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‘Think of Sonoma as a Low Key Napa’


One of the best perks of living in Northern California is living so close to Wine Country. We try to make it there at least twice a year to enjoy our region’s bounty of fantastic wines and beautiful scenery.

Being the lazy person that I am, I normally head straight for Napa since its closer. Therefore, I almost never make it over to Sonoma.  I know I should diversify, but that extra 7 miles to Sonoma oddly kept me away.

But now, I have a good reason to visit, after attending a wine tasting and dinner hosted by Wine Road, Northern Sonoma County, at Enotria Restaurant & Wine Bar. The Wine Road, which acts as a tourism bureau for the Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Alexander Valley, mas more than 50 wineries and 50 lodgings in its membership.

It produces an informative Web site – WineRoad.com – and has wonderful services like a concierge, where you can e-mail them what kind of visit you’re looking for and they’ll e-mail you a custom itinerary prepared by a human.

They also produce a handout map that you’ll be able to find at any of the participating wineries.

As you know, I like to save money. I was most excited about two offers. The first is their “Ticket to the Wine Road” which gives you unlimited wine tastings at their member wineries for 1 day ($30) or 3 days ($60).

The other offer I’m excited about is one of their three special events, called Winter Wineland, where you’ll not only get unlimited tastings at participating wineries for $45 for the weekend, but also discounts on some of their featured wines. Winter Wineland will next be held on January 18-19, 2014.  (They also host two other annual events – A Food & Wine Affair, where wineries pair their wines with food, along with a cookbook free with the $70 ticket on Nov.  2 & 3, 2013, and a barrel tasting event in the spring.)

As part of the event, three different member wineries were represented, and we tasted their wines. I’ll admit that I’m still a novice wine drinker, so I don’t have an informed opinion on the wines except to say that I enjoyed each of them immensely, though.

Jordan Vineyard & Winery: The first wines I tried were from Jordan (Alexander Valley), a brand that I recognized from restaurant wine lists and retail outlets. A mid-sized family winery that tries to make wines in the European style, their focus is really on making Bordeaux-style reds and Burgundy-style whites. While I don’t intend to bore you with my wine tasting notes, their chardonnay I tasted was really well-crafted. I’m not a big fan of the buttery Napa chardonnays (like Rombauer’s), and their chardonnay was a great alternative.  Their wines are generally in the $25 to $50 range.

If you visit their winery, they don’t have a traditional tasting room with a bar. They want to have a conversation, where they have a 12-seat table at their “chateau.” Don’t forget to make an appointment since they only do tours and tastings by appointment. In the fall, they’ll also be launching an estate tour, where you can not only tour the winery, but the beautiful grounds.

The next time I go to Sonoma, I’ll definitely make a a stop at Jordan.

Jordan can be found online at JordanWinery.com, and is located at 1474 Alexander Valley Road in Healdsburg.

Pedroncelli Winery: The second winery I visited with was from Dry Creek’s Pedroncelli Winery, where they make 14 different wines. A family winery, Pedroncelli is one of the oldest wineries in the region, surviving prohibition.

I tasted their 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, which was very refreshing on a hot day with hints of tropical fruit, and their 2011 Mother Clone Zin, which was made from vines cloned from the original vineyard the family purchased in the 1920s. I thought the Zin was very well rounded, without the excessive jamminess that many newer zinfandels exhibit.

Their tasting room is open to the public, and the $5 tasting fee is waived with the purchase of a bottle of wine.

Pedroncelli can be found online at Pendroncelli.com, and is located at 1220 Canyon Rd in Geyserville.

Taft Street: This winery sent their winemaker to the event, and she was an absolute delight, helping answer many questions that I had. She also gave me the phrase that became the title of this post.

The winemaker had us tasting a 2012 Rose of pinot noir, a wine that I’ve been seeing a lot more of lately (and enjoying). It was crisp and refreshing.

This winery sells 10 varietals total, with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir each representing a third of their volume.

Their winery is open daily, featuring a picnic area and a bocce court.

Taft Street can be found online at TaftStreetWinery.com, and is located at 2030 Barlow Lane in Sebastopol.

I really enjoyed these 3 wineries and will look for them next time I'm at a restaurant or at a wine shop/supermarket. I especially enjoyed the Rose from Taft Street and the Cabernet from Jordan.

To use a happy hour analogy, Napa might be the full priced meal, whereas Sonoma represents the happy hour value. It's worth the extra 7 mile drive.

One last note about Enotria, where we were treated to dinner. I thought the meal there was really incredible. I had a good, but not great, experience there in April. This most recent visit, after they added their new GM, was phenomenal.

Wine Road can be found at WineRoad.com.


You need to drive those extra miles and stay in Healdsburg or Occidental or Guerneville sometime. Not only is the wine fantastic, the food choices are terrific as well.

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