A tour of Sonoma County Wine Country makes for a memorable (provided you don’t drink too much) day-trip while staying in the city. We opted for Sonoma over Napa as we read it was more bucolic and laid back…and we weren’t disappointed. Our choice of touring companies was also spot-on. Green Dream Tours provide guided shuttle services that will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel downtown, stop at scenic overlooks along the way, and take you to family run wineries off the beaten path. Their shuttles are limited to 14 passengers, and are perfect anecdotes to overcrowded anonymous buses. They really make you feel like you’re out with a group of friends, and our driver and guide, Dakshina, couldn’t have been more professional, friendly and knowledgeable.
We stopped at three wineries as well as a brief sojourn in the “city” of Sonoma, which for those comparing is a quaint town of about seven thousand people vs. Napa which has swelled to a city of over seventy thousand.
- Peter Cellars Winery – the first and best of the three is owned by a British fellow who loves his plays on words. Available to visit only by scheduling a private tour, the friendly host (and his companion dog, Rupert) make you feel like you’ve arrived at a friend’s ranch while you sit around the shaded veranda in comfy deck chairs, and he pours you a variety of wines. The Pinot Noir (apparently cultivated here in place of a once mighty Merlot that was decimated by the anti-Merlot movement spawned by the 2004 film, Sideways) was the highlight. Furthermore, I was quite taken by an old Pontiac Bonneville in the yard, which Dakshina provided some back story around its past usage, which in turn fueled a great idea for a short story.
- Larson Family Winery – a little more commercial and kitschy but still with plenty of class, this is the type of winery where if I lived in Sonoma County I would take friends and family to enjoy an afternoon. They make creative use of an outdoor space full of shaded picnic tables and yard games, and there are some farm animals and dogs for the kiddies to ogle while mom and dad enjoy some sips.
- Robledo Family Winery – a piece of old Mexico resides right there in Sonoma County at this historic and fabled winery that was the first to be owned and run by a Mexican immigrant. They make a nice red Zinfandel.
And now, for some photos:
Written and Photographed by David H. Schleicher