DECANTING SONOMA COUNTY
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Decanting Sonoma By Invitation Only
From grand, Old World-style wineries to intimate lodging and dining, Decanting Sonoma County offers a wealth of local resources conceived for the well-traveled wine enthusiast. This select publication represents the finest wineries, hotels, and restaurants in Sonoma County by invitation only, affording our readers an inside view to the best this renowned wine region has to offer. Decanting Sonoma County is the newest release in the Decanting Wine Country series, which includes Decanting Napa Valley and Decanting Monterey County (to launch early 2009.) Future editions will include publications from Mendocino to the San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara wine regions.
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Advisory Board Sonoma Jean Arnold-Sessions.......Hanzell Winery Paul Hobbs........................Paul Hobbs Winery Dave Rafanelli...................A Rafanelli Winery Skye Halburg.....................Benziger Family Winery Katie Ciocca......................Les Mars Hotel
09 Sonoma 11 13 15 17 17 19 19
Hanzell Vineyards Bartholomew Park Winery Schug Carneros Estate Winery Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa SantĂŠ Restaurant MacArthur Place Inn and Spa Saddles Restaurant
21 Glen Ellen & Kenwood 23 25 27 29 31
Imagery Estate Winery Benziger Family Winery Audelssa Estate Winery Landmark Vineyards Kenwood Inn and Spa
33 Freestone, Sebastopol, & Forestville 35 37 39 41 43 45
Freestone Vineyards Merry Edwards Wines Paul Hobbs Wines Marimar Estate Vineyards & Winery Hartford Family Winery Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant
No part of this publication, including text and images, may be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher. The publisher will assume no liability of content or for referral companies.
47 Windsor, Healdsburg, & Geyserville 49 51 53 55 57 59 61 63 65 67 69 71 71
Inman Family Vineyards Arista Winery Twomey Cellars Bella Vineyards A. Rafanelli Vineyard and Winery Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards and Winery Quivira Vineyards and Winery Lambert Bridge Winery Rodney Strong Vineyards Jordan Vineyard & Winery Silver Oak Cellars Le Mars Hotel Cyrus Restaurant
73 DWC Complimentary Concierge 04 Tasting Appointments 75 Referrals for: Wine Tours, Transporation, & Leisure Activities 76 Sonoma Appellations 78 Map & Member Locations Decanting Sonoma County is a Decanting
Wine Country publication. Corporate office is located in the Washington Square, 6795 Washington St. Building C Suite T, Yountville, CA 94599. (707) 225-5964 or 1-888-DWC-1850.
For the past 30 years, Hanzell Vineyards has been owned by the de Brye family and its 46 acres produce 4,500 cases of 100-percent estate-bottled wine grown in the tradition of grand cru Burgundian properties. The house style has remained consistent as its winemakers have farmed the same vineyards over the decades. “Hanzell’s fifty years is perhaps the equivalent of 300 years in Burgundy,” says winemaker Michael Terrien. “To work this land is to participate in winemaking history.”
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The French call it a monopole: a specific site used for one single-vineyard wine and farmed by consecutive generations of one family for the land’s individual characteristics. Although we have no similar English word for it, in Sonoma you can find the concept in place at Hanzell Vineyards. “Our property is definable as its own unique geographical area,” says President Jean ArnoldSessions. “We are the only winery making Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in this unique combination of climate and soil.” Tucked into the base of the Mayacamas Mountains just one mile north of the Sonoma Plaza, Hanzell has produced two hand-made, single-vineyard wines – a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir – for fifty years. Both wines are so complex and ethereal that they improve with age. The Ambassador’s Vineyard, planted in 1953, is the oldest continually producing vineyard of those varietals in the New World.
18596 Lomita Avenue Sonoma, CA 95476 Tastings by Appointment
935-9511 7 0 7
It’s been called “the birthplace of California viticulture,” yet this boutique winery remains largely a well-kept secret among locals. The historic estate of Bartholomew Park, just a few miles north of the Sonoma Plaza, produces single-vineyard, handcrafted wines that are available exclusively through the winery. Its Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah are all 100-percent estate-grown, with small bottlings of Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot. The winery was founded in 1994 by the Bundschu family, which has been winemaking on its Rhinefarm Estate in Sonoma Valley since 1858. Bartholomew Park’s 37-acre, organically farmed estate vineyard is the site of the first vinifera vineyard in California, planted by Hungarian Count Agoston Haraszthy in 1857 and originally named “Buena Vista.” Today, winemaker David Marchesi uses minimal intervention in both vineyard and winery to create fruit-forward, balanced wines that showcase the historic property. Within the tasting room is a small museum that chronicles the estate’s colorful past – such as its use as a State Farm for Delinquent Women – and the history of Sonoma viticulture, and has a display of photos by renowned Victorian photographer Eadweard Muybridge. Visitors can also explore the beautiful grounds, which include Count Haraszthy’s replicated villa, extensive landscaped gardens, picnic areas, and three miles of hiking trails. A visit to Bartholomew Park is to fully experience the legacy and the beauty of Sonoma.
1000 Vineyard Lane Sonoma, CA 95476 Open daily 11 to 4:30
939-9363 7 0 7
Schug Carneros founder Walter Schug is responsible for many “firsts” in the wine industry. During his ten years as founding winemaker at Joseph Phelps Vineyards, he created California’s first proprietary Bordeaux-style blend, Insignia, and the first varietal Syrah in the U.S. He made the legendary vineyard designates Eisele and Backus, and pioneered late-harvest dessert wines. And he was the first ever to receive a 99-point rating from wine critic Robert Parker, Jr. Raised and trained in Germany, Schug has held a lifelong passion for Pinot Noir. So when Phelps ceased production of that varietal in 1980, Schug began making it under his own label. Ten years later he built Schug Carneros Estate Winery, just ten minutes from the town of Sonoma. Today Schug presides as “winemaster emeritus” with Sonoma-born winemaker Michael Cox, combining Old World tradition with modern techniques to produce Pinot Noir as well as Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Merlot. Farming the 50-acre property sustainably, they also work with small-production vineyards to produce the highest quality fruit from the Carneros, Sonoma Valley, and Sonoma Coast appellations. For the Pinot Noir, they use German plunger fermentation tanks and European oval oak casks in addition to small French oak barrels. Because the wines age slower and more gracefully, they embody “elegance over brawn” – the European philosophy of making wine that enhances food.
602 Bonneau Road Sonoma, CA 94576 Open daily 10 to 5
938-9000 7 0 7
Most guests of the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa assume they’ll use the hotel as a base from which to explore the abundance of wine country restaurants, wineries, shopping, and sports activities. Once they arrive, however, many never manage to leave the property, remaining in their plush white bathrobes throughout the day. You can’t blame them – the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn is a full destination resort, created in the grand European tradition and one of the only U.S. spas with its own source of thermal mineral springs. After a recent $65-million restoration, the 13-acre estate offers an 18-hole championship golf course; a 43,000-square-foot spa and wellness facility; and four geothermal-fed pools. Santé, a AAA Four Diamond restaurant, features Sonoma-inspired cuisine with locally produced ingredients under the direction of Executive Chef Bruno Tison, formerly of New York’s Plaza Hotel. The Inn’s Big 3 diner provides a more casual atmosphere. There are also complimentary docent-led hike and bike adventures, and a daily afternoon wine tasting. The 226 guest rooms and suites are beautifully appointed and styled for comfort – many include fireplaces. Each provides those plush robes from which you may never want to change. Just an hour’s drive from San Francisco, The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa is truly a retreat from the outside world.
Reservations 800 257-7544 100 Boyes Boulevard Sonoma, CA 95476
938-2929 7 0 7
It’s just four blocks from Sonoma’s historic plaza, but when you enter the grounds of MacArthur Place you cross into a different place and time. Once a 300-acre vineyard and working ranch, one of the oldest estates in Sonoma, the 19th century property has been transformed into a luxurious inn and spa within seven acres of spectacular gardens. Original sculptures are displayed among the plantings, many of them dating from the 1800s – boxwood hedges, citrus, elm, and 13 varieties of magnolias. “Something’s always in bloom,” says General Manager Bill Blum. “Guests notice the changing fragrance as they wander about the grounds.” Developer and designer Suzanne Brangham instilled her sense of whimsy into the 64 rooms and suites, appointing each one with its own character. All rooms offer designer furnishings, down comforters and custom linens; the 29 suites also include fireplaces and hydrotherapy tubs or rain showers, and flat-screen TVs and DVD players with surround-sound. Cabana Suites and Garden Spa Suites have their own private gardens with outdoor showers. In the spa, 40 different facial and body treatments feature scrubs and creams made from the herbs and flowers grown on the property. The restaurant, Saddles, was once a working barn and stables for the original owner’s prized trotter horses. Under the direction of Chef Dana Jaffe, it’s consistently named Sonoma’s best steakhouse.
Reservations 800 722-1866 29 East MacArthur Street Sonoma, CA 95476
[Glen Ellen &
With a limited production of 10,000 cases, Imagery’s releases are available only at its tasting room, online, and through its mailing list. Curator Bob Nugent personally commissions hundreds of international artists to design the original artwork and oversees the winery’s collection of wine label art – the most extensive in the world. As for the wines inside those bottles, Benziger is inspired by Robert Louis Stephenson’s quote that “wine is like bottled poetry.” He says, “It moves me to elevate our wines beyond the everyday.”
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While many wineries can boast that their wines are works of art, Imagery Estate has taken that phrase to a whole new level. Not only are its limited-production wines hand-crafted from rare varietals, but their bottles bear labels designed by some of the world’s most famous contemporary artists. The estate was born, says winemaker Joe Benziger, from a thirst for experimentation and a willingness to take risks. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because the winery belongs to the same clan who own Benziger Family Winery just down the road. And like its sister winery, Imagery’s estate is farmed with fully sustainable, organic, and Biodynamic® practices. Its unconventional approach to winemaking uses a wide range of lesser-known red and white varietals – from Viognier to Tempranillo and Lagrein to Grenache.
14335 Hwy. 12 Glen Ellen, CA 95442 Sun -Thur to 10 – 4:30 / Fri - Sat to 5
According to Biodynamic principles, a more vibrant agricultural environment results in more interesting fruit, and Benziger’s diversity of crops include olive trees and vegetable gardens from which produce is sold to local restaurants. The winery is proud to have received Sunset Magazine’s first Green Winery Award in 2005, and its Biodynamic tram rides have been voted “best wine country tour” in both the wine press and The New York Times.
In the winery, Benziger is joined by Director of Winemaking Rodrigo Soto to combine ancient winemaking techniques with modern technology – triple-sorting of grapes, gravity flow, the use of native yeasts, and low sulfites. Of the 300 separate lots vinified each year, the very best become Benziger Single Vineyard Wines, the Signaterra Series, and the flagship Cabernet blend, Tribute Sonoma Mountain Estate.
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Never has saving the planet tasted so good: Since 1981, the Benziger Family Winery has been setting the standard in Sonoma County for its certified sustainable, organic, and Biodynamic® winegrowing practices. The result is a diverse portfolio of intensely flavored red and white wines with an abundance of site-specific character. “If it doesn’t happen in the vineyard, it doesn’t happen in the winery,” laughs proprietor and estate winemaker Mike Benziger. Today, more than two dozen Benzigers live on or around the property and participate in the family enterprise.
1883 London Ranch Road Glen Ellen, CA 95442 10 - 5 daily, Tram Tour from 11 to 3:30
933-8514 7 0 7
Call it “extreme viticulture.” Audelssa Estate Winery and the Mountain Terraces Vineyard are perched on the southwestern slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains. Their steep terrain was cultivated to follow the contours of the land, which cascades from 1,800’ to 600’ above sea level. The Schaefer family first planted Mountain Terraces in 1989 and founded the winery 14 years later. They came to winemaking from the farming side, as growers. “It’s been quite exciting to see how people react to our estate wines,” explains Dan Schaefer. “Our goal is to put the vineyard in the bottle.” Because of the extreme topography and soils of lava and ash, the vines’ berry size is naturally smaller, producing more concentrated and complex flavors. Audelssa releases a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Bordeaux blend, and small-production Rhône varietals. It’s no surprise that its signature wine is called Summit, a meritage of five varietals from the 125-acre property’s different microvineyards in the Sonoma Valley appellation. Using a minimalist hand – small lots, open-top fermentation, gentle punch-downs and a small basket press – winemaker Erich Bradley creates elegant, balanced wines that express the special terroir of the Mayacamas range, receiving consistently favorable scores by Robert Parker, Jr. But there’s no need to scale mountains to sample these wines. Audelssa’s comfy tasting room is conveniently located in “downtown” Glen Ellen.
13647 Arnold Drive Glen Ellen, CA 95442 Open Fri - Mon, 11 to 5, Tues – Thur by appt
In addition to sampling its renowned wines, visitors to the Landmark Vineyards property can enjoy bocce ball, horse-drawn carriage tours, verdant picnic grounds, and a collection of antique tractors on the surrounding grounds. For those wishing to extend their stay, guest accommodations are available on site.
Winemaker Eric Stern strives for complexity and richness in the wines from year to year with hand-crafted techniques. After working with consulting enologist Helen Turley, Stern developed his minimalistic approach to winemaking -- hand harvesting in the vineyards, native yeast fermentation, no filtration, and aging in French oak barrels. “The less the wine is manipulated, the more flavors and aromas remain to enjoy,” Stern says.
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The story of Landmark Vineyards goes back 170 years and 1,800 miles to Grand Detour, Illinois, where John Deere invented the steel plow and revolutionized the business of agriculture. Inspired to continue the family’s abiding ties to agriculture, his great-great-granddaughter, Damaris Deere Ford, came to California with a dream to create premium wines. Today her son and daughterin-law, Michael and Mary Colhoun, continue the legacy with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. Their signature wine, the Overlook Chardonnay, consistently scores over 90 points and appears in national wine publications’ “Top 100” lists. The 20-acre estate vineyard and winery are located in the Sonoma Valley appellation.
101 Adobe Canyon Road Kenwood, CA 95452 Open daily 10 - 4:30
The inn’s elegant spa was the first Vinotherapie center to open in the United States and has been ranked sixth out of 50 top spas in the world by Luxury Spa Finder magazine. Its full menu of treatments promote the rejuvenating and protective powers of grapevine-derived extracts. Under the direction of Chef Renzo Veronese, the on-site restaurant offers guests three meals daily. Its classic Italian cuisine uses ingredients exclusively from local farmers, ranchers, wineries, cheese-makers, and fisherman.
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Any number of wine country hotels can claim to be romantic, but the Kenwood Inn and Spa has the numbers to prove it. “We average about two marriage proposals a month,” laughs General Manager Karl Bruno. “Fortunately, we also have a 100 percent acceptance rate!” The property’s intimate atmosphere is just one of many reasons Food & Wine magazine rated the hotel “the best wine country retreat in all of California…ten best of the world.” Designed in the spirit of a Mediterranean villa, the Kenwood Inn evokes the sensual, old world charm of Provence, Italy, or Spain in the historic Valley of the Moon. Cell phones and laptops are foregone in favor of two outdoor swimming pools, sunning terraces, a steam room and hot tub. The 29 luxurious guest rooms and suites are appointed with featherbeds, Italian linens, fireplaces, full baths, and private entrances.
Reservations 800-353-6966 10400 Sonoma Highway Kenwood, CA 95452
Sebastopol & Forestville
874-1010 7 0 7
Imagine a tiny, 19th-century town little changed from its heyday during the timber boom, tucked into rolling hills of former apple orchards. Now imagine the winemaking expertise of Joseph Phelps Vineyards, one of Napa Valley’s most established wineries. Put them together and you’ve got Freestone Vineyards, an exciting newcomer to the Sonoma wine community. Built on the model of a Burgundian domain in which vineyards and winery are designed collaboratively to produce specific wines, the estate uses time-honored, Biodynamic® farming principles in the production of its Freestone Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as a second label, Fogdog. Partner Bill Phelps says his team “spent more than three years looking for the perfect site with a climate ideally suited to producing well-structured Pinot Noirs to rival those from Burgundy.” One hundred planted acres at elevations of 200 to 500 feet in the Sonoma Coast appellation are farmed with the goal of expressing the regional characteristics of soil, climate, and terrain as influenced by the hand of nature. Hand sorting, gravity flow, and barrel aging of individual vineyard blocks are a few of the techniques employed by the winemaking team of Damian Parker, Theresa Heredia, and Justin Ennis. The town of Freestone has come a long way from making apple juice.
12747 El Camino Bodega Freestone CA 95472 Tastings by Appointment
823-7466 7 0 7
In a field increasingly populated by women, Merry Edwards was one of the first. She is now in her 35th vintage and was named a Pioneer Woman Winemaker by the National Women’s History Project. For three years in a row, her Pinot Noirs have received top rankings by the national wine press. Now her acclaimed wines finally have a home – a solar-powered, earth-friendly winery that reflects her connection to the land. Edwards and her husband, Ken Coopersmith, tend 46 estate acres and partner with local growers to produce eight Pinot Noirs and a Sauvignon Blanc that fully express the Russian River Valley appellation. In the winery, she uses méthode á la ancienne, French oak, and bâtonnage to make wines that convey consistent personality and quality vintage after vintage. Instead of a traditional tasting room, Merry Edwards Wines hosts private tasting experiences with wine expert Ron Hayes to educate visitors not only about Edwards’ site-specific viticulture and handcrafted techniques, but about wine in general. Edwards was named 2004 Winemaker of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle and was nominated this year for an Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional Award by the James Beard Foundation. Always looking for ways to improve her wines, she says, “When I’m asked to name my best Pinot Noir, I say I haven’t yet made that wine.”
2959 Gravenstein Highway North Sebastopol, CA 95472 Open Monday — Saturday by appt.
824-9879 7 0 7
Robert Parker, Jr. has called him a “truffle-hunting dog” for his uncanny ability to identify premium vineyards and named him “Most Important Winemaker in California” in 2004. Paul Hobbs is also one of the very few to garner a perfect 100 points from the renowned wine critic. For the past thirty years, he honed his skills as a winemaker and consultant to leading California wineries; he also shares his expertise in Argentina, Chile, and Hungary, where he is changing the landscape of viticulture in those countries. But his home-base is here in Sonoma County, where Paul Hobbs Winery creates small-lot, vineyard-designate wines – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet – from select vineyards in the Sonoma and Napa Valleys. His vision has resulted in complex, structured wines that come from a marriage of Old World principles and a modern Californian sensibility. The fourteen-acre Lindsay Vineyard, located in the Russian River Valley, is planted to five clones of Pinot Noir. The meticulously hand-crafted techniques in Hobbs’ gravity-flow winery include native yeast fermentation, aging in French oak barrels, and unfined and unfiltered bottling. “I describe my winemaking style as modern classic,” Hobbs says. “Making wine, like living well, is a balance of experience and intuition, discipline and discovery.”
3355 Gravenstein Highway North Sebastopol, CA 95472 Mailing list members, by appointment only
823-4365 7 0 7
“Old World winemaking” is a common phrase in viticulture today, but Marimar Torres backs that concept with serious credentials. Descended from one of Spain’s foremost wine families, she represents three centuries of experience at her namesake winery in the hills near Sebastopol. Her award-winning Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, however, are as much the result of forwardthinking vineyard techniques as they are about traditional style in the winery. The estate’s two vineyards in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations are certified organic, and Biodynamic® farming is being introduced. They are planted high-density in the European style and the grapes are handled minimally in the winery. “First and foremost, we are farmers,” Torres explains. “We produce wine as an extension of farming the vineyard.” Continuing that philosophy, instead of a single winemaker Torres works with a team in shepherding the fruit to express the unique personality of each vineyard. All Marimar Estate wines are 100-percent estate-grown and bottled. Her winery is built in the style of a Catalan farmhouse, much like the home in which she grew up, and its guests have included Prince Felipe of Spain. But you needn’t be royalty to enjoy her Spanish hospitality – tastings at Marimar Estate can be paired with tapas from Torres’ own cookbooks, The Spanish Table and The Catalan Country Kitchen.
11400 Graton Road Sebastopol, CA 95472 Open daily 11 to 4, Tours Mon - Fri, 11 and 2
967- 8333 7 0 7
When Don Hartford talks about “high risks and high rewards,” you might assume he’s an investment banker instead of a vintner. But the same philosophy applies when you’re farming in the temperamental terrain of western Sonoma County. Hartford Family Winery produces a range of single-vineyard Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, and old-vine Zinfandels that reflect the diverse climates and soils of Russian River Valley and four other Sonoma appellations. “The risks are quite high in these extreme regions,” explains winemaker Jeff Mangahas. “But we believe that, as with people, adversity builds character and personality in wine.” Robert Parker apparently agrees, consistently giving Hartford Family Winery scores of 92 to 96 points. Working with vineyard manager Walt Chavoor, Mangahas uses sustainable organic and biodynamic principles, tight vine spacing, low yields, and dry farming. The winery’s 80-to-100-year-old Zinfandel vines are among the oldest in California, and its Chardonnay vineyards are planted with multiple clones specially matched to their sites. “The great thing about Pinot Noir is that it really shows its sense of place,” Mangahas adds. “We listen to what each particular piece of dirt is telling us.” This respect for the land is matched in the winery with minimally invasive, handcrafted techniques. At the Hartford Family Winery, located in Forestville about 15 miles from the Pacific coast, you can taste the rewards for yourself.
8075 Martinelli Road Forestville, CA 95436 Open daily from 10 to 4:30
887-3300 7 0 7
Since its construction in 1872 as a family farmhouse, the Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant has enjoyed a colorful past: Its various incarnations include farmworker housing, vacation cottages, a bath-house, even a disco. Today the property has been transformed into a luxurious inn and spa that provides a uniquely authentic wine-country experience. Siblings Catherine and Joe Bartolomei, whose family has farmed in Sonoma County for five generations, run the inn with a familiarity for the area and an appreciation for the rhythms of nature. The Michelin One-Star restaurant employs its own master sommelier and Chef Steve Litke creates each dish using the fresh ingredients of the season and local artisanal producers . Eight guest rooms and two suites include a full breakfast and are lavishly appointed with creature comforts, from fresh flowers and house-baked cookies to Egyptian cotton towels and linens. Most have fireplaces and saunas or steam showers. The Spa at Farmhouse is an intimate retreat offering specialty treatments such as massage, facials, yoga, and Pilates. There is a fire pit around which guests gather in the evenings, and a complimentary bath salt and scrub bar. If you can tear yourself away from the inn itself, youâ€™ll find 75 wineries within a ten-minute drive, canoeing, or hiking in Armstrong Woods, a firstgrowth redwood forest. Itâ€™s a Sonoma experience unlike any other.
Reservations 800 464-6642 7871 River Road Forestville, CA 95436
Healdsburg & Geyserville
395-0689 7 0 7
When you come to Inman Family Wines for a private, sit-down tasting, you’ll be in the company of the grape grower, the winemaker, the saleswoman, the forklift driver, and the owner. That’s because it’s a one-woman business run by Kathleen Inman and she does it all, from grape to glass. Inman, who is originally from the Napa Valley, and her British husband, Simon, had successful careers in the U.K. when they decided to follow their passion for wine to the Russian River Valley. They bought a historic vineyard property and began producing small lots of handcrafted Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Inman farms sustainably and by the lunar calendar, using only organically certified inputs. “You could say that makes me a certifiable lunatic!” she laughs. In the vineyard, attention to detail ultimately leads to the creation of balanced wines; silky texture and beautiful aromatics are signatures of the elegant, luxury wines Inman is known for. “Pinot is the most feminine of grapes,” she explains, “and it is those pretty florals and seductive earthy notes that define my Pinot Noirs.” Although the Inmans’ tasting room is currently off-site, they are building an eco-friendly winery that is scheduled to open in early 2009 at their Olivet Grange Vineyard.
5793 Skylane Blvd., Suite C Windsor, CA 95492 Tastings Fri or Sat, 11 to 4, or by appointment
473-0606 7 0 7
As a small, family-owned wine estate, Arista Winery takes a personal approach to its winemaking. Owner Mark McWilliams could be talking about his children when he says, “We believe that grapes treated well in the vineyard are well-behaved in the cellar. We coax them along with minimal intervention and gentle handling.” The winery’s mission is to create the most elegant expression of Pinot Noir. Overseen by renowned vineyard manager Ulises Valdez, Arista’s twelve planted acres are broken into micro-vineyards of various soil types. High-density planting of specific rootstocks and clones precisely pair with the diverse soil profile of each block. The McWilliams family produced its first vintage in 2002. Mark McWilliams is joined by winemaker Leslie Sisneros in the winery, producing only 80 to 300 cases of each vineyard. Their minimalist techniques include gravity flow, cold-soaking, manual punch-downs, and small, open-top fermentation. In addition, Arista uses sustainable farming and business practices and is working to become 100 percent solar-powered. Situated on a hillside overlooking the Russian River Valley, Arista’s grounds have been transformed into calming Japanese water gardens with waterfalls, streams, and ponds using the estate’s natural rock formations – perfect for picnicking. And if that isn’t enough of a reason to visit, family patriarch Al McWilliams, a former orthodontist, boasts that he has “the straightest vineyard rows in Sonoma County!”
7015 Westside Road Healdsburg, CA 95448 Thurs – Mon, 11 – 5 or by appointment
505-4850 8 0 0
Russian River Valley is the heart of California’s Pinot Noir country, but only at Twomey Cellars can you taste the best of this varietal alongside a true Bordeaux-styled Merlot. Twomey’s proprietors, the Duncan family, also own the Cabernet-producing Silver Oak Cellars. When they purchased the Soda Canyon Ranch vineyard in 1999, winemaker Daniel Baron discovered that its top-flight French clones were perfectly suited to making a singlevineyard Merlot. He had developed a passion for the latter while working in France’s acclaimed Pomerol and St. Emilion districts and had long dreamed of making a California Merlot with a French sensibility. Twomey Cellars was born of this dream. Using labor-intensive, Old-World techniques such as gravity flow, barrel-to-barrel racking and small fermentation vats, Baron’s approach is truly artisanal. As for the Pinot Noir, “2005 was the first year in which the Dijon and Pommard clones we planted make up the majority of the blend,” he explains. “It marks an important milestone for our Pinot Noir.” Twomey Cellars’ striking contemporary tasting room is perched on a hillside west of Healdsburg, offering one of the most expansive views in all of Sonoma Valley. Its wrap-around patios provide the perfect spot from which to sip the well-balanced, aromatic Merlot, or taste Twomey’s Russian River Valley Pinot Noir or crisp Sauvignon Blanc.
3000 Westside Road Healdsburg, California 95448 Open Monday — Saturday, 9 to 4
If you visit Bella Vineyards, be prepared for the unexpected. “You never know when we might bring out some music or chocolate with dessert wine in our cave,” Adams says. “We like to keep it pretty lively.”
Bella sustainably farms three distinct vineyards in Sonoma County. In the winery, it employs a non-interventional approach, including naturally occurring and special yeasts, submerged-cap fermentation, and gentle extraction techniques to produce completely hand-crafted wines in small batches. Bella consistently receives gold medals from national wine competitions and every year adds more 90+ scores from the most prestigious wine writers.
The wines being stored and tasted here are no less noteworthy. Located in the heart of Dry Creek Valley, Bella Vineyards specializes in tiny lots of single-vineyard Zinfandels, as well as several Rhône varietals including Petite Sirah and Grenache. In the hands of winemaker Joe Healy and consulting winemaker Michael Dashe, Bella was named Artisanal Winery of the Year in the national wine press.
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“For as long as there has been wine, there have been caves,” says Bella Vineyards’ owner, Scott Adams. “Even the ancient winemakers knew that caves are the perfect environment for the aging of fine wines.” It should come as no surprise, then, that Bella’s winery property includes an extensive wine cave, with 5,200 square feet of barrel storage and a 1,500-square-foot entertainment space for dining, tasting, and musical performances.
9711 West Dry Creek Road Healdsburg, CA Open daily for tastings 11 to 4:30, tours by appt.
Winemaker Rashell Rafanelli-Fehlman, great-grand daughter of the founder, grew up on the estate and knows its soils and microclimates like old friends. She treats every vineyard separately and uses all French oak, which “adds a layer of complexity without covering up the wine’s characteristics,” she explains. Her husband, Craig Fehlman, is vineyard manager on the 85-acre estate, which is farmed sustainably and by hand. Together they live in the farmhouse first occupied by Shelly’s grandfather; in the winery they’re joined by parents David and Patty Rafanelli, and Stacy Rafanelli. The tasting room occupies a renovated 100-year-old workhorse barn that offers wonderful views of the valley and rolling hills. Come sample one of their complex red wines – chances are good that you’ll be served by someone named Rafanelli.
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Many Sonoma wineries can claim they’re family operated. But few can say their family’s business dates back to 1911, when Alberto Rafanelli established one of Healdsburg’s first wineries. Today A. Rafanelli makes a select portfolio of hand-crafted wines available only by mailing list or at the winery’s tasting room in Dry Creek Valley. Its limitedproduction Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot are renowned for their Old World, traditional style – the result of gentle handling, open-top fermentation, and non-filtration techniques. Its signature Cabernet, the Terrace Select, is built for the cellar but can be savored right away.
4685 W. Dry Creek Road Healdsburg, CA 95449 Tasting daily by appointment 10 to 4
838-4306 7 0 7
The history behind Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards and Winery dates back to the 1860s, when the property was originally settled by Sarah Rich Latimer, a Gold Rushera pioneer who planted the first vines in the Chalk Hill appellation. Owners Fred and Peggy Furth have built on this legacy by emulating the integrated wine estates of Europe: Their 1,400-acre property includes a house, vineyard, gardens, winery, and stable. “Our connection to the land is made through sustainable farming practices tailored to our unique biospheres,” says Peggy. “We’re the only estate winery in this appellation, and all of our wines are an expression of the unique Chalk Hill terroir.” Fred Furth pioneered vertical planting in the area and the 60 vineyard blocks are individually tended, handharvested by parcel, and fermented in small, distinct lots. After double-sorting the fruit, winemaker Jordan Fiorentini uses natural yeast fermentation and the laborintensive bâtonnage, a process used by only a handful of other California wineries. Today Chalk Hill is best known for its Chardonnay, with the largest number of international Chardonnay clones in a single estate, but also produces a range of red and white wines representing styles from Burgundy and Bordeaux to Alsace. With meticulous experimentation of site and clone combinations, the estate can even bottle selected clones separately in certain vintages.
10300 Chalk Hill Road Healdsburg, CA 95448 By appointment, open daily 10 to 4
431-8333 7 0 7
In the 16th to 18th centuries, the area we know as Sonoma County appeared on European maps as a mythical kingdom called “Quivira” whose streets were said to be paved with gold. The legend faded but the treasure endures: Today, the region’s “gold” is the acres of grapevines that thrive there. Named in honor of the mythical realm, the small, family-owned Quivira Vineyards & Winery comprises four distinct vineyards in the Dry Creek appellation and produces 100 percent estate-bottled Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc and several Rhône varietals. Owners Pete and Terri Kight believe a holistic, sustainable approach to farming leads to the most vibrant, flavorful fruit. Their certified organic and Biodynamic vineyard is enhanced by a solar-powered winery and a restored salmon and trout-spawning creek. A Biodynamic garden and freerange chickens provide produce and eggs to local farmers’ markets and restaurants. Winemaker and grower Steven Canter employs artisan techniques such as native yeast fermentation, large oak foudres, basket press and barrel-to-barrel racking. “The potential of any great wine comes from the site and the season,” he says. “Once off the vine, it’s a matter of how much of that potential we can capture.” After tasting Quivira wines, visitors may sample estategrown olive oil and honey or tour the gardens to learn about sustainable farming and viticultural practices.
4900 West Dry Creek Road Healdsburg, CA 95448 Open daily 11-5
The former ranch property is now a perfect spot for picnicking, with landscaped Mediterranean-style gardens and views of the rolling hills. For seasonal events there is an alfresco kitchen with wood-fired pizza ovens.
In the vineyard, “we practice small-vine viticulture,” explains winemaker Jill Davis. “Our philosophy is to grow small grapes for maximum concentration.” She uses minimal irrigation or fertilizing to keep the vines small, then triple-sorts the fruit by hand down to the individual berry. “What goes into the tank is as perfect as humanly possible, not a single stem or unripe berry,” she says. The artisanal approach continues with small-tank fermentation and aging in 100 percent French oak.
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It will come as no surprise that to get there you must cross over a bridge – an old single-lane trestle bridge that still provides passage over Dry Creek. Like its namesake, Lambert Bridge Winery occupies land from the former C.L. Lambert Ranch – a vast property that once included a school, store, and farmland. Today, the estate produces a broad array of hand-crafted Bordeaux varietals and three white wines, all of which are difficult to find outside of the winery’s own tasting room or wine club. Lambert Bridge, renowned for its Merlots, is now most proud of its limited-production Cabernets.
4085 West Dry Creek Road Healdsburg, CA 95448 Open daily 10:30 to 4:30
Rodney Strong’s current offerings include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Its signature red wine is a Meritage called Symmetry, a blend of five classic Bordeaux varietals. Under longtime winemaker Rick Sayre, who was mentored by renowned winemaster Andre Tchelistcheff, Rodney Strong operates a “winery within a winery” for its most limited, handcrafted wines. Small lots and small fermentation tanks make it possible to tailor production to select vineyards, even down to individual rows. The winery’s thirteen Sonoma County estates, representing Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley, and Chalk Hill, are sustainably farmed and it has the largest solar installation in the county. Depending on the season, visitors can try pruning vines, sugar-testing grapes, or even evaluating wines straight from the barrel.
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“History combined with innovation can produce magic,” says Rodney Strong proprietor Tom Klein, whose family has been farming in California for four generations. The winery’s namesake founder was a renowned American dancer who went on to become a pioneer of the modern California wine industry, founding in 1959 the thirteenth bonded winery in Sonoma County. Rodney Strong has since been the first to produce Chardonnay from the Chalk Hill AVA, first to release a single-vineyard Cabernet from Sonoma County, and was named “Winery of the Year” by the California Travel Industry Association.
11455 Old Redwood Highway Healdsburg, CA 95448 Open daily 10 to 5
431-5250 7 0 7
“At Jordan Winery, we believe that wine is just one pillar of gracious living,” says owner John Jordan. “It’s a supporting character in the pleasures of the table.” The estate was founded by John’s father, Tom Jordan, to emulate the European tradition of producing memorable wines among beautiful surroundings. To visit Jordan is to understand how successfully that vision has been achieved. Inspired by several 18th-century French chateaux, the golden stucco building is surrounded by formal French gardens and panoramic views of the Alexander Valley. Jordan produces a Bordeaux-style Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley appellation and a Russian River Chardonnay crafted in the tradition of a white Burgundy. Incorporating biodynamic and organic practices, each vineyard block is hand-farmed according to diverse microclimates and soils. Winemaker Rob Davis has been with the Jordan estate since the beginning, creating the first Cabernet vintage in 1976 under the tutelage of legendary viticulturalist André Tchelistcheff. His Cabernets are round, fragrant, and approachable upon release or after aging beautifully. His slightly acidic Chardonnays are flinty, fruit-forward, and crisp. “My father came to appreciate wines through fine cuisine,” Jordan explains. “Ours can best be enjoyed in the context of a wonderful meal, not to overpower it.” Not surprisingly, Jordan’s Cabernet was rated number-one in a recent national poll of fine restaurants.
1474 Alexander Valley Road Healdsburg, CA 95448 Open for tours & tastings by appointment only
Raymond Twomey Duncan founded Silver Oak Cellars with Meyer in 1972 and the winery continues to be a family affair under the leadership of his sons David and Tim. When you visit their Tudor-style tasting room just north of Geyserville, look for the oak and steel wine bar inspired by Silver Oak’s signature American oak barrels.
Winemaker Daniel Baron, who apprenticed in Bordeaux and was mentored by founding winemaker Justin Meyer, uses 100 percent American white oak barrels that have become the hallmark of Silver Oak’s wines. Each barrel is handmade and toasted to the winery’s specifications, contributing fewer harsh tannins than French oak and delivering a fresh, spicy character. The wine then undergoes an extended aging process – two years in barrel and twenty months in bottle – a full year longer than other wines of its vintage.
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If it’s Cabernet you love, put Silver Oak Cellars on your Sonoma itinerary. Rather than producing many varietals, the estate is devoted to creating a single, exceptional wine – a rich and complex Cabernet Sauvignon. For the last several years, Silver Oak has been voted “most requested Cabernet” in the national wine press for its consistently expressive, fruit-forward wines. Its grapes – both estategrown and sourced from longtime growers representing both Napa and Alexander Valleys – reflect the very best their appellations have to offer.
24625 Chianti Road Geyserville, CA 95441 Monday - Saturday, 9 to 4
433-4211 7 0 7
Behind the limestone façade of a French château lies a luxurious new dimension in wine-country lodging. “I feel like I’m in Europe” is a comment the staff at Les Mars Hotel is accustomed to hearing, even from their European guests. Some people actually stay at Les Mars instead of traveling to the Continent – this little gem of a hotel is truly that special. Built in 2005 and located just off of Healdsburg’s plaza, the Michelin Three-Star Les Mars marries Old World luxury with twenty-first-century comfort and is the only Relais & Chateaux property in Sonoma County. Following the philosophy that guests should be treated like visiting friends, the gracious and friendly hotel staff infuses the elegant property with warmth. Interior designer Helga Horner has mixed authentic antiques with modern conveniences to create a perfect harmony between guest and environment. The sixteen individually appointed rooms include fireplaces, canopied four-poster beds, chaise longues, Italian linens, deep soaking tubs, and Bvlgari amenities, and an in-room Continental breakfast is delivered each morning. Each week, top-flight Sonoma vintners pour their own wines, and the rooms’ wine list offers selections from the winemakers’ own libraries. The Michelin Two-Star restaurant, Cyrus, serves dinner next door. It’s no surprise that Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report says that Les Mars “now sets the standard for luxury accommodations in Sonoma.”
Reservations 877-431-1700 27 North Street Healdsburg, CA 95448
Appellations, & Member Map
Decanting Sonoma County has strong relationships with the most established, experienced, and top-quality resources in the wine regions we represent. We would be happy to assist you with complimentary recommendations and referrals to enhance your wine-country travel plans, as follows:
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Luxury wine tours with privileged access to many of the regions’ most notable wine producers. Private transportation. Scenic balloon and helicopter rides. Private chefs specializing in regional cuisine with locally produced ingredients. Dining opportunities at many of our member wineries in a cellar or vineyard setting. Biodynamic education in viticulture and farming. Olive oil production and garden tours. Specialty picnics, gourmet lunches, and en-route dining. Bicycle tours. Restaurant suggestions.
Visit our concierge office, call us toll-free 888-DWC-1850 or email us at email@example.com.
American Viticultural Areas Sonoma County Alexander Valley: With about 15,000 acres of highly prized vineyards, this appellation extends north of Healdsburg up to Mendocino County. Just enough coastal fog finds its way up the Russian River Valley to create cool evening and morning conditions, which give way to hot midday temperatures in what is generally a relatively warm growing area. Cabernet Sauvignon reigns supreme on the gravelly terrain of this valley floor, and is noted for its characteristic chocolate notes and warm mouthfeel.
Chalk Hill: Occupying the northeast corner of the larger Russian River AVA, Chalk Hill is named for its unique, volcanic, chalky white ash soils. These soils lend themselves to the production of excellent whites, particularly Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The appellation has over 1,000 acres under vine, enjoying a warmer climate, relative to the rest of the Russian River Valley. Due to the higher elevation of this viticultural area, vineyards escape much of the cooling fog that regularly shrouds the lower-lying areas.
Bennett Valley: Bennett Valley has 650 acres currently planted primarily to Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. It is surrounded by the Sonoma Mountain Range on three sides and the city of Santa Rosa to the north. Crane Canyon to the southwest is a gap between Sonoma Mountain and Taylor Mountain which allows the cooling coastal fog and breezes from the Pacific Coast.
Dry Creek Valley: A rural setting known for small family wineries and some of the finest Zinfandel produced anywhere. Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are now growing in acreage as Zinfandel production peaks. This appellation benefits from the close proximately of the Lake Sonoma reservoir for irrigation in this relatively dry area.
Carneros: Straddling the borders of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys on the north coast of San Pablo Bay is the appellation known as Los Carneros – “The Rams.” Cool winds and fog in the early afternoon provide the ideal conditions for producing fine Chardonnays, elegant Pinot Noirs and crisp sparkling wines. In recent years, Carneros has also been recognized for the quality of its Syrah and Merlot.
Green Valley: This small viticultural area takes a slice from the larger Russian River Valley AVA. Because of its location, Green Valley has more exposure to the Pacific’s cooling effect, and while most of the Russian River Valley is cool, the Green Valley sub-appellation is even cooler. Green Valley’s chilly terroir ripens fruit slowly, causing many to regard this appellation as a frontier for cool-climate varieties Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Knights Valley: The warmest of Sonoma County’s viticultural areas, Knights Valley derives its heat from its lofty perch, high on hills and beyond the reach of the Pacific Ocean. Geographically, the appellation separates the rest of Sonoma County from the Napa Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon, which thrives in the warmth and the fertile volcanic soils, remains the star attraction in the 2,000 acres of vineyards of Knights Valley. Also present are the rest of the Meritage cast: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot. Rockpile: The aptly named Rockpile AVA is a remote, high-country growing area, where the unforgiving terrain brings out the best in Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, but is less hospitable to man, having yet to attract any resident wineries. At elevations up to 1,900 feet, Rockpile is above the fog line, exposing grapes to more warmth and sunshine, boosting ripeness and richness. Russian River Valley: Russian River Valley is one of the most recognized AVA names in America. The appellation is internationally renowned for challenging varieties like Pinot Noir, which excels in this cool-climate, yielding highly expressive wines. A lean and restrained style of Chardonnay is also a signature of the region. One sixth of Sonoma County’s total vineyard acreage falls within the Russian River AVA boundaries, with all vineyards sharing to varying degrees the defining characteristic of cooling fog that is drawn inland from the Pacific Ocean.
Sonoma Coast: Comprising more than half a million acres with roughly 7,000 acres under vine, this umbrella AVA was created largely to accommodate coldclimate, ‘estate-bottled’ producers, who own vineyards scattered throughout the cooler zones along the Sonoma coast. Cool climate and relatively high rainfall contribute to slow grape maturation, ideal conditions for the challenging Pinot Noir variety. Sonoma Mountain: The 2,400-foot Sonoma Mountain range begins to rise above the town of Glen Ellen at the western edge of the Valley of the Moon. Found here are high-altitude, steepsloped vineyards, with eastern exposures to catch the fog-free morning sun. Powerful, yet elegant Cabernet Sauvignons – the appellation’s specialty – grow here on well-drained soils. Mountain slopes also create microclimates suitable for limited production of a diverse range of other varieties, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, as well as Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. Sonoma Valley: Framed by the Sonoma Mountains to the west and the Mayacamas Mountains to the east, Valley of the Moon is the romantic cradle of Northern California’s wine industry. Here, at Mission San Francisco de Solano, the Franciscan monks planted their last and most northerly vineyard in 1823. In 1857 Count Agoston Haraszthy – the “father of the California wine industry” established Buena Vista Winery, launching the commercial wine industry in Northern California.
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