If Napa is Northern California’s land of wine-fueled luxury, with its chic wine tastings and wine tours, Sonoma is its laid back cousin: equally as beautiful with Sonoma wineries and vineyards producing vintages just as world-class, but less crowded and somewhat more humble. While you can taste Sonoma cabs, merlots and sauvignon blancs in San Francisco’s best wine bars, there’s nothing like a day in Wine Country or, better yet, an overnight stay at one of the finest Sonoma hotels. Whether you prefer rustic-chic tasting rooms, historic chateaus or brisk vineyard hiking, you’ll find it at the best wineries in Sonoma.
RECOMMENDED: The best wineries in Napa
Best Sonoma wineries
Donum Estate has two primary focuses: aged pinot and contemporary art. Wine tastings here are thoughtful, private affairs (make sure you call ahead to book in advance) which include samples of pinot noir and chardonnay during a stroll around the 200-acre estate. The dichotomy between the natural surroundings—150 year old olive trees, vineyards, and an organic farm—and museum-worthy sculptures is stunning. Curated and owned by Allan and Mei Warburg, the collection features 30 largescale works by well-known artists from around the world including Ai Weiwei, Yayoi Kusama, Louise Bourgeois, Keith Haring, and Tracey Emin. The outdoor gallery continues to grow, alongside the vines.
Just down the road from the haute hipsters of Scribe Winery lies Gundlach Bundschu, California’s oldest family-owned winery. With a century-old pedigree and a sixth-generation vintner at the helm, Gun Bun is a lively and idyllic place to taste; the 320-acre property is shaded by towering olive trees and bordered by a scenic pond. Gun Bun is also known for its weekend concerts, including the annual Huichica fest, featuring indie and surf rock bands. Tastings are conducted at the bar in the tasting room or in the grand underground wine cave. Don’t miss the pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon, as well as a refreshing gewürztraminer.
This fledgling winery was founded in 2014 by a family of University of Wisconsin alums—hence, the jaunty badger gracing all the labels—and the estate is a real gem with a sleek, modern tasting room designed by Gould Evans architecture. The space features 18-foot windows with views of Sonoma Mountain, an outdoor deck overlooking 100-year-old olive trees and an infinity pool, and a 12,000-square-foot wine cave. The vineyard employs organic and biodynamic methods, producing wine in limited quantities. Estate tastings include cheese and charcuterie pairings, while the Reserve experience rolls out a full four-course meal alongside pours of sauvignon blanc, rose, zinfandel, and Isthmus, a cabernet sauvignon blend.
Atop a rolling knoll between Napa and Sonoma, Scribe Winery is producing vibrant, terroir-driven wines. The property is managed by fourth-generation wine-makers and brothers Andrew and Adam Mariani, and is known for its cool, laid-back vibe which attracts a young, hip crowd. There is no fancy tasting room here; when you arrive, you'll be given a blanket and encouraged to find a spot for yourself in the shade of a tree or at a nearby picnic table. Snack on fruit and nuts grown on the property (maybe even an egg from Scribe's hens), and the wine will come to you, along with a few stories about the winery's chardonnay, pinot noir, riesling and, perhaps the most unique—and delicious—of the bunch, sylvaner. Tastings by appointment only.
You won't find any stuffy pourers or pretentious swirlers at Ravenswood. Instead, this no-reservations-required tasting room is bright, welcoming, and service-oriented. Founded in 1976 by Joel Peterson, a scientist and microbiologist with a side gig as a wine consultant, Ravenswood made a name for itself with zinfandel and, these days, Peterson is known as the “godfather of zin.” The winery's fruity, full-bodied wines—which also include chardonnay, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon—are produced from grapes harvested from throughout wine country, from Dry Creek to Carneros Valley. Sample flights from an adirondack chair on the terrace, tour the barrel room, or taste rare bottles in the library cellar.
This scenic, historic winery originally founded in 1953 by ambassador James D. Zellerbach, who returned to the US inspired after a sojourn in Burgundy, is known for standout pinot noir and chardonnay. Perched at the southern tip of the Mayacamas range, the vineyard (owned by the de Byre family since 1975) offers bird’s-eye views of Sonoma Valley and the San Pablo Bay. Though the facilities date back to 1950s, the small-batch wines are produced using state-of-the-art technology.
For a private tasting worth splurging for, reserve one of Viansa’s private outlooks, which range from intimate nooks to pillow-decked open-air cabanas. From the front terrace, you can gaze out over the estate vineyards, newly replanted in 2015 with 10 acres of pinot noir and 15 acres of chardonnay. The hilltop property includes 33 acres of vineyards in all, plus nearly 100 acres of picturesque wetlands, a gourmet market and a wood-fired pizza oven for all manner of food to pair with flights of pinot, chardonnay and sangiovese.
The oldest commercial winery in California (although this landmark property was renovated in 2012), Buena Vista's historic charm remains—as do the original Champagne cellars, now used as wine production facilities. The Carneros grounds feature a museum of 19th-century wine tools (more interesting than it sounds), a stylish lounge devoted to French bubbly, and tranquil picnic grounds. The winery’s location at the top of the San Pablo Bay means a diverse variety of microclimates, ideal for varietals ranging from merlot and syrah to chardonnay and pinot. Request a cave tasting, which concludes with samples drawn straight from the barrel.
Situated in the historic Vallejo-Castanada adobe, this downtown Sonoma winery is a haven for design lovers. Althouth the building received a grand facelift by San Francisco interior design legend Ken Faulk, it remains one of the few structures from California’s early Spanish Period. Three Sticks’ produces small batches from wines grown on various local vineyards, which can be tasted from the adobe’s cozy-chic confines. Sip it while you can—the winery only produces 4,000 cases a year, and much of it sells out before leaving Sonoma Square.
One of Sonoma's oldest wineries, Seghesio Family Vineyards is known for producing a wide variety of zinfandels from sustainably-planted vineyards across Sonoma County. Taste a flight of their bright, bold vintages at the Italian estate's grand tasting room along with food pairings. In the Old Vine Cellar Lounge downstairs, sip Seghesio's best at a seated tasting surrounded by the winery's original redwood tanks.