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The 10 best Sonoma wineries

Taste the finest vintages this region has to offer at the best Sonoma wineries

Photograph: Flickr/Douglas LeMoine
By Lauren Sheber and Shoshi Parks |
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If Napa is Northern California’s land of wine-fueled luxury, with its chic wineries and tasting rooms, Sonoma is its laid back cousin: equally as beautiful with 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 in Sonoma.

Best Sonoma wineries

1
Donum Estate
Photograph: Yelp/Stephanie T
Bars, Wineries

Donum Estate

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.

2
Gundlach Bundschu
Photograph: Yelp/Nerri Y
Bars, Wineries

Gundlach Bundschu

Just down the road from the haute hipsters of Scribe lies Gundlach Bundschu, California’s oldest family-owned winery. Despite its century-old pedigree, Gun Bun, is lively and idyllic place to taste, located on Rhinefarm, a 320-acre property shaded by towering olive trees and bordered by a scenic pond. Helmed by sixth-generation vintner Jeff Bundschu, 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 long bar in the inviting tasting room or in the grand underground wine cave. Don’t miss the pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon, as well as a refreshing gewürztraminer.

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3
Hamel Family Wines
Photograph: Courtesy Hamel Family Wines
Bars, Wineries

Hamel Family Wines

This fledgling winery was founded in 2014 by a family of University of Wisconsin alums—hence, the jaunty badger gracing all the labelsand 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, and 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. 

4
Photograph: Flickr/Douglas LeMoine
Bars, Wineries

Scribe Winery

Atop a rolling knoll just off the road between Napa and Sonoma, Scribe Winery is producing vibrant, terroir-driven wines. The property is managed by fourth-generation wine-maker and farmer brothers Andrew and Adam Mariani, and is known for its cool, laid-back vibes which attracts a young, hip crowd. There is no fancy tasting room here; when you arrive, you'll be given a Mexican 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.

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5
Ravenswood Winery
Photograph: Yelp/Aly T
Bars, Wineries

Ravenswood Winery

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.

6
Hanzell Vineyards
Photograph: Yelp/Kelly J
Bars, Wineries

Hanzell Vineyards

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—which you can scope out on the tour—the small-batch wines are produced using state-of-the-art technology. An extra $20 will get you a worthwhile detour into the barrel-aging cave.

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7
Viansa Sonoma Winery
Photograph: Yelp/Tim B
Bars, Wineries

Viansa Sonoma Winery

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. 

8
Buena Vista Winery
Photograph: Courtesy Buena Vista Winery
Bars, Wineries

Buena Vista Winery

From the soaring wood beams overhead to the glittering chandelier, Buena Vista Winery's tasting room evokes elegance. The oldest commercial winery in California, although this landmark property was renovated in 2012, its 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.

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9
Three Sticks Winery
Photograph: Yelp/Sarah S
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Three Sticks Winery

icon-location-pin Sonoma

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.

10
Seghesio Family Vineyards
Photograph: Courtesy Seghesio Family Vineyards
Bars, Wineries

Seghesio Family Vineyards

icon-location-pin Healdsburg

One of Sonoma's oldest wineries, Seghesio Family Vineyards are 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 including Seghesio's recently released culinary line of wine-based bottled sauces and tapenades. In the Old Vine Cellar Lounge downstairs, sip Seghesio's best at a seated tasting surrounded by the winery's original redwood tanks.

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