Posted: Jun 06, 2020
But, before all of that happens (tentatively on June 15th), we can at least have a toast at Sonoma County wineries, which are opening to visitors again. Seriously, how much could we all use some bucolic scenery and a great glass of wine?
Of course, nothing is quite the same nowadays, and visiting a winery is no exception. Don't even think about showing up without a reservation or a mask to wear while you aren't drinking, and know that tastings are currently only allowed when served with food—a curveball for wineries that don't have kitchens, not that cheese, charcuterie, and nuts are anything less than perfect pairings. You and your party will definitely be sitting outside; take it as a bonus, this is California, after all, and the settings are spectacular.
All these new requirements mean that tastings are more unique than ever, going well beyond the wine club spiel and cheese plate format. There are hikes, art tours, tasting menus, and more. As is the new rule of thumb during the Covid-19 pandemic, information and offerings can change any moment; call the winery to confirm details and make reservations before visiting.
Here are some Sonoma County wineries welcoming us back with exciting experiences outside of the tasting room.
Iron Horse is legendary for its bubbles in Sonoma County—this is one of the few wineries making sparkling wine in Northern California, and it's certainly one of the best. Right now, the winery is offering a flight ($30) of three sparkling wines, a single vineyard chardonnay, and a single vineyard pinot noir. Tastings are poured at picnic tables beneath the palm trees; a redwood gazebo is usually reserved for groups and bottle service. Food comes courtesy of Guerneville's Big Bottom Market, Monday through Saturday. And, as an exciting nod to normal times at Iron Horse, the Oyster Girls are back on Sundays, just like in the ole pre-pandemic days. Get your oysters and bubbles and on.
// 9786 Ross Station Rd. (Sebastopol); find tasting details and make an appointment at ironhorsevineyards.com.
The grand Alexander Valley estate reopened in May with a creative twist: Since on-property consumption wasn't allowed, guests could "buy" a hike on the property, and then take wine and food home to enjoy. Those four-mile hikes are still available for exploring the stunning 1,200 acres of vineyard, but the day now ends with a picnic and wine pairing on Jordan's terrace. For a shorter hike, reserve a 90-minute tasting and a visit to Jordan's new Chateau Block Vineyard, home to 9,352 cabernet sauvignon vines. Plus, since we're all aching to travel, Jordan had the smart idea of giving us a little afternoon trip to Paris. "Paris on the Terrace" alfresco lunches begin on June 18th, with guests seated at well-spaced bistro tables under the welcoming shade of oak trees (Jordan is inspired by a French chateau, after all).
// 1474 Alexander Valley Rd. (Healdsburg); make reservations at jordanwinery.com.
Contactless tasting is the new normal at this Dry Creek Valley producer where everything is hands-off. At Zo Wines, you'll pour your own tastes of five wines into a disposable glass that can be taken home; enjoy a self-guided vineyard hike via an online map; and catch the wine club speech via YouTube video. The wines are superb, and the setting just outside central Healdsburg is postcard-perfect.
// 3232 Dry Creek Rd. (Healdsburg); book your experience at zowines.com.
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