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.
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 Cellars is a family-owned winery in the Sonoma Valley. Known for its ancient vines, the winery specializes in Zinfandel and French Rhone-Style wines. The winery was founded in 1982 by Fred Cline and his wife Nancy in Oakley, California, then moved to its current location in 1991. Fred acquired a love of wine-making from his grandfather Valeriano Jacuzzi, an Italian-born winemaker and namesake of the Jacuzzi Family Vineyards right across the street, also owned by Cline, which were opened in 1991.
Cline Cellars is committed to sustainable growing to maintain the rural beauty that defines the region. Guided by the talented hand of their winemaker, Charlie Tsegeletos, Cline Cellars seeks complexity, elegance, power, and sense of place in every wine they make.
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.
Fine wine at this prestigious estate begins in the vineyard where meticulous attention grapes diminishes the need for intervention by the winemaker. That works just fine for Etude wine master, Jon Priest, whose dust-covered boots are proof he spends a lot of time in the field. Recognized as one the most accomplished winemakers in California, Jon has a a special touch with Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.
In 2005, Etude Cabernet Sauvignon earned a 96-point rating in a 10-year Retrospective Wine Spectator tasting for a wine that “combined dark, rich, potent Cabernet flavors with a sense of elegance and finesse.”
From the beginning, Etude has had sustainability top of mind. Native Oak and Bay trees were retained to protect nearby waterways. Twelve miles of wildlife corridors were incorporated in the planning of the vineyard planting to preserve riparian habitats and the natural migration of wildlife.
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.
Founder Scott Chafen named this respected boutique winery after a 19th century prospector turned farmer that made a comfortable living selling produce to Napa Valley stagecoach passengers. They must have been pretty good fruits and vegetables because nearby Dutch Henry Canyon is name for him.
The Chafen family’s wish has always been to earn a reputation for winemaking with passion. Their dreams were rewarded in 1999 when Dutch Henry was named one of the “top five” Napa wineries to visit by the Wall Street Journal.
A tasting room in a cave cellar? Painstakingly dug from the rocky hillside, this underground feature sourced stonework and masons from the winery’s vineyard in St. Helena. Completed in the fall of 2008, the cave looks as if it has been there for 100 years.
Dutch Henry Winery specializes in handcrafted wines. Bordeaux varietals dominate but other varietals include an estate Syrah, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Sauvignon Blanc, Argos (Bordeaux Blend) and a dry Rose.
Kieu Hoang Winery is an iconic Napa Valley winery founded in 2014 on land purchased from the famous Mondavi wine family. The winery's owner, Kieu Hoang, a scientist originally from Vietnam, has partnered with winemaker Charles Hendricks to produce several varietals. The winery is particularly known for its Platinum Label products made with grapes grown 2000 feet above sea level to make the most of the cool breezes off of the San Pablo Bay. These breezes provide ideal growing conditions for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.
Question: Why does the tasting room feature memorabilia from The Doobie Brothers?
Answer: to showcase founder Bruce Cohn's 45 years run as an elite rock-n-roll band manager.
Maybe this is where you can find “China Grove”. Doobie Brothers memories are just a bonus when you saddle up to the wine bar or sit in the sunshine under a heritage Picholine olive grove. Nestled between Sonoma Mountain and the Mayacamas Mountain range, we think B.R. Cohn offers an inviting, relaxed environment for discovering new wines.
The winery’s 55-acre Olive Hill Estate Vineyard sits over natural underground hot springs that warm the soil, creating a naturally frost-free environment throughout the growing season. Cabernet Sauvignon dominates the vineyard, but you’ll also find Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. B.R. Cohn manufactures specialty olive oils that are available for tasting.
The Mayo Family Winery specializes in single vineyard, small batch artisan wines made from over 18 different grape varietals. The winery was founded in 1993 by Diane and Henry Mayo in an old barn converted for wine-making purposes. Their son Jeffrey is currently President of the winery and guides its operations. Their head winemaker is Michel Berthoud. Mayo Family Winery has won a slew of awards including Gold and Best Of Class accolades at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair.
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 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.
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!
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.