For years, Sonoma has been the less glitzy, less visited sister to neighboring Napa. But bands of young vintners have given the region a new reputation as the source of risky, experimental and hyper-natural winemaking. The wealth of unexpected pours on offer--coupled with Sonoma’s relaxed vibe--will excite any wine-loving visitor.
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Instead of a supersize tasting room and kitschy gift shop, this by-appointment-only winery takes a more intimate approach to its tastings, often led by vintner Andrew Mariani. Chat with Sonoma’s wunderkind about his use of wild yeasts and love of unfashionable grapes, then taste some of the valley’s most captivating wines.
Ask about the 2010 Sylvaner, made using the highly acidic Alsatian grape that was wiped out in the early part of last century--and resuscitated by Mariani.
2300 Napa Rd., Sonoma; 707-939-1858 or scribewinery.com
Natural Process Alliance
Taking natural winemaking one step further, Kevin and Jennifer Kelley have replaced glass bottles with water-bottle-size stainless-steel canisters from Klean Kanteen. Try their three wines in the tiny tasting room, where a mineral-rich Pinot Gris and fruity Sauvignon Blanc are served on tap.
Buy: The skin-fermented Chardonnay--with notes of butterscotch, orange and apricot--is the best of the bunch.
3350 Coffey Ln., Santa Rosa; 707-527-7063 or naturalprocessalliance.us
Tendejon de la Calle
Mateo Granados’ roving pop-up restaurant travels around the valley, hosting delicious dinners at top Sonoma wineries. The ever-changing menu excels at flavorful, highbrow street food, with dishes like fragrant pork ribs served over pork-belly-studded tamales, and tortilla cones filled with goat chorizo and black beans.
Drink: The hosting wineries usually offer pairings with each dish for an additional charge.
The younger, eco-friendly sister property to Hotel Healdsburg has 36 rooms with bamboo floors, organic cotton linens and private terraces. Pick up one of the recommended itineraries to nearby wineries, like the solar-powered Quivira.
Drink: Scott Beattie’s classic cocktails at Spoonbar rival the area’s wines in popularity.
219 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg; 707-922-5251 or h2hotel.com