The Nine Top Sonoma Wineries You Must Visit

Whether we call them Sonoma Valley Wineries, the wineries of Sonoma County, or just plain Sonoma Wineries, we mean the same thing. That is, some of the best winemakers in the country who happen to be located in Sonoma Wine Country, just north of San Francisco.

And talk about choices! Sonoma is home to a seventeen American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), each with its own terroir and microclimates. Within those seventeen regions are a staggering 425 (and growing) vineyards. We can't include them all, so here we're going to concentrate on the southern part of the county, with seven Sonoma Valley wineries that you should visit on your next trip to the most varied wine growing region in the world.

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Sonoma Valley Wineries Tour

Sonoma Valley Wineries Tour

"Wonderful way to spend the day. We learned a lot, met very nice people and had a great time. I would highly recommend this trip."

First off, though, we want to recommend this popular Sonoma Valley wineries tour from San Francisco that takes away the hassles of driving and planning, so all you have to do is sit back and enjoy. Of course, since you're not driving, you can sample all the wines you want! This full-day wine tour runs almost every day, visits 3 popular wineries, samples 15 or so wines, and includes a picnic lunch. It also include pickup at your San Francisco hotel.

The 9 Top Sonoma Valley Wineries

1. Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards

Gloria Ferrer

Talk about firsts. Gloria Ferrer was the first sparkling wine house in Sonoma and the first to plant Champagne clones in Carneros. They make their sparkling wine according to the exacting rules of methode champenoise, the same technique used to make fine French champagne.

Try their bubbling wines, but also leave room for the Dijon-clone Pinot Noir. Cultivated in Dijon, France, it has well-rounded fruit with a strong structure. Tasting notes: lush dark berry fruit with earth, spice and a moderate toasty oak.

2. Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery

Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery

Sebastiani's roots go back to the founding winemaker, Samuele Sebastiani. In 1895, he emigrated from Tuscany to Sonoma and first worked in the quarry that provided the cobblestones for San Francisco. He saved for almost a decade before he bought land and became a winemaker.

Decades later, his son August took over the reins and become a prominent wine innovator of the time. Although no longer owned by the family, Sebastiani continues to make stellar Cabernet Sauvignon, many of them with 90+ rating. There are a variety of tours and tastings — we especially like the daily historical walk.

3. Benziger Family Winery

Benziger Family Winery

The story began in 1973 when newlyweds Mike & Mary Benziger settled in Northern California looking to stake their future as winemakers. In 1980, along with his brother Bruno, they purchased a ranch on Sonoma Mountain. By 2000, the family winery became certified as a Biodynamic farm.

Today, all their wines are certified — sustainable, organic, or Biodynamic. And it's still a family affair. Visit the tasting room or book an exclusive tour that takes you to their Biodynamic vineyards, the fermentation facility, crush pad and their barrel caves.

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4. Chateau St Jean Winery

Chateau St Jean Winery

This is one of the granddaddies of Sonoma wineries. CSJ was founded way back in 1973 with an aim to create European-style wines. Their wines consistently win high critical acclaim — the Cinq Cépages been named twice in Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year. Equally prestigious is their impressive menu of tasting options — Cinq Rêves Library Tasting, Charcuterie at the Chateau, Reserve Tasting, and Premium Tasting.

5. Kenwood Vineyards

Kenwood Vineyards

The Kenwood folks have perfected the art of tastings. Choose between the Classic Tasting, or the Vintner's Choice Tasting that has you sipping new releases from their Single Vineyard Series and limited-production from the Jack London Vineyard. The only place you can taste these wines is at the winery. Kenwood was established in 1970 in the former Pagani Brothers Winery.

6. Kunde Family Winery

Kunde Family Winery

Since 1904, five generations of the Kunde family have tended to the almost 2,000-acre estate in Sonoma Valley. Taste their wines in the tasting room, or pair their wines with cheese in the Kinneybrook Room.

Our favorite way is to or book a Mountain Top tasting. First, you take a private guided tour of the wine aging caves, you then wind your way through the estate vineyards to the tasting room, 1,400 feet above the valley floor. Here, you'll sample sought-after small production wines only available at the winery.

7. Landmark Vineyards

Landmark Vineyards

Bet you can't link John Deere, the inventor of the first steel plow, to Landmark Vineyards! It was Damaris Deere Ford, great-great-granddaughter of John Deere, who in 1974 had a dream about creating a vineyard in Sonoma Valley. She focused exclusively on chardonnay. By 1993, world-renowned enologist Helen Turley was hired to create their signature style with a unique whole-cluster pressed grapes, native yeasts, and French oak. In 1997 Wine Spectator listed Landmark Vineyards chardonnay on their Top 100 list.

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8. Muscardini Cellars

Muscardini Cellars

"Nice Italian family makes wine in Sonoma." That's the short version of the Muscardini family's history that brought Emilio Alchera from the Piemonte region of Italy to San Francisco. There he started the St Helena Napa Valley Wine Company. The story leaps to 2000, when his grandson would plant his first Sangiovese vines. Today, the family creates a range of Italian heritage wines: a 100% Sangiovese grape grown in Dry Creek Valley, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a special blend made in the super Tuscan style with Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

The story leaps to 2000, when his grandson would plant his first Sangiovese vines. Today, the family creates a range of Italian heritage wines like a 100% Sangiovese grape grown in Dry Creek Valley, a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a special blend made in the Super Tuscan style with Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

9. St Francis Winery

St Francis Winery

In 1971, founder Joe Martin planted twenty-two acres of chardonnay and sixty acres of merlot, the first in Sonoma Valley. Today, St Francis is a family-owned and certified sustainable winery.

The Mission-style visitor center's 1,000-pound bronze Italian bell chimes on the hour and can be heard throughout the valley. Allow time to take part in their very popular wine & food pairing, with three daily seatings. And the wine? Make sure to try the Reserve Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley Merlot, and Zinfandel.

  • 100 Pythian Road at Highway 12, Santa Rosa
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