This was my first trip to wine country. This is another destination that has been on my radar for quite some time. We planned an extended weekend arriving on Friday evening and leaving mid morning on Monday. I felt that this was adequate time to enjoy wineries in addition to our hotel. Our time was spent in Sonoma exclusively.
Getting there: I did a fair amount of research on this aspect to see the best plan possible. Ultimately, I decided to fly into San Francisco. We rented a car and drove to Sonoma on Saturday morning. There are a couple of additional options available. I looked at taking the bus from the airport in San Francisco to Sonoma airport. They have buses leaving all day up until 12:30am. Also, there is an airport in Sonoma. However, I am not a fan of propellor planes, so this was not an option for me. American Airlines only flies prop planes into the Sonoma County Airport. The drive to Sonoma was not terrible, and we did not run into a lot of traffic Saturday morning. This also allowed us a night in San Francisco.
San Francisco Recommendations: A couple of great options in San Francisco include dinner at State Bird Provisions or The Progress. A great spot for cocktails following dinner is Bourbon and Branch. Reservations are absolutely necessary at all of these. Bourbon and Branch had an extensive cocktail menu and great atmosphere.
Sonoma Planning: We planned to stay at the Sonoma Fairmont Mission Inn and Spa. As I have mentioned before, the Fairmont has a great loyalty program in place. Prior to arriving, the Fairmont provided us with an extensive list of wineries and recommendations. They divided the list by area and also those places requiring reservations and those that you can walk in. I felt that four wineries per day was more than enough. Ahead of time, I thought more would be possible. What was I thinking? After visiting both Franciacorta and Sonoma, I now realize that 2-4 places per day is the most reasonable. We only scheduled one winery, Repris, in advance. The guide provided by the Fairmont provided excellent descriptions, and I made my decision about what to visit based off this.
To get in between the wineries, we hired a driver. Her name was Deborah with letsrolltours. Letsrolltours is her instagram if you are interested in contacting her. She drove our rental car around for us, so we did not have to worry about having a designated driver. She took several photos during our visits and sent them to us after our trip. I really enjoyed that. Many of the drivers we contacted were rather expensive. However, Deborah was less expensive and did give a discount for paying cash.
1. Kunde. This was my favorite winery and also our first stop. We did not have a reservation, but we were able to sit inside at a table. There were six wines provided on the tasting menu in addition to an amazing cheese/charcuterie plate. The pours were generous, and I enjoyed all of the wines. They even included a dessert wine with a piece of dark chocolate. We purchased a bottle to go, and they packaged it well with some lovely plastic wine glasses.
2. Repris. I also enjoyed Repris. It was close in the running for my favorite. Reservations are required for a tasting, and we spent almost two hours here. Greg was our guide for the entire visit and did a wonderful job. We started outside enjoying some white wines that were unique including a Melange Blanc and Sauvingnon Blanc. We then migrated into the caves and continued our tour while sipping some red wines. Next, we left the caves and went on one of the vehicles you see above into the winery itself to take a look at the grapes and learn more. Following this, we ended our tour upstairs with a cheese plate and some more red wines. I purchased 3 wines here. Their wines are a bit pricy. The most expensive bottle I purchased was the left bank, a red, for $125. For comparison, this experience felt more personalized and private compared to Kunde.
3. Ledson. This is a beautiful place. The picture taken from the porch is from their estate. I did not care for their wines as much as other places that we visited. However, it was a great experience and atmosphere walking around the estate and enjoying the wine. When you are ready for your next glass, simply return to the bar for the next pour and explanation.
4. Deerfield. This was the last winery that we visited. It was in a cave, and a perfect last spot to relax. The wines were good, and they allowed you to customize the tasting based upon your likes.
We had a farm to table dinner on Saturday evening at Flowers winery. Flowers winery was a bit of a drive from Sonoma. It took us about 1.5 hr. The scenery was beautiful, and the dinner was fantastic. I was so happy that we did this. Also, Sunday evening we had dinner at the girl & the fig. The place was packed even on Sunday evening. We sat outside on the back terrace. The food was great, especially the charcuterie board with an amazing selection of cheeses.
I loved my visit to Sonoma. I feel an extended weekend allowing a full two days in Sonoma is perfect to suit most individual’s needs. Plan ahead of time if there are specific wineries you want to visit and keep in mind 3-4 wineries per day is more than enough. If you are trying to plan, I think that the wineries we visited all were very different. Each experience was distinctive and memorable.