Hi friends! I am excited to be back with my first travel post of 2022! After a long break in our travel plans, we finally are back to adventuring as much as we can. Our destination? Wine country. Specifically, Sonoma County. We arrived with high expectations, and the trip was a dream. It was our first visit, and although the larger, more well-known region is Napa Valley, we ended up sticking to Sonoma County because we have several favorites from the area already and wanted to pay them a visit! Keep reading to see our 5 favorite vineyards and wineries we visited during our stay!
We flew from Tulsa to SFO on a Thursday night and flew back home on a Monday. It was a quick trip, but not too rushed. We felt it was easiest to rent a car, so we picked it up at the airport upon our arrival and made the 1.5 hour drive north to Windsor, the location of our hotel.
Choosing wineries to visit was overwhelming at first. Sonoma County is very large, and there are countless places to choose from. Not knowing the area was another layer of added difficulty. After visiting once, I feel like we could visit 100 more times and go to new places each time. We asked a few people for recommendations, but ultimately we let geography decide the route.
Since our hotel was located in Windsor, we started booking tastings that were a high priority for us. Once we made a few reservations, it was easy to find the next winery on the map and check their availability to see if that could be built into our driving itinerary. Most of the reservations are made through Tock which makes it easy to keep track of everything. After making a free account, you can book reservations for tastings, restaurants, and even order takeout! They even have an app to keep things seamless from desktop to cell phone. There were a few we had to call for reservations, but that was easy enough.
We ended up doing 2-3 tastings per day which was more than plenty. I think if we’d stayed longer, we would have maybe stuck to 1-2 per day, but we wanted to make the most of our weekend there! Below are our 5 favorites we visited along the way, as well as few must-visit extras at the end!
For the Beginner: Campana Ranch
Campana Ranch Winery was our first stop on our weekend in Sonoma County, and it put all of my nerves at ease. With it being our first trip to wine country, I felt a bit intimidated to go to our first tasting. WE LOVE wine, and Rob and I make every effort to learn what we can, but we are nowhere near feeling like pros. My insecurities melted away when Steve, the owner and vintner, greeted us at the front gate with his four-legged companions, Leo, Peanut, and Misty!
Our tasting was $20 each, and included 6 wines, however we were treated to a few extras at the end. Steve brought out a red and white port-style wine for us to sample and compare. The price for each tasting is waived for every wine purchased at the tasting too! We ended up purchasing his 2019 Petite Verdot, a varietal that’s hard to find, especially in Oklahoma. It was a really special wine that we wanted to remember our visit by. We even took it with us to dinner the following evening!
Overall, our experience at Campana Ranch Winery was comfortable, laid back, and a great place to start with it being our first tasting. We learned so much, and it was lovely to have to owner running the tasting. The passion he has for his craft was evident, and it was such a delight to talk with him about his history in the industry and how his own winery came to be.
For the Views: Copain
Up next, we headed over the hill to Copain Wines. We were able to book this tasting in advance on Tock, and lucky for us, they were having a special event the day we visited celebrating some 10-year old vintages that were paid with a boeuf bourguinon.
Since we opted for the food pairing, our tasting fee was a little higher at $71 per person. Michael, our server, was down to earth, funny, and was eager to answer all our questions. He also treated us to some vanilla macarons afterward that were divine! My favorite part of our visit to Copain (other than the wine) was the VIEW. The tasting room is on a vista that overlooks acres and acres of vineyards, rolling hills, and beautiful mountains. Once you finish your tasting, you can walk up to the top of the hill to grab a spot on one of the Adirondack chairs to take in the view in all it’s glory. We were also treated to some locally made macarons to finish off the experience.
For the Bubbles: J Vineyard
Okay, J Winery was at the top of my list when we started planning the trip out to Sonoma County. I am huge fan of their bubbles, and it’s what they are best known for. I wanted to try some new things from their portfolio as well, so we chose to do their Legacy Wine Tasting at $40 per person with cheese pairings for an additional $15 per person. It did not disappoint!
The hospitality at J Vineyard was lovely. The service was wonderful, the pairings were exciting and unexpected, and of course we loved the wine. I’d really like to visit again to try the Bubble Room Tasting, but it was fun to mix it up with something different!
For the Boutique Experience: Grand Cru Custom Crush
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when we visited Grand Cru Custom Crush, but it ended being one of my favorite experiences of the trip. Several small-producer wine makers work from the facility and you can visit time and again with different wine makers or the same! The tasting experience is $30 per person and also includes a tour of the facility which was really insightful and fun to see.
The winery we did our tasting with was Bruliam, and the owner Kerith poured everything for use and shared her incredible story! She’s a former medical doctor turned wine maker, and a mom to 3 kids. She even brought along their family dog Chewie who is an absolute delight. We loved learning from her, and she was kind enough to tailor our experience to our knowledge and experience (which was basically zero, ha).
For the Glamour: Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Francis Ford Coppola Winery was the final stop on our tour of Sonoma County, and it was a great way to end the weekend! The grounds were stunning, and the history behind the place was so interesting to learn about. The service during our tasting was great, and our server was so much fun. He offered us the two tasting menus being offered at the time but then customized our experience to be parts of both. The tastings were $30 per person, and there’s lots to see and do all over the grounds that’s free.
Bonus Places to Visit
Russian River Brewing Company was perfect for an afternoon we were feeling “wined out” and wanted something different. We grabbed lunch there as well as tried a few local brews and we loved it. There’s a large outdoor space for hanging out, but you can sit inside at the bar or get table service if you prefer it.
Barndiva was a very special stop for dinner one night. We were thrilled to get reservations, and it was such a wonderful experience. They recently were awarded a Michelin star and lived up to the hype we read online and had heard from others who’d been there. If you’re in the area, give it a try!
Out trip was of course during off season, which definitely had pros and cons. Since there were less people, the reservations were easy to snag, but the vineyards were of course all dormant for the winter and most things weren’t blooming. It was worth it for me to visit in January, and we’ve actually considered doing it again, but I think visiting in peak season would be really special too! Eventually I’d also love to visit the Napa area, but there was something so special about Sonoma County. It wasn’t pretentious or stuffy. It was just full of kind, hardworking people who genuinely love making wine.
That’s all for now! As always, thanks for much for reading. I love having you here, and I hope part of this is helpful in some way if you are visiting Sonoma County for the first time. Until next time friends!