Oh, the weather outside isn’t terrible, but the fire is still delicious. And since we have no place to go, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go… wine tasting during the holidays.
Sonoma County may not have snow, but the cool days and freezing December nights make us want to bundle up and get cozy among the seasonal lights and garlanded trees. Local wineries, many in full holiday attire, host special events and serve winter-appropriate wines to warm the coldest of hands and hearts. Here are a few to visit during the holiday season.
Barber Cellars: Admire the beautifully decorated lobby and courtyard of the Petaluma Hotel with a huge Christmas tree, then step into Mike and Lorraine Barber’s tasting room for a casual sip and bite. They serve their wines, most made from Petaluma Gap and Carneros grapes, and serve grilled cheese sandwiches and assorted cheese and charcuterie boards, just steps from the restored art deco hotel lobby. Zinfandel, Sangiovese and Barbera are ideal winter warmers for Barber. 112 Washington St., Petaluma, 707-971-7410, barbercellars.com (hotel entrance is at 205 Kentucky St.)
Bella Vineyards and Wine Cellars: Singing in caves was once a popular holiday activity, but COVID has silenced the voices for now. That doesn’t mean the wine cellars are off-limits to visitors, and the Bella experience is and continues to be worth the time. The Cave Tour/Immersive Wine Experience ($55) is sold out through December, but seated tastings inside the cellar (or in the Bella Backyard overlooking the Lily Hill Vineyard) were still available at press time. ($30), with an emphasis on Bella’s many wines. zinfandels, plus chardonnay and pinot noir. From December 12-19, this Upper Dry Creek Valley producer offers a dessert and wine pairing, Bella Bingo, with treats, a Celtic harp performance, cookie decorating kits, and a violin and guitar performance by Chris Rovetti on December 19. Visit the website for more details. 9711 West Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg, 707-473-9711, bellawinery.com
Handyman vineyards: On December 12, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Hanson family hosts a holiday market on their Windsor property, with local vendors selling gifts and merchandise, photo ops with Santa, activities and food celebrations, and DIY wines available for purchase by the glass. and bottle. A donation of $5 is requested, which will be used to buy toys for deserving children. There are also several evergreen wreath-making class sessions on December 12 ($125), which begin with a flute of Bricoleur Flying by the Seat of Our Pants Brut sparkling wine and continue with a charcuterie board and a glass of Kick Ranch Sauvignon Blanc. 7394 Starr Road, Windsor, 707-857-5700, handymanvineyards.com
Freeman Vineyard and Cellar: The sights and smells of evergreens and redwoods that surround this family winery west of Sevastopol are enough to put anyone in a winter vacation state of mind. On pleasantly warm days, outdoor tastings under the forest canopy are invigorating. When the weather turns damp and chilly, the wine cellar is a welcoming shelter, where winemaker Akiko Freeman and her husband, Ken Freeman, pour their chardonnays and pinots noirs for a very reasonable $30. Tours of their small winery and winery are available, perhaps even a walk through their adjacent Gloria vineyard, weather and rain permitting. 1300 Montgomery Road, Sevastopol, 707-823-6937, freemanwinery.com
Pont Lambert wine estate: This Dry Creek Valley winery is somewhat famous for its large stone fireplace and redwood beam mantle in the vaulted wood-ceilinged tasting room. Warm, welcoming, and surrounded by redwoods, it’s reminiscent of a visit to a Tahoe lodge, filled with artfully stacked oak barrels. Jerry Lambert established the winery in 1975 and in 1993 Patti and Ray Chambers took ownership. Over time, Lambert Bridge has become one of Sonoma County’s finest producers of Bordeaux-style red wines, sold only to the winery and wine club members. The 90-minute ($95) Cellar Tasting Experience is private and includes five limited-release wines made by Jennifer Higgins, accompanied by a cheese and charcuterie platter. The Barrel Room Tasting Experience ($50) features four on-release wines plus cheese and charcuterie and is also available on the outdoor patio. Closed from December 24 to January 1. 4085 W. Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 800-945-0555, lambertbridge.com
Meadowcroft Winery: The location of Tom Meadowcroft’s Tasting Room in Cornerstone Sonoma offers visitors plenty of wonder and fantasy while on vacation. In 2004, Artefact Design & Salvage owner David Allen purchased hundreds of decorative snowmen from a soon-to-close factory, and the elegant gentlemen have been lighting up the Cornerstone complex ever since. At Meadowcroft, four wines are served at each tasting ($25). Tom and his winemaker, Peter Kiralov, produce a dizzying array of wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma County and Mount Veeder in Napa Valley and Sonoma-grown Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Viognier and Roussanne. . 23574 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 707-934-3094, meadowcroftwines.com
Ram’s Gate Winery: Joe Nielsen’s remarkable Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are best enjoyed in front of the conservatory fireplace. The Veranda package ($165) includes a two-hour guided tasting of five wines, accompanied by cheese and charcuterie boards. A $50 outdoor five-wine tasting is also offered. Ram’s Gate’s modern ranch-style architecture is elegant and inviting, with the hilltop location offering sweeping views of the Carneros region. 28700 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 707-721-8700, ramsgatewinery.com
Sebastiani vineyards and winery: For nearly 120 years, wine has been produced at this Sonoma winery. Various Sebastianis operated the winery until 2008, when William Foley added it to his Foley Family Wines portfolio. Winemaking has since been moved, but there remains a vibrant visitor center, which is newly decorated for the Winter Wine Fest, which ends Sunday (1 p.m.-4 p.m., tickets $75). There will be fresh oysters accompanied by Carneros rosé and hearty bites served with new red wines. Cask samples of Cherryblock Vineyard’s flagship Cabernet Sauvignon will also be poured. Can’t attend the event? Then bask in the glow of holiday lights during the daily ($40) tasting of five wines in the courtyard. Or book the Cherryblock Vineyard Tour and Tasting ($110), where a wine educator discusses the history of the winery during a walk through the estate’s vineyard, followed by a tasting of five wines. 389 Fourth St. E., Sonoma, 707-933-3201, sebastiani.com
Three Fat Guys wines: Local Tony Moll and two fellow (and former) Green Bay Packers football linemen are partners at this Sonoma winery and, as you might guess, big, bold Cabernet Sauvignons are their passion. Another big guy, Santa Claus, will visit their tasting room from 4-5:30 p.m. Tuesday to sample cookies, cider and wine with visitors. The event is free and reservations are not required. They are, however, for the Friday Cuts N Cab – Holiday Edition dinner on the outdoor terrace of the tasting room. Chef Erik Lowe of Belfare will prepare a grilled New York steak and rosemary fries, accompanied by Three Fat Guys 2019 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon ($60). Regular tastings are $30 and include sparkling pink brut, chardonnay and pinot noir. 20816 Broadway, Sonoma, 707-938-7211, threefatguyswines.com
Zina Hyde Cunningham: Zina Hyde left Maine in 1849 for the gold rush, landed in Sonoma County in 1865, established a ranch in Kenwood, and expanded into Mendocino County. Hyde grew grapes and made wine and, long story short, his great-great-grandson, Steve Ledson, relaunched the Zina Hyde Cunningham winery in Anderson Valley in Mendocino. The tasting room, the Zina Lounge, is now located at the Ledson Hotel on Sonoma Plaza and has everything one could want in a tasting venue at this time of year: a wide range of wines , festive holiday decor and a cozy fireplace. A flight of five wines is $25; add $18 for cheeses and charcuterie. 480 First St. E., Sonoma, 707-895-9462, zinawinery.com
Healdsburg for the holidays: Downtown Healdsburg is adorned with decorated trees, bright lights, wreaths and garlands until January 1. The town is also packed with about two dozen tasting rooms on or within a few blocks of the central plaza, making it a gold mine for a one-stop walk to multiple tasting locations, no need to drive. . There are too many to list here, but here are some personal favorites:
Hartford Family Vineyard, 331 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-887-8031, hartfordwines.com. Chardonnay, pinot noir, zinfandel.
Jeff Cohn Cellars, 34 North St., Healdsburg, 707-938-8343, jeffcohncellars.com. Zinfandel, Rhône grape varieties.
LIOCO, 125 Matheson St., Healdsburg, 707-395-0148, liocowine.com. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Carignan.
More Healdsburg tasting rooms here.
Celebrate in Sonoma: Like Healdsburg, the town of Sonoma buzzes with holiday energy and more than 30 wine tasting rooms within a block or two of its plaza. Visit sonomaplaza.com/wine-tasting-rooms for suggestions. Among my personal favorites:
Author wines, 373 First St. W., Sonoma, 707-938-9211, authorwines.com. Chardonnay, pinot noir.
Bedrock Wine Co., 414 First St. E., Sonoma, 707-343-1478, bedrockwineco.com. Zinfandel, blends of old vines, sauvignon blanc, rosé.
three sticks, 143 W. Spain St., Sonoma, 707-996-3328, threestickswines.com. Chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot blanc, rosé.