Visiting wine tasting rooms is a great way to spend the day, sipping and exploring. But what about the driving? For even the hard-core grape hopper, the adventure can get exhausting. Navigating, jumping in and out of the car, all of that.
Happily, there’s a wonderful thing called a winery co-op. It’s when several wineries band together in a single location, offering a rainbow of different wines and experiences all under one roof, or around a single shared center. Bonus, most of these wines are truly special events, in such tiny releases that sharing tasting room space is not only fun, it’s practical business.
Toast these top destinations, and keep those car keys cooled down:
Timber Crest Farms, Healdsburg
This mini-mall outdoor park of four small family-owned wineries plus one collaborative tasting room of six wineries is also home to an olive oil producer and a viticultural services company. Each business is housed in a distinctive building ranging from a rustic red barn to a trellised trailer done to look like an old fashioned general store, so it feels a bit like a tiny farm town amid the vines. These are small production specialists ranging across nearly every varietal imaginable, including Amphora, Kokomo, Papapietro Perry, Peterson Winery, and the Family Wineries Tasting Room featuring the half dozen small vintners of Collier Falls, Dashe Cellar, Forth Vineyards, Lago di Merlo Vineyards, Mietz Cellars and Philip Staley. You can’t see all of Sonoma in one day, but this is the quickest, closest second best, and there is even a plush, landscaped picnic area with ramadas, bocce, and gorgeous views of Dry Creek Valley.
Amphora, 707-431-7767, amphorawines.com.
Kokomo Winery, 707-433-0200, kokomowines.com.
Papapietro Perry, 707- 433-0422, papapietro-perry.com.
Peterson Winery, 707-431-7568, petersonwinery.com.
Family Wineries, 888-433-6555, familywines.com.
Timber Crest Farms, 4791 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, timbercrest.com.
It can be difficult to guess what awaits behind this walled oasis on Arnold Drive and Highway 121 in the Carneros region of south Sonoma. What to make of the 11-foot-high Adirondack chair and the changing street art, such as a dead Monterey pine tree skeleton decked with 70,000 sky-blue Christmas balls? But this is a nine-acre collection of high-end “concept gardens” studded with inventive sculptures and art displays tucked among boutique shops, a cafe and two tasting rooms. There is Keating Wines, a small production winery that sources from premium vineyards across Sonoma and Napa counties, specializing in high-end Bordeaux varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon from the 45-year-old Montecillo Vineyard in the Mayacamas mountain range, a Malbec and a Petite Sirah from the tiny appellation of Rockpile, a Zinfandel from both Dry Creek Valley and Sonoma Valley, and a Cabernet Sauvignon from Beckstoffer’s Georges III in Rutherford. There is also Meadowcroft Wines, working with top Sonoma and Napa grapes to produce Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah and Sangiovese.
Keating Wines, 707-939-6510, keatingwines.com.
Meadowcroft Wines, 707-934-4090, meadowcroftwines.com.
Cornerstone Sonoma, 23570 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 707-933-3010, cornerstonegardens.com.
Red Car Wine Co. and Dutton-Goldfield, Sebastopol
What was formerly a tractor sales space on Graton Road just west of Gravenstein Hwy. is now Red Car, and what used to be Ace-in-the-Hole Cider Pub and hard cider production plant is now Dutton-Goldfield, and it’s pure coincidental pleasure that the two new tasting rooms share a lush, green lawn just a few yards apart. Rev up with stunning Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Roussanne at Red Car, and relish the funky-fun décor that came from local antique shops. DG is known worldwide for premium Sonoma County Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but the winery also produces a small amount of excellent Syrah, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc and Zinfandel, plus another Pinot Noir from Marin County. Don’t expect flash, except in the glass, since wines this good shine in a simple, hunter green metal-clad warehouse setting. Hint, just down the road, nearly next door, are two more tasting rooms, for Merry Edwards Winery and Graton Ridge Cellars.
Red Car Wine Co., 8400 Graton Road, Sebastopol, 707-829-8500, redcarwine.com.
Dutton-Goldfield Winery, 3100 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol, 707-827-3600, duttongoldfield.com.
Merry Edwards Winery, 2959 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol, 888-388-9050, merryedwards.com.
Graton Ridge Cellars, 3561 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol, 707-823-3040, gratonridge.com.
Vintners’ Square, Santa Rosa
Urban wine geeks, unite! Actually, they already have, at the new Wineyard at Santa Rosa Vintners’ Square. Through this “Winemakers Tasting Room Collaboration,” an industrial area within spitting distance of the 101 Freeway at Cleveland and Ridgway avenues has been transformed into a boho-chic community. Currently, it’s home to four wineries including D’Argenzio Winery, Sheldon Wines, Krutz Family Cellars and MJ Lords Wine Cellars, though soon there could be up to six more boutique operators, plus a wine education area featuring local agencies like the Santa Rosa Junior College Shone Farm Winery, and Sonoma County agri-tourism groups. Check the Facebook page for extra goodies like live music and festivals.
Santa Rosa Vintners Square: Urban Winery Village, 1301-1305 Cleveland Avenue,
Santa Rosa, 707-280-4658 or Facebook.
D’Argenzio Winery, 707-280-4658, dargenziowine.com.
Sheldon Wines, 707-865, 6755, sheldonwines.com.
Krutz Family Cellars, 707-536-1532, krutzfamilycellars.com.
MJ Lords Wine Cellars, mjlordswinery.com.
Cellars of Sonoma, Santa Rosa
This tasting room is actually a combo-retail store and groovy bar, featuring live music Thursdays through Saturdays, plus a small menu of food via take-out from Jackson’s Bar and Oven next door. But the wines are big, mainly because they’re small, in a boutique collective of producers making generally less than 2,500 cases which are not available for sale anywhere else. Check out the artsy space with its historic carved wood bar and framed collections of antique corkscrews, then dig the sampling flights from vintners like Amorosa Bella, Bonneau Wines, Gann Family Vineyards, Heidi Barrett’s La Sirena, Krutz Family Cellars, DuNah Vineyards, Bradford Mountain Wines, James Family Cellars and TR Elliott Wines. Don’t miss the loft, either, for a birds-eye view of the party downstairs. Hint: Just steps away is Wine Spectrum Shop and Bar, offering flight tastings from its ample retail stock.
Cellars of Sonoma, 133 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa, 707-578-1826, cellarsofsonoma.com.
Wine Spectrum Shop and Bar, 123 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa, 707-636-1064, winespectrum.com.
Gourmet au Bay, Bodega Bay
Ya, you’re right on the water, so your wine flights are served on a mini surf board, mon, and if you like, you can take it on the deck overlooking the bay with cool ocean breezes and sunsets to get you all giddy. Add in a cheese platter, shop in the little gift store for some only-in-Sonoma goodies, then head to dinner – Gourmet au Bay has a list of participating area restaurants that will waive their corkage fee if you tote in one of their well-priced local and international wines.
Gourmet au Bay, 913 Hwy. 1, Bodega Bay, 707-875-9875, www.gourmetaubay.com.