widely regarded as Pinot Noir country. You’ll also find exceptional Chardonnay, Syrah, Sauvignon blanc, Gewürztraminer, Cabernet Franc varietals here.
To fully experience this valley, our small-group tour will experience a smallish family-owned winery outside the idyllic town of Healdsburg. Using old wine barrels as tables, you’ll not just taste their chardonnays and pinots but learn how the natural characteristics of the region’s soil and climate are accentuated by the wine maker. We’ll be sure to remind you to soak up the rolling hills, bright wildflowers and gorgeous vineyards all around.
Surprising Petaluma Gap. The new Petaluma Gap AVA is on the wild, wind-swept Pacific coast not far from the northern span of the Golden Gate bridge. At first, it seems more naturally suited for dairy farming than grape growing. But the Sonoma Coast if full of pleasant surprises, most delightfully that some of California’s most celebrated Chardonnay grapes are grown there. The most prized vines grow high on ridges where Pacific breezes roaring through Petaluma all the way to San Pablo bay allow a harvest of grapes with mature, dry flavors and aromas.
Our final stop of the day will be at a vineyard estate located at the heart of Sonoma’s Petaluma Gap. In its cellars, you’ll sample wines produced from fruit grown on the property. The sustainable, gravity flow methods employed by this “family-first” winery are impressive, much like its elegant, balanced and age-worthy wines.
Tour is available on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays only. Approximate time 8:00am - 6:00pm. You need to be 21 or over in order to join the tour and participate in tastings.