In Sonoma County, between Sepestapol and Santa Rosa, sits The Russian River Valley American Viticultural Area. Producing one-sixth of Sonoma County’s wine, this region is known for its cool temperature, ocean breezes and delicious varietals. Spared largely from the 2017 California wildfires, these wineries continue to produce world-class wines while giving back to local organizations such as the Redwood Credit Union’s North Bay Fire Relief Fund to help displaced residence. Visit Sonoma County and support local wine producers during your next stay. Each bottle purchased leaves a real impact for vintners and local Sonoma businesses.
With over 300 wineries in the area, choosing the right wineries to visit during your stay can be difficult.
But don’t worry, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you. We’ve discovered 5 vineyards that are a must when visiting the best wineries in The Russian River Valley. Check out our picks below and click to check out nearby availability on the Exchange.
Why: What would a Best Wineries in the Russian River Valley list be without Gary Farrell Vineyards and Winery. With the arrival of winemaster Theresa Heredia in 2012, Gary Farell varietals, particularly the Pinot Noir, have been collecting accolades left and right. Their selection of Pinot Noirs have hovered in the mid 90 point range since 2015, with a few broaching the 95 points threshold. These are some outstanding wines you won’t want to miss.
Hours: By appointment only. Call 707.473.2909 to schedule a tasting.
Varietals: Chardonay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel
Price: Garry Farell offers three tasting options in their newly remodeled tasting room. Some options include an estate sommelier.
- Inspiration Tasting ($75 per person): 6 vineyard designated Pinot Noirs paired with artisan small bites over a 90 minute tasting guided by an Estate Sommolier
- Exploration Tour & Tasting ($55 per person): A mix of 5 small production wines paired with artisan cheese & nuts over a 90 minute tasting
- Elevation Tasting: ($35 per person): A mix of 5 Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays with artisan cheese & nuts over a 60 minute tasting
Why: J Vineyards was opened in 1986 and quickly developed a reputation for exceptional sparkling wines and varietals. Winemaker, Nicole Hitchcock, uses several unique methods to maximize quality, such as hand-harvesting and sorting. This special attention to detail, combined with The Russian River Valley’s unique terroir, makes J Vineyards wine some of the most unique in Sonoma. If you’re a sparkling wine fan (no, it’s not technically champagne) you’ll easily spend a full day tasting their selection of Bruts, semi-drys and rosés.
Hours: J Vineyards offers tastings in both the J Bubble Room and the Legacy Reserve Lounge. Reservations are highly recommended. Call 707.431.5430 to reserve your tasting today.
J Bubble Room (Educational wine and food pairing program)
- Thursday- Sunday with seatings at 11am, 11:30am, 12pm, 2pm, 2:30pm, 3pm.
The Legacy Lounge (Wine tastings with artisanal cheese pairings)
- Available 7 days a week by appointment. Seatings every half-hour from 11am, 11:30am, 12pm, 12:30pm, 1pm, 1:30pm, 2pm, 2:30pm, 3pm, 3:30pm, 4pm.
Varietals: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, sparkling wines and other unique varietals.
Price: J Vineyards offers 4 tasting options.
- J Bubble Room ($125 per person): A 5-course meal paired with 5 wines chosen by the resident winemaker.
- J Legacy Tasting ($35 per person): A relaxed seated tasting featuring flights of 5 varietal wines and 5 sparkling wines. Additional fee for cheese pairings.
- J Signature Tasting ($20 per person): A mixed flight of 5 Russian River Valley sparkling and varietal wines.
- J Tour & Tasting ($40 per person): Explore J’s two vineyards, the grape crush pad, fermentation room, riddling and bottling areas, and a flight of 5 wines.
Why: Hard work, modesty and sustainability is what makes Benovia stand out from the pack. The Benovia team works all year to nurture their vineyards until harvest season, when they begin harvesting the grapes in the dead of night for peak flavor. Benovia makes a conscientious effort to install solar panels, reduce C02 emissions and mitigate electric use as a part of their commitment to sustainability. Benovia’s Cohn Estate Vineyard is also certified organic. You’ll love visiting the Benovia Ranch House for an afternoon of casual tastings and beautiful vineyard views.
Hours: By appointment only. Open daily from 10am-3:30pm. Call 707.921.1040 to schedule a tasting.
Varietals: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Grenache
Price: Benovia Vineyards offers 1 tasting option at their modern Ranch House.
- Benovia Ranch House Tasting ($30 per person): Taste Benovia’s current release Estate and single vineyard wines over 75 minutes. Tasting fee waived with purchase of two or more bottles.
Why: Wine Spectator has named J. Rochioli’s Pinot Noir the “Best Pinot Noir in America” since 1985. The 2016 Estate Pinot Noir, the latest to be evaluated, was given a score of 90-points by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate–not too shabby. Rochioli’s accolades are too many to count, but their consistency in quality is hard to beat. Especially given that the Rochioli name has been in the Sonoma wine lexicon for nearly 80 years. The 2017 Estate Pinot Noir is now available at the tasting room for those looking to make an early judgement.
Hours: The Rochioli tasting room will be closed on October 12, 13, and 14 for a member’s only event.
- Monday: 11 a.m.- 4 p.m.
- Tuesday: by appointment only
- Wednesday: by appointment only
- Thursday: 11 a.m.- 4 p.m.
- Friday: 11 a.m.- 4 p.m.
- Saturday: 11 a.m.- 4 p.m.
- Sunday: 11 a.m.- 4 p.m.
Varietals: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.
Price: Rochioli Vineyards and Winery offers one tasting option.
- Rochioli Winery Tasting Room ($20 per person): Let your palate discover Rochioli’s most current estate wines. Tasting fee is waived with the purchase of a bottle.
Where: La Crema invites guests to enjoy tastings at their Healdsburg Tasting Room and Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard.
- Healdsburg Tasting Room: 235 Healdsburg Ave. Healdsburg, CA 95448
- Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard: 3575 Slusser Rd Windsor, CA 95492
Why: With locations in the central and southern area of the Russian River Valley, La Crema makes it easy and accessible to enjoy their locally produced wines. You’ll also have access to their other appellation varietals including wines from the Willamette Valley, Sonoma Coast and Monterey. Attend a tasting while exploring downtown Healdsburg or make the trip to Saralee’s Vineyard for an afternoon of delightful vineyard views and wine tasting. The vineyard tour tasting option is extra special because you can hop from vineyard to vineyard tasting wine while standing on the soil it was produced on and learning how the terroir and Russian River microclimate delivers a unique flavor to each patch of land.
Hours: For both locations. Reservations are highly recommended. Call 707.526.6200 to reserve your tasting today.
- Healdsburg Tasting Room: Open daily from 10:30am-5:30pm
- Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard: Open daily from 10am-5pm
Varietals: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay,
Price: Some tasting options are limited to the tasting location.
- Signature Tasting ($15 per person): Available at both locations. Two Chardonnays and two Pinot Noirs.
- Vineyard Select Tasting ($30 per person): Available at both locations. Taste 5 small case production wines that showcase La Crema’s Californian production. Includes two Chardonnays and three Pinot Noirs.
- Wine and Chocolate Pairing ($25 per person): Only at Healdsburg Tasting Room. Learn the fundamentals of wine and chocolate pairing.
- Nine Barrel Room Experience™ ($50 per person): Only at Healdsburg Tasting Room. A private exploration of La Crema’s most coveted Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.
- Wine and Cheese Exploration ($35 per person): Only at Healdsburg Tasting Room. Learn the fundamentals of wine and cheese pairing.
- Nine Barrel Tasting ($50 per person): Only at Saralee’s Vineyard. Explore the estate’s cellar where La Crema’s limited Nine Barrel series is kept for special tastings.
- Saralee’s Vineyard Tour ($65 per person): Only at Saralee’s Vineyard. A private tasting hosted by a personal concierge. Tour the estate by golf cart while tasting wines from each vineyard. Includes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer and Rosé. (Offered during Spring and Fall).
- Saralee’s Picnic Experience ($150 per picnic): Only at Saralee’s Vineyard. A 4-person tasting complemented by a tastefully constructed picnic. Includes a wine educator, personalized menu and a branded take home picnic basket.
What’s listed above barely scratches the surface of the Russian River Valley’s massive selection of wine varietals. To get to know the region and its wines more intimately, try booking a stay in Sonoma County. You’ll be glad you didn’t pass up on a potentially life-changing Pinot Noir. And you’ll feel good knowing you did your part supporting the local vintner community of Russian River Valley.
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