As California wine country degenerates into adult Disneyland — and the number of rich guy “vanity” wineries sprout up like a conga line at a wedding — it’s becoming more difficult to uncover the “good” places. The places that 99% of the people ask me about. Visitors have over 700 wineries in Sonoma County and Napa Valley alone to choose from, all vying for attention with tours, food pairings, beautiful vineyards, and sometimes even tasty wine. So how does a wine lover separate the wheat from the crap? I’m going to cough up the goods. I’ve been living in Sonoma County since March 2011 and trek out pretty often to pan for gems in my ‘hood as well as Napa and Mendocino (soon, others). And I’m not jaded or bored yet, so am uniquely qualified to give advice.
Thus my blog will now become a “travel” destination at least once per month so you can check it out when you’ve plane tickets in hand and a vacation in northern California wine country to plan.
I’ve divided the winery destinations into five categories:
- Small, boutique-y wineries — normally family-owned and open by appointment only
- Older wineries with history that will blow your mind
- Touristy wineries that actually still have great wine
- Forward-thinking, modern wineries
- Wineries offering a cool, wine, vineyard or food experience
In this series of columns, I’ll do my best to steer you clear of the obscenely offensive cow-yard-ish experiences. I will assume you have taste if you read my stuff and want to avoid those. There’s no reason why self-respecting adults should moo their way through a winery tour and tasting. Not only is this insulting, there are too many other worthy places deserving of attention. And your money, for that matter. That’s why tasting rooms exist, you see — to sell you wine and not just deliver inebriation. Perhaps I’ll also throw in a piece about tasting room etiquette.
In the next few weeks, I’ll highlight an extraordinary food and wine experience in Healdsburg, a small tasting room with big wines and great service, and an appointment-only, personal ass kissing at the top of a mountain (but in a really good way). Stay tuned and start packing your bags for your vacation to California wine country.
Can’t wait to start planning your trip? I can help create a custom wine tour based on your wine tastes. Email me if interested in finding out more.